Smartphones may be an all-in-one tool, but as any intrepid traveler knows, nothing is more essential than a simple notebook. It won’t run out of batteries, it always has service, and isn’t usually numbered among your “valuables” (though losing a notebook can be devastating).
It’s a place to immortalize memories, note check-in times, or save the business card of that new friend to look up when you land in Buenos Aires. It’s not just lined, graphed, or blank pages that differentiate notebooks these days; there are as many types of notebooks as there are types of travelers.
As life-long lovers of journals, here we’ve rounded up 12 of our favorites.
For those whose fingers are as itchy as their traveling feet comes a collaboration between NYC-based designer Khoi Vinh and Baron Fig, the Baron Fig Unfinish. The 5.4 x 7.7-inch limited edition confidant (Baron Fig’s fancy name for “notebook”) is not just any blank artist’s pad. Its 192 perforated cyan pages have partial illustrations to inspire you, dear creative, to finish them. Awesome for staying amused during a long train ride or for simply staying put at a street-side café. —$20
The retro style of the DesignWorks Ink Standard Issue Notebook No. 12 belies its thoroughly modern practicality. Ultra-planners will love the dates atop every page to keep tabs on which Wednesday in July you ate the best gelato of your life and nifty details like three (!) ribbon markers and an elastic pen holder. Ardent bullet-journalers may like the stencil and ruler template to keep itinerary-planning as easy as uno, dos, tres. On the road it will come in handy for more than just writing—conversion charts help calculate units (such as kilometers to miles for all those scenic hikes you’re going on), and the world times chart features 15 different countries. —$12
The Leuchtturm 1917 Notebook Pocket A6 is THE notebook for any traveler yearning for all the trappings and reliability of a Moleskine but without returning to the same old brand. All 185 pages are numbered, and eight of them are perforated to easily detach, so you can frame those sketches along the Seine. Ticket stubs and receipts for trains, planes, or rented automobiles fit perfectly in the gusseted pocket. Our favorite for travel is the pocket-sized A6, which comes in 17 vibrant colors, although the soft-cover is more comfortable in a back pocket. —$15
Wreck This Journal has been encouraging its users to stain, rip, throw, and otherwise destroy the notebook since its first release in 2007. In the same vein, its newer, more travel-y spinoff, Wreck This Journal Everywhere, suggests similarly active uses for the 144 pages within. Why not spot birds in Chicago, snag paper trinkets in Bangkok, or spill some wine in Argentina—and document it all in your journal? The miniature size means it fits as easily into back pockets as backpacks and can turn any journey into an adventure, be it a round-the-world endeavor or a short jaunt around the block. —$10
Geography nerds and design aficionados get the best of both worlds with the Luckies of London Travelogue Travel Journal. It’s on the slim side, with only 64 pages, but what it lacks in writing and drawing space it compensates for with cartography—eight scratch maps come along with the journal. So save those spare yen and document your routes (or even frame them later) with one of the most distinctive travel journals on the market. —$28
Any traveling scribe who wants to see and be seen, be it in Rome or Rio, will be in good shape with the Louis Vuitton Gustave MM. Epi leather covers (available in five colors) protect the watermarked pages, and a circular, metallic Louis Vuitton logo announces the luxury brand. — $195
The century-old Swiss company Caran d’Ache has launched its latest line of notebooks, and the Caran d’Ache Office Notebook is perfect for stashing into a purse or tote. It comes in four colors, two travel-friendly sizes, and also includes the popular 849 ballpoint. You’ve never looked so good jotting down flight times or sketching the skyline. —$54 to $60
With the motto, “I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember now,” Field Notes’s pocket-sized notebooks have long been the pick for kinesthetic learners and compulsive note-takers everywhere. The 48-page booklets were inspired by agricultural memo books and pocket ledgers and are packaged in threes, meaning you have plenty of writing space without the weight or bulk of a standard notebook. We love the Field Notes County Fair Memo Books, which feature a design for each state (plus Washington, D.C.) and come in county fair ribbon colors. Flip each over for an extensive list of facts and figures about the state. Not taking a road trip any time soon? Field Notes’s Original Kraft notebooks are always a solid pick and come in lined, graph, and blank paper. —$13
It’s not just those Mondrian vibes; the Seeso Editor diary notebook’s 192 graphic pages are perfect for artists and design mavens alike. Each page is patterned after the cover and divided into five rectangles of varying sizes, making it ideal for organizing your day or sketching notated vignettes at a café in Sydney. We love to bring it to art museums; the different sections are perfect for taking notes on different artists, exhibits, and paintings. —$23
Whether you’re an incorrigible editor, a regular rewriter, a doodler, or a person who uses a lot of parentheses, the 80-page Life Margin Graph Notebook gives you plenty of space for add-ins and add-ons. Use the extra margin space to annotate your travel itineraries, add caveats to your packing plan, or sketch a stick-figure climber’s attempt to summit your wanderlist. The brand’s high-quality L writing paper and a layflat binding make for smooth, easy writing. —$10
FINALLY, a journal that is just as goal-oriented as you are. Poketo’s elegant, sturdy layflat Concept Planner in Cobalt is exquisitely organized. The 252 pages are divided into yearly, monthly, and weekly sections, and each part has pages where you can list your objectives, layouts that help you plan your time, and extra pages for taking notes. It may not be the place to pontificate on your life-changing travel experiences, but nothing could be better for keeping a year-round digital nomad (and his or her many projects) on track. —$34
Whether you’re planning the next day of a multiday backcountry trek, reflecting during a muddy, winter camping trip in Yosemite, or recording restaurant recommendations on a soggy ferry ride between Indonesian islands, the Rite in the Rain Bound Notebook is up to the task. The hardcover journal has 76 all-weather pages that repel water, oil, mud, grime, and other elements, so a little inclement weather won’t ruin your notes. Better still, it comes with a survival reference page and is perfectly sized to slip into a front pocket of your backpack. —$20
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