As part of my descent down the rabbit hole of planners and journaling, I have come across the concept of a traveler’s notebook. On the surface, it’s a pretty simple concept. But when you do a basic search on traveler’s notebooks, it can be extremely overwhelming. This is where I am at. For weeks, I just discounted it and thought I would never use it. But then, thanks to my #Wild30 course, I started thinking maybe this could work for me.
The Basic Concept
So what is a traveler’s notebook? Well, it is a piece of leather, or other durable fabric, that wraps around paper inserts. It uses cords to keep everything in place. You can switch out the paper inserts as needed. So, when you’re adventuring around and only need a couple of items – calendar, journal pages, important information – you can strictly carry those items with you in the cover. As those fill up or if you need a different insert with different information, you just trade it out. It basically holds important journals together as you go.
The Modern Concept
As always, you can trust crafters and artsy people to take basic ideas and transform them into something wonderful, yet overwhelming. I have learned that you can put anything you want in this cover. People keep monthly, weekly, daily, meal planning, fitness, gratitude, lists, etc. – all kinds of inserts. Things that are important on their own and need to be kept separate or they get buried. People then get SUPER creative and start adding charms, and bows, and dashboards (not sure why yet though), etc. At the end of the day, it just seemed like a giant pile of no to me. Since I keep everything in my bullet journal, I really didn’t see a use for this.
Over the last 3 weeks, however, I’ve started seeing how this could be functional in my life. Namely, I would like to keep my meal planning separate as I want to be able to easily reference past plans and/or recipes. Then I thought I would like to add mixed media paper to practice techniques that I wouldn’t necessarily add in my bullet journal. The genius of a traveler’s notebook is that it can keep all of this together in one place.
My Traveler’s Notebook
So I started searching the internet to price out the notebooks and the inserts. I spent about 20 minutes doing that before I got way too overwhelmed and just stopped. Firstly, these things can cost anywhere from $25 to $200. They come in all fabrics and leather, all shapes and sizes, and then you can really start to customize it with engraving, artwork, etc. I was not ready to commit at those prices. Especially because I wasn’t 100% convinced this was a planning system for me.
A couple of days later, I got a coupon for 50% off upholstery fabrics. A light bulb went off in my head and I started searching how to make my own traveler’s notebook. I got my pleather fabric, some cord, and I was off to the races.
Making a Traveler’s Notebook
Here are a couple of the resources I used: Leodis Leather and Sea Lemon tutorials. It was actually very quick and easy. I ended up including a flap that wraps around the edge and I am so glad I did. It allows me to include my bullet journal in the system. The notebook cover isn’t the greatest quality, obviously, and it’s not going to last forever but my intention is to see if it fits my style and then maybe start looking at committing to a nicer one. At the end of the day, it cost me $12 (after coupons) and about 30 minutes of my time (measuring twice and cutting once :P).
Instructions for my Traveler’s Notebook
I measured out my piece of fabric using my bullet journal as a guide. I made sure that the length matched and then left some width to play with. You need to make sure that it overlaps the width of your journal just a bit so that it can provide some protection. My journal is A5 size meaning its 8.25 inches by 5.75 inches. As mentioned above, I left a flap which has allowed me to put the bullet journal and a ton of inserts in without causing the traveler’s notebook to creep past the edges. My final measurement on my fabric was 8.5 inches by 16 inches.
I then punched 5 holes: 2 at the top, 2 at the bottom, and 1 in the middle. The hole in the middle is to attach the cord that wraps around the outside. The top and bottom holes are where you lace the cords to hold inserts. I punched mine vertically like in the video tutorial.
Then you grab your cord. I measured the loop that holds everything together by folding it around my journal. I left a bit of room since I knew I wanted to add inserts. Once you’re happy, tie the ends together and thread it through the middle punched hole. Once that’s done, start threading you cord through the top and bottom punched holes. You don’t want it to sit too loose since you need it to hold everything in place, so tie it so that it’s pulling just a little bit. You now have room for 2 inserts.
Things I would do differently next time:
- Punching the holes horizontally vs vertically like I did. This isn’t so much a functional thing as a more modern take on the cover.
- Reinforcing the punched holes. I have a brad setter that I’ll use just to ensure the holes don’t tear.
- I would consider using heat transfer paper to iron in fun craft paper on the inside for a bit more personality (like in the Sea Lemon tutorial)
If you feel you need more than 2 inserts, you can always add additional cords to the cover. I did so by threading the new cord under the existing cords and adding the inserts to keep it in place. As you can see in the picture, everything holds in place. This method also allows you to remove one of the outer inserts without the additional insert to jump loose.
Traveler’s Notebook Inserts
So now that Pandora’s Box had been opened, I wanted more inserts. So I made 2 inserts – one for mixed media and one for special paper for alcohol based markers. This video was a great tutorial for how to make them. I cut the paper to size – I used 8 inches by 10 inches. I then folded it in half and started making covers for the inserts. Again, with the covers, you want to cut the length to match – 8 inches, but when determining the width, match the folded paper to the outer edge of the cover paper and fold the rest of the cover paper over top. Keep folded and cut the remaining cover paper to match the outer edge. You now have your own paper inserts!
You can also buy inserts or printable inserts from a variety of different Etsy stores. There are a lot to choose from depending on you planning needs. You also want to be careful what quality of paper you use. I want to use my brush pens and water colours so I need a higher quality, denser, smoother paper. But that’s a different post for a different day.
Overall, I love having everything together in one place. I’m not scrambling to find my list insert or my scrap journal when I want to test pens or practice drawing. I’m also learning what I need in terms of functionality which I didn’t realize how important that was when I was just doing my basic searches (for example, I like the fold over flap). Now as simple as this was, it was still a lot of planning and understanding. I also used cheap materials to do it. The Traveler’s Notebooks you can buy are high quality leather and beautiful colours. This is just a place holder for when I decide to commit.
Would you consider using a traveler’s notebook to keep important information together? Are you a traveler’s notebook veteran and have your favourite go tos? Please share in the comments. I know Foxy Fix is big in the planning world but it’s not very budget friendly. Any questions, comments, or suggestions, I would love to hear about it in the comments!