What is a Traveler’s Notebook? You may have heard Bullet Journalers rave about it, or maybe you’ve seen a few flip-through videos on Instagram. Why are people who use the Traveler’s Notebook obsessed with it?
TL;DR: The Traveler’s Notebook is a journal created by the Traveler’s Company. It’s a simple leather cover with elastic bands that hold thin paper notebooks.
Not obsessed yet? (wink)
Here’s why you might be soon…
The Traveler’s Notebook is an incredibly simple and customizable component-based system, without any of the bulk that six-ring or spiral notebooks create.
This post is the ultimate guide to everything you want to know about the Traveler’s Notebook—which means it is a long post. Here are some jump links to take you to what interests you most:
- How do Traveler’s Notebooks work?
- What sizes does the Traveler’s Notebook come in?
- How to add inserts to your Traveler’s Notebook
- What’s a Midori Traveler’s Notebook? (and what the heck is a Faux-dori?)
- The Best Features of the Traveler’s Notebook
- What can I use a Traveler’s Notebook for?
- How others use their Traveler’s Notebooks
- Fall in love with your own Traveler’s Notebook
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How does a Traveler’s Notebook work?
The beauty of the Traveler’s Notebook is that you choose the components, which means you’re able to design a notebook custom-crafted just for you. Let’s dive into all the options.
The cover is a flat, thick piece of leather with holes punched in it for elastic bands. It’s that simple. The longer you use your Traveler’s Notebook, the more of a patina the cover develops. The scratches it picks up over time make it look well-traveled, and the cover will form itself to your particular notebook configuration as you break it in (much like a baseball mitt shapes itself to your hand over time). It comes in four colors: black, brown, camel, and blue.
The elastic bands are an integral part of the Traveler’s Notebook system. There are bands that hold the inserts inside the cover, and another band that holds the Traveler’s Notebook closed.
Pro tip: When your new Traveler’s Notebook arrives, it comes in a cardboard envelope held closed with a band. Save that! It’s a good spare for the band that holds the notebook closed.
The company also sells thin, oversized rubber bands called “connecting bands” that you can use to connect inserts to each other so you can fit additional components inside your notebook. (Want to know how? Jump here.)
When you purchase your notebook, the default bands are usually the color of the cover you purchase, but you can buy a set of bands in different colors and replace them.
The core element of any journal is, of course, paper. The inserts for the Traveler’s Notebook come in a variety of styles ( lined, grid, or blank pages) and weights (watercolor, lightweight, kraft, and sketch). You can also make your own! Just choose the type of paper you’d like to use, cut it down to the right proportions, fold in half, and use a staple or two to hold it together book style.
Other Types of Inserts
In addition to paper notebooks, the Traveler’s Company offers other kinds of inserts, to add additional functionality to your notebook.
- preprinted daily/weekly/monthly planners
- kraft file folders (perfect for loose papers and maps)
- a zipper case (to hold change, etc.)
- a card file (credit card/MTA card sized)
- three-fold file
- pen holder
- double-sided stickers
- repair kit
- brass clips
- film pocket holder (for photos)
- sticky notes
- pocket holder (just the right size for a driver’s license or credit card)
If the variety of options feels overwhelming, we recommend keeping it simple: starter kits generally include all the basics in a cotton case: leather cover, elastic band, and blank notebook—and sometimes even a few extras, like pens, stencils, or rulers.
Recommended Starter Kits:
- Traveler’s Company Traveler’s Notebook Kit – Passport Size
- Traveler’s Company Traveler’s Notebook Starter Kit – Regular Size
A knock off kit that is actually pretty good:
What sizes are available for the Traveler’s Notebook?
The Traveler’s Notebook comes in just two sizes: regular and passport. The regular size notebooks are 220mm x 120mm (about 8.6” x 4.7”). The passport size notebooks are 134mm x 98mm (approximately 5.3” x 3.9”). Both are only around 10mm thick. The passport size notebook is perfect for travel, as it fits nicely in your pocket—and with the right accessories to keep it secure, it’s also a great place to store your passport! The regular size notebook is also quite portable while providing a little more room to write or create.
How to add inserts to your Traveler’s Notebook (using the connecting bands)
Inserts are added to your Traveler’s Notebook by opening them to the center and slipping them under the band that runs the length of the cover.
Want to add more than one insert using connecting bands? This quick one-minute video shows you how.
What’s a Midori Traveler’s Notebook? (and what the heck is a Faux-dori?)
This is a bit of a non sequitur, but these terms threw us when we were first learning about the Traveler’s Notebook. So here’s the scoop:
The Traveler’s Notebook used to be called the Midori Traveler’s Notebook, until Midori rebranded as the Traveler’s Company in 2016. Some people still use the Midori name when talking about them. (It’s not a different type of notebook.)
Because the Traveler’s Notebook only comes with leather covers, hobbyists started making faux versions with vegan leather, or cardboard and cloth. So, fake Midori Traveler’s Notebooks garnered the nickname “faux-dori.” You can find a variety of “faux-dori” notebooks on Etsy.
The Best Features of the Traveler’s Notebook
The biggest win for the Traveler’s Notebook is that it is possible to customize it, yet keep it thin. You choose how thick it becomes, depending on how many inserts you add. Ring binder systems are also customizable, but they start out bulky! (Plus, we might have a little PTSD from the loud click, because we got our fingers caught in the rings once.)
From the experience of opening your new notebook to using it daily, the Traveler’s Notebook is all about the physical feel—of both the cover and the paper. Writing on even the most basic notebook inserts is a pleasant experience.
It’s easy to deconstruct.
If you don’t want to take your entire journal with you, it’s incredibly simple to slide a notebook out of a band and just carry that one notebook with you. This works brilliantly for capturing ideas, quick sketches, writing thoughts, carrying reference info, or just having your to-do list handy on something small enough to slip into your pocket.
It’s easy to reconstruct.
As your needs change, the Traveler’s Notebook adapts. Not using the folder that much? Take it out. Need a pre-printed calendar? Add it.
Even if all you do is insert three of the same simple paper inserts into your Traveler’s Notebook, there are automatically three sections you can label. Use one insert for your task lists, another for sketches, and the third for journaling. Alternatively, use one as a calendar, one for work-related notes, and one to jot down personal notes. How you lay out each section is entirely up to you.
What can I use a Traveler’s Notebook for?
Due to its versatility, the Traveler’s Notebook is one of our favorite picks for a travel journal, so we included it in our post on Travel Journal Ideas. However, this journal can be used in a surprising number of other ways.
The Travelers Notebook is perfect for bullet journaling. The tall, narrow pages of the notebook inserts lend themselves well to list-making, and the ability to add different sections makes categorizing your bulleted lists a breeze.
Processing your thoughts
There are literally dozens of ways to engage with your thoughts through journaling (for a comprehensive list, check out our guide on How To Journal), but for now, here are five things to try first:
Morning pages are exactly what they sound like. Every morning, sit down with your Traveler’s Notebook and just start writing. Don’t edit your thoughts or pause to think; simply write down everything that comes to mind until you’ve filled three pages. (To learn more about morning pages, check out The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron.)
Expressing gratitude for the good things in our lives can be one of the simplest and easiest forms of journaling. Just jot down a list of three things you’re grateful for every day, or—if you want a more in-depth record, write a short paragraph explaining why you’re grateful for each item on your list. Over time, you’ll create quite a positive collection of thoughts that are sure to bring you joy. And who knows? They might even make you rich.
We all have areas we’d like to improve (or habits we’d like to have but don’t). These can include everything from saving more money to going for a walk every day. Habit trackers can be incredibly helpful in measuring (and motivating!) our progress. Use a section of your Traveler’s Notebook to track the habits that are most important to you. (For inspiration and ideas, see our article on habit tracking.)
End-of- Day Recap
Use your Traveler’s Notebook to keep a record of your days. Just take fifteen minutes at the end of the day to write about your journey (metaphorical or literal), highlighting the things you most want to remember, or the lessons you gleaned from a particular experience. Research shows that when we take the time to reflect on our lives, we tend to be more productive, because we’re learning from the past.
Sketchnoting is simply using a combination of images and words to capture ideas. You don’t have to be an artist to sketchnote; even the most basic drawings will help concepts “stick” in your mind. Try sketchnoting during meetings as a note taking exercise, or use it as a tool to help you mindmap your dreams and goals. (Want to learn more? Pick up a copy of The Simple Guide to Visual Journaling (even if you aren’t an artist).
Because the Travelers Notebook is customizable and portable, it’s a brilliant way to boost your personal creativity through art journaling. We’ve found it especially well-suited to:
Watercolors are ideal for art journaling because they dry so much more quickly than other kinds of paint. Watercolor painting techniques are relatively simple, so they’re easy to learn, and you can even find watercolors in pencil and crayon form!
For advice on the best supplies and resources for learning how to watercolor, be sure to reference our Ultimate Guide for Learning to Art Journal. The Traveler’s Company makes watercolor inserts which are perfect for this use.
Is it any wonder that many journalers love fountain pens? They seem to create a more connected experience between words, ink, and paper. The official inserts for the Traveler’s Notebook are made of finely milled paper that’s perfect for fountain pens, creating a gliding experience as you write.
Plus, using a special fountain pen in your Traveler’s Notebook—one you filled with ink yourself—sends a cue to your subconscious that your thoughts have particular significance. Picking up a special pen—one that is more substantial than the average ballpoint pen you would use to sign a receipt at a public counter— signals to your brain that this kind of writing is important.
Modern day calligraphy uses brush pens. They’re available in a variety of colors, so it’s easy to create an eye-catching theme that will make finding things in your Traveler’s Notebook a cinch. While calligraphy itself can take a long time to master, using a brush pen makes the simplest hand-lettered fonts stand out.
Not sure how to up your font game? We’re happy to share some tips on creating beautifully easy bullet journal fonts.
Colored pencils are one of the most elementary ways to add a splash of color to your Traveler’s Notebook pages. You can use them to create decorative borders to highlight information that you want to stand out, or just to add basic definition to sections on a page. (They’re also a lot quicker and less messy than paint or markers.)
This is where the accessories that are available for the Traveler’s Notebook are really helpful. Use the film pocket holders to add photos to illustrate your daily journal entries, or apply double-sided stickers to add curiosities that evoke memories from an epic vacation. The brass clips are ideal for including larger items (like maps and event tickets), and sticky notes are a fun way to add artistic commentary to your layout.
If you don’t enjoy writing, and aren’t that keen on drawing, gluebooking might be a good technique to try with your Traveler’s Notebook. Gluebooks require minimal writing and rely on collage. You can also add text, drawings, or paintings, but the main idea is wholly to glue things to the pages.
Using your Traveler’s Notebook as a home for a collage of ephemera provides you the opportunity to journal with small pieces of paper—like receipts, ticket stubs, flyers, postcards, labels, wrappers, etc.—to create a unique and artistic record of your life.
Replacing your wallet
With the proper accessories, your Traveler’s Notebook can become a decent replacement for your wallet (and possibly more useful). Not only can you store your license and debit cards in the pocket or zippered accessories, but because of the Notebook’s versatility, you can also include a calendar, your to-do list, and even the grocery list for your meal plan. Having everything in one place means that you only have one thing to remember on your way out the door. You know, besides your phone. And your keys. And the kids. But hey, everything else is in one place.
Travel (not surprising) – but not just vacations!
The Traveler’s Notebook is one of our favorite travel journals, because you can Include multiple inserts: for example, you can use one for your itinerary and travel information, another for journaling your insights, and a third for sketches. It’s really handy for keeping all of your travel documents in one place when you’re traveling internationally, but it’s also useful on local trips think shopping and to-do lists while you’re out running errands). Want more travel journal ideas? Check out this post.
Curious how others use their Traveler’s Notebooks? Take a look.
- Looking for a quick two-minute flip through? Check out @cathy.hutchison’s Traveler’s Notebook video; it covers the basics.
- Want a deeper dive video? Seaweed Kisses has a ten-minute tutorial on YouTube.
- @Trinasnotebook shares her beautiful journey with fountain pens and insights from her journaling in her Traveler’s Notebook on Instagram.
- @Sannie_journal uses her Traveler’s Notebook as a glue book, with lovely results.
- @Shinyee_c takes an artistic approach to her Traveler’s Notebook.
Fall in love with your own Traveler’s Notebook
A real Traveler’s Notebook is definitely an investment—but we think you’ll find it become a constant companion and source of support fairly quickly as you live your life. After all, the Traveler’s Notebook would be completely useless if it just sat on your desk, collecting dust. It’s designed to travel. (Seriously, it’s right there in the name.)
More importantly, your ideas, thoughts, and plans deserve their own space. Securing a great notebook in which to express them gives them that home.
Still not ready to make the leap? Start small, and just buy one of the inserts. Carry it around with you and experience how functional it is by committing to use it, just for a week or two.
Your life will thank you!
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I’ve always wondered about these slim notebooks in shops and wondered what the heck they were.
Now I know. It’s really fascinating.
My daily journal is staying home on my next trip 🙂
Great article, Cathy. So informative!
Wonderful description and summary. Came across your summary through a simple Google. Your post will be my “go-to” to share with friends and colleagues when they ask why use a Traveler’s Notebook as an option for capturing lived experiences! Thanks for taking the time to share this.
Shirley thank you for commenting! I’m such a fan of this notebook. It was fun putting it together.
I Love using My Travelers notebook passport size as My Journal and EDC.
Kelly, I used a passport size for awhile then upsized! The features are just really cool.
A really well presented article Cathy, thank you. A few years ago I was in Foyles bookshop I came across their Midori section and checked out what they hell it was all about. I eventually invested in the both sizes of notebook, but actually the passport size is I find more practical as its compact and you can put it in your back pocket and go. IFrom a chap’s point of view the Midori is rugid, smart and great to adapt and maintain. It also looks the business! I also like the idea of its cultural origins from Japan and being a bit left of field and quirky in comparison to the usual personal organisers – which makes it stand out really. I recall I inadvertently placed my Midori on the table at a office meeting while opening my laptop and suddenly my female coworkers wanted to check out my Midori! (not me as I’m married!). :0) so yeah I’m now quite popular because of it.
I love your comment! And now I’m going to go back and break out my passport size midori. <3