How to Fill Your Travel Smash Book

What is a travel smash book?

According to the Urban Dictionary, a smashbook is a cross between a scrapbook and a journal.  Any memories you have can be glued, taped, tied, stapled, whatever-in this epic spiral bound book.

How did I get started with this travel smash book?

My first international trip was almost ten years ago.  It was a school trip to France.  I was given a journal by my French teacher to write down everything we experienced, ate, and felt, and I had one entry.  We were woken up at 5 am, touted around on buses to all these amazing castles and museums and back in bed around 11 pm or later!  I was exhausted!  No way could I keep up journaling everything we experienced, ate, and felt.  So I kept all the memorabilia and put it away in a box.  And I uploaded all my pictures, showed my family, and then kept the file unopened on my computer.

After that trip I went on more adventures, ziplining through rain forests in Costa Rica, glacier climbing in Iceland, and wandering the souks in Morocco.  All these amazing memories, tucked away in boxes.  So just last month I decided I was going to start a journal, and I was going to start with France.

I’m finally working on my sixteenth country, and I am so amazed at what a cool project this has been.  I only wish I would have started it sooner, because on my last trip, I threw away some old maps and brochures and receipts that would have been a perfect addition.  So now that I really have things going, here’s what I recommend you keep from your own adventures, so that you can add to your journal!

So what do I keep for my smash book?

  • Postcards
    • I love cutting up postcards to magnify the city you went to, or show different castles, historic sites, or tourist spots and then write about them! You can use the whole post card as the background paper to your journal page, or cut out different pieces to add to the page!  Postcards are super cheap, found in lots of tourist spots in every city, and sometimes are given out free at sites.
  • Tickets
    • Transportation including plane, train, bus, and metro tickets. Different tickets look different from each country, and even city, and I love the different languages displayed across   I always start and end my entries for a specific country with the plane ticket.  Extra bus and metro tickets are great to display as filler pieces too.
    • Tourist tickets including castle entrances, museums, and art galleries are great to show off where you went and what you found there. Bonus points if you keep the brochures!  More about that later!
    • Entertainment tickets including concerts, operas, theaters, or movies. Sometimes these outings can be forgotten, but it’s so fun to look back at them and be transported back to that night.
  • Photographs
    • I don’t use my own photographs that often, but I do when I either didn’t save enough scraps from a trip, or I want to highlight what I did. One example of this was a picture of me at Machu Picchu.  It’s just too exciting.  For photographs I love utilizing a 4×4 photo, because it fits in a journal easily!  Or can be trimmed to add as an extra detail as well.
  • Tourist maps
    • This is something I’ve been known to throw away, but now I’m realizing how silly that is. They make a great background for journal pages, and you can mark where you went and the things you saw on them.  They are so fantastic!  And if you love travel, it’s likely you love the look of maps as well!
  • Brochures
    • Another item I’ve thrown away. However, my favorite journal page is from the Louvre in Paris, and the entire background is the gallery map from the brochure.  It shows the Mona Lisa and the Winged Victory of Samothrace among others. It looks so cool and highlights everything that I saw!  Added my museum ticket, a brochure copy of the Mona Lisa, some bold letters stating the Louvre, and I was set!
  • Business cards
    • This is a fun way to remember the restaurants you eat at and the hostels or hotels you stay at. It’s even a fun way to pass along shops you encountered.
  • Shopping bags
    • Ever buy a souvenir and get a brown bag with some witty saying on it? In Lisbon, my friend and I were obsessed with ginjinha and just had to buy our own bottle.  What did the bag say? “All I need as a bottle of ginjinha and some chocolate cups.”  What happened to the bag?  It got tossed when we finished the bottle (and the chocolate cups).  What should’ve happened? I should’ve kept it to glue inside my journal!  Lesson learned.
  • Receipts
    • Receipts are another fun item to place in your journal. I always decipher what the receipt is for and toss out most.  If it’s a receipt for a train ticket, I most likely have the train ticket, and therefore don’t utilize it.  If it’s a receipt for a museum where they don’t use a ticket, you bet I’m going to keep it!
  • Tags from clothes or souvenirs
    • Tags from items are great to add into your entries. When collecting patches to sew on my bag, the plastic they are in often have the country’s flag and name (in that language).  Clothing tags can help you remember what you bought, long after it no longer fits!
  • Candy wrappers
    • If you don’t try different candy and chocolate everywhere you travel, I’m not sure that you’re doing it right. I haven’t saved candy wrappers but the perfect opportunity would have been in Seville, Spain, during Fiesta de los trios Reyes Mages.  The three wise men festival includes a parade where school children dress up, ride floats down the streets and throw candy to the crowd.  We had a shopping bag filled to the brim within an hour and what did we do when we came home to our hostel?  Lay everything out like it was Halloween, inspecting, organizing and throwing out anything already open.  And then we ate one of every kind before going to bed.  This would have been a fantastic addition to that day’s journal entry.
  • Wine, beer or soda labels
    • A great way to remember things we sometimes can’t. Peeling that really neat artwork off a bottle, or that label that shows a national drink that no other country even sells.
  • Foreign currency
    • I love foreign currency, paper and coins alike. I don’t specifically try to save paper currency, but if I have extras it does spiff the journal up a bit.  However, I have a friend who saves the lowest paper currency for each country she visits, and starts the country entry that way.  It’s your journal!  Coins are also a great addition that can be glued or taped in.
  • Small souvenirs
    • There have been a handful of times where I made a connection with someone and they gave me a little trinket. It’s always a nice gesture, but I’m often left feeling like, “what am I going to do with this?”  (For some odd reason, they are often pins) If it’s in my journal, I can always remember the exchange with that person, instead of throwing it in a junk drawer or jar in my room!
  • Coasters
    • Another great item to help you remember what you might have forgotten. Bars often have coasters which identify local or national beers which is great to compare if you’re a beer drinker!
  • Smudge your drinking glass, coffee, tea, beer, or wine to the page
    • This means you have to be actively working on your journal while traveling, but it’s such a fun idea to help remind you about your trip! Maybe that tea stain represents the coca which helped you fight the altitude in Peru, or maybe the wine smudge helps take you back to a kiss with a random stranger in Italy.
  • Stamps
    • Remember those postcards from the beginning? Maybe you had the best intentions, but got too distracted with the beauty of your trip.  That’s ok!  Stamps are a great way to showcase the country you are in and may even help the entry to look like a postcard itself!  To me, from me: having the best time! XOXO
  • List of foods tried
    • As I have mentioned before, candy, chocolate, food, beverages, you can’t travel without trying new things… or foods. Remember what you eat!  That way, when you make your way back, you can eat it again, and you can tell all your friends!  Better yet, you can list the foods you didn’t like so you don’t make that mistake again. Those with artistic talent can even sketch the foods they eat!
  • Restaurants you went to
    • Again, to remember and return, and to tell your friends. In addition, this way you can rate them on Trip Advisor, or a site of your choosing.
  • Hotels, hostels, Airbnbs you stayed at
    • Are you sensing a theme?
  • Recipes
    • I have yet to do this, but I have yet to try to duplicate something I have eaten abroad. Anyone made home-made bitteballen?  That would be my go-to!
  • Translation notes
    • Ever had to ask a stranger how to pronounce this? Ever gotten lost and needed directions?  These notes are a great piece to add, as they may not have been an important part of your day, and can be easily forgotten, but once you see it again, you could probably picture the coffee shop or street you were standing on!
  • Pub crawl wristbands
    • Or wristbands for any type of event. These are just something fun, and can make a great border on the edge of the page.
  • Bag tags
    • I like to add these with tickets. They are often colorful and again, I love the display of different languages.  Ever lost your piece of luggage?  Then it’s just an ironic entry!
  • Sketches of sights, hand drawn-maps
    • If you’re artistic you can definitely add some great things to your journals. Instead of cutting and gluing postcards like us amateurs, you can sketch La Sagrada Familia and draw out your map around touring Barcelona. The journals I have seen with hand sketches are so amazing to look at, definitely worth spending the time if you have the skill!
  • Magazines or newspaper clippings
    • There are so many options for this. It can be the background to your page, or highlight a particular event or site, or just highlight the country and language.  The possibilities are endless!
  • Your itinerary
    • Another great way to start your entries! Kind of like a table of contents for you literary folk.  It’s also fun to compare what you wanted/thought you would do against what you actually ended up doing.  My itinerary list is huge for each city I venture out to, but I often don’t hit everything on the list, and hit lots of things I didn’t even know to put on the list, and that’s ok!

What items do you put in your journal? 

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