Traveler's Notebook (Part One): 5 Things You Need To Know To Get Started
I fell in love with bullet journalling about six months ago.
I used much of my planner and workflow concocting skills and have been tinkering around with the BuJo ever since. However, I was a wee bit disheartened after finishing my first 240-page journal after only 3 months.
That's when it hit me:
The one-book Bullet Journal can be frustratingly inflexible to a list-making, note-taking, busy person.
Flipping through my first journal I saw all the important notes I took strewn throughout a book that would retire to a drawer or bookshelf.
I didn't want to have to keep a filing system for my retired notebooks whenever I needed to refer back to notes, nor have to copy over the important notes again and again, every time I start a new BuJo.
I thought bullet journalling was supposed to be more "freeing" than this.
Then I met this woman in Starbucks. She complimented my business planner and I fell in love with her—you guessed it—Traveler's Notebook.
I know I'm not the only person who thought to create BuJo/Traveler's Notebook hybrids, so I decided to dig deep to see what I could bring to the table that wasn't already done a million-and-one times.
(And this is what I've come up with.)
Since this topic is extensive, I've broken it up into two parts:
This first part (this post) covers your tools and making the right decisions for your BuJo/Traveler's Notebook crossover so you don't wind up dumping lots of money into notebooks that just aren't going to work for you (or wind up collecting dust on a shelf).
The second part will explore your setup and layouts—the more creative side of it.
In this post we're covering:
- What size notebook will work best for you?
- How many inserts (booklets) will you want inside your Traveler's Notebook?
- What "style" of Notebook would you prefer? (Design preferences?)
- Where will you buy your Notebook from?
- What kind of inserts are you wanting?
Seems simple, but I can tell you after giving more inserts and notebook covers to my kids than I'd care to admit, this post will save you a lot of time, money, and headache if you're ready to TN your BuJo.
(Okay, I'll never say that again, promise…)
1. What size Bullet Journal / Traveler's Notebook will work best for you?
With the abundant choices abound, I found myself starting with a small traveler's notebook (B.B.—Before BuJo), then wanted a larger one, then wound up falling head-over-heels for a slightly larger A5 size.
Admittedly I change my bag almost daily (it's the focal point of my outfit—my choice of style or mood showcase), so I needed to make sure the A5 size would suit my Vera Bradley collection first.
(And lucky me, it did.)
How'd I gauge what would work for me before buying the full Traveler's Notebook cover?
I bought a 3-pack insert notebook on Amazon, made sure my bag was filled with my normal items and slipped in the notebook set. Just made sure there was plenty of room to spare and voila! I ordered my A5 size Traveler's Notebook from the incredible Dottie Taylor of UncommonElephant on Etsy (not affiliated).
When buying yours, think about your preferences and what you want to do with it:
- Do you prefer larger, medium, or small journals?
- Do you prefer "standard" sizes or long and narrow?
- How often will you carry it with you?
- What will you carry it in? A purse or handbag? A tote? A backpack?
- Do you change bags often? (If so, will the size you like work with all your favorite styles of bag?)
Another way you could gauge what will fit in your favorite carry-everywhere bag would be with a good old tape measure and a size chart of some typical Notebook sizes.
2. How many inserts (booklets) will you want inside?
Most Traveler's Notebooks I've come across on Etsy and even custom creations on Amazon allow you to choose how many "elastics"—what the inserting notebooks slide onto to hold them in place—you'll want in your Notebook.
Traveler's Notebook Covers tend to come with 2 or 4 elastic bands (allowing 2-4 journal inserts). Just make sure you read the seller's notes to be sure.
Unless the seller you choose has an obscene up-charge for extra elastic bands, I recommend going for 4 if it doesn't already come with it.
With 4 elastics, you can put as little as 2 notebooks inside, just 3 or go for the full 4—options are nice to have pre-set inside, if I don't say so myself.
(Next week I'll share about what you can do with your individual inserts.)
For now, let's move onto…
3. What "style" (Design preferences) of Notebook would you prefer?
What all do you want to put in your Notebook—outside of the inserts—that you don't want to have to add on in some [creative] way later on?
Do you want pockets inside?
I did, at one point. Now I dislike them. I find that they get in the way when starting or ending a journal—I have to take the insert out to set it up or stick an extra book or heavy piece of cardboard in there to give me a smooth penning surface.
I found that I prefer the have a clean interior of my Notebook cover.
How about the closure?
- Would you prefer a snap closure?
- An elastic band? (Plain or with a guard?)
- No closure? (You just wanna let it all hang out, I get it.)
I prefer the elastic band, unguarded.
The snap closure limits how many inserts you can actually put in, then how "creative" you want to get with it. I thought I'd prefer that but I've found it quite frustrating.
The guarded elastic band was nice, but I found that I had to be very conscious of where I "put it down" when I started writing. Sometimes I'd just go in with a ruler and pen and eff up the line I was trying to draw because I forgot to pull the elastic guard up, above the Notebook—talk about an unknown nuisance.
What would kind of closure would you prefer?
(Beauty over function? Or vice versa?)
A few more things to consider:
- Design—Plain cover? Decorative? Leather? Cardboard? Fabric? Stiff? Floppy? Flexible?
- Stitching or no stitching? (Stitching generally comes on leather notebooks that have interior pockets.)
- Pen holder? (You can buy great stick-on pen holders if there isn't an option with the seller you choose.)
4. Where will you buy your Notebook Cover from?
Although this topic has been tickled a couple times, buying from a solid online storefront is ideal. I live in the U.S. and typically order from Etsy—UncommonElephant has been my favorite seller. She's prompt and being just a hand full of states south of her (in the same time zone), I've gotten all my orders within 3-4 business days.
UncommonElephant does incredible work and I'd recommend her to anyone within the U.S.
Recently I found this gorgeous B6 (5" x 7") Traveler's Notebook cover from ElrohirLeather, Mischa Rose from Wales. This cover just "spoke" to me, however, I ordered mine mid-June and it won't be in till mid-September…hopefully.
Good thing I'm in love with the cover enough to be as patient as possible with it, just make sure:
- When you do purchase from outside your country of origin, make sure you ask what the expected shipping time is if they don't offer it in a Q&A on their profile or site.
- Go as far as to contact the seller, specifically outside of your country if you do have a concern with the length of time it might take. (Like when a seller is way behind on orders and doesn't state that anywhere...)
NOTE TO SELLERS: Don't be greedy. Inform your potential customers of delays on your profile or website.
5. Get the right [quality] inserts.
Simple but critical: I'd heard about this shop from Kara over at BohoBerry and was so excited to try out their inserts. Kara usually has incredible advice, but this just wasn't a fit for me—it happens.
I tend to write like I'm creating Brail (oops) and use a good deal of color, so "ghosting" and straight-up bleed through is a big issue for me.
The inserts I found via Kara's suggestion took nearly 3 weeks to come in—yes, Amazon Prime has ruined me—and were flimsy and thin. Writing with my Pigma Micron 0.5 ghosted terribly.
So, I took to Amazon (always checking to make sure "free returns" is an option) and took a chance on the dot grid Miliko brand.
I'd read some complaints that the binding wasn't that great, but the paper weight and quality was raved about often. So I ordered a pack of 4 and haven't used anything but these inserts since.
I did see what a few customers had complained about, but to me it wasn't a big enough deal breaker when the paper quality is perfect for what I need.
Long story wrapping up:
Make sure you know what you want to do with the paper before you start buy-buy-buying… My daughters are happy Mommy gave them so many new journals, sure, but that was unnecessary money spent because I didn't put much forethought into it.
So, now, hopefully I can spare you the wasted monies. With that, will you be:
- Using markers?
- Using watercolors or other paints?
- What kind of texture are you looking for? Smooth? Felt (what I love to draw and watercolor paint on)? [ See texture types here ]
Once you know what texture of paper or how heavy you want it to be (I shoot for 28-pound or higher), then take to Amazon or another seller or storefront with your paper size and get started.
Next, looking for:
- Dot grid (my preferred style—makes using rulers and writing in a straight line much easier while generally giving a more faint guide that dissolves into the background once written over)
- Square grid or graph
Ready to get started with traveler's notebooks?
You may find yourself exactly where I started: Purchasing a couple insert sizes and getting a feel for which size, paper quality, and paper type you prefer.
You may find that you want a clean, plain page and prefer the slimmer inserts of lighter-weight paper.
You may find you love the squared, graph-type paper because it [possibly] eliminates the need for a ruler.
Tell me: What do you prefer?
Thanks for reading and I hope you got a good deal of information, and even ideas for your new (or next) traveler's notebook bullet journal.
Hi! I'm Sara—mom of three, wife, and non-fiction and fiction writer currently scrawling on Medium and about digital business growth on GoffCreative.com. Learn more about me right here and be sure to subscribe to get direct, hand-crafted ruminations delicately bundled for you each week.