When you ask parents why traveling with their children is important, their response often includes "making memories."
When you ask children what they remember about their vacations, their response often includes slack jaws and slow blinks.
Well-edited family vacation videos, beautiful photo books, and thoughtful souvenirs can all serve as memory boosters, but my personal favorite is the travel journal for kids.
capture the delicate details
My family once got lost for three hours trying to find our way out of Bristol with mom driving on the wrong side of the road for the first time.
Is there a photo of that? Nope, but it is an entertaining memory and was an excellent learning experience.
A child's travel journal captures these kinds of delicate details and sensory information that are often missed in photographs and lost over time if not refreshed.
And imagine the powerful memories that come flooding back when my 8-year-old daughter re-reads her comments about not wanting to go into the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, but giving it a try, and having the "best day ever!"
Photos capture the "best" moments but often fail to capture the lessons.
priceless advice from an 8-year-old
If you're thinking that making a travel journal with your child sounds torturous to execute, please bear with me.
My daughter (and veteran travel journalist) gave the best advice: "Don't make it all about the words! You've got to keep it fun!"
On that note, here are my 11 semi-pro tips for making a travel journal with your child that will survive the test of time (and decades of spring cleanings!)
I promise we'll keep it fun.
01. let your child choose her/his journal
My daughter prefers a spiral bound hardcover travel journal because they are much easier to write in on the go.
Encourage your child to decorate/graffiti their journal to their little heart's content. This creates a sense of pride and ownership.
02. bring a tiny journaling toolkit
Pack your child's favorite art creation accessories into an easy to pack kit.
Our kit includes pencils, pens, mini markers, mini colored pencils, a pair of safety scissors, crafter's tape, and a glue stick.
The kit takes up very little room. In fact, we managed it easily on a two-week European vacation with only carry-on luggage.
03. start before takeoff
Paste in the itinerary, write notes about what you are looking forward to, draw how you imagine your destination, etc. Use the journal to build anticipation.
04. take advantage of unfilled moments
Personally, I love to finish my evenings by writing a recap of the day.
The reality for children is that bedtime is often not the best time for peaceful reflection—especially if their body clock is screwy from jet-lag.
Any time during the day that your child might ordinarily zone out on electronics can be prime journal time, especially if you are willing to offer screen time as a reward.
Waiting for a meal at a restaurant, riding a bus or train, standing in line, enjoying some sunshine at a park—these are all opportune times to make a short and sweet journal entry.
05. don't worry about neatness or grammar
We do not want this to feel like homework!
If your child isn’t up to writing, encourage them to draw a picture and dictate a caption for you to write.
06. only write on one side of the page
Leaving one side of the page blank allows your child to paste in treasures they collect and printed photos when you get home.
We have used postcards, stickers, cut up brochures, maps, tickets, receipts, candy wrappers, and even money!
You can leave the collectibles alone on the page, or incorporate them into drawings. Just be sure your child labels what it is and why they wanted it in the book.
07. play to your child's interests
If you have a budding scientist, encourage him or her to draw pictures of the wildlife you spot.
Kids who love big machines can chronicle the types of transportation you take.
Perhaps, all they really enjoy is potty talk and bathroom jokes. To this, I say "no problem!"
My daughter has a whole entry describing the differences in toilets between the countries we visited.
When it comes to playing to your child's interests, the sky (or the sewer) is the limit!
08. offer prompts
Create a short list of open-ended prompts, and allow your child to interpret the prompts however he or she wishes. Encourage honest reflection, and try not to meddle!
Some ideas that have worked well for us include:
"Today, the best thing I: Saw, Heard, Smelled, Tasted, and Felt was _______"
A brainstorm bubble, “My thoughts about _______."
Bullet journal style. “Today we went to the _______. I saw _______. I tasted _______. I bought _______. ”
The GLAD prompt. "Something you are Grateful for, something you Learned, something you
Accomplished, and something that Delighted you…”
“The cherry on top was _______. The pit was _______ ”
09. set an example
Write in your own journal throughout the trip. I love journaling, so this is an easy one for me.
If you're not a natural writer, don't pressure yourself into writing 1,000 words a day just to set a good example.
Remember, "you've got to keep it fun" applies to the adults too!
Experiment with different styles and figure out what works best for you.
10. add finishing touches
If you have a day or two to unwind at the end of your vacation, take a moment between loads of laundry and naps to add finishing touches to your child's travel journal.
This is the ideal time to print photos or look up the names of places you may have forgotten.
The biggest thing to know about finishing touches is that the longer you wait, the less likely they'll get done.
Take time to review and enjoy the precious memories you have created. We love to read our journals together for bedtime stories.
Proudly display your child's journal on a bookshelf, and share it with friends and family who visit.