There are about a million and one apps out there that want to help you plan your dream vacation. Anything you might need, from finding the perfect hotel and mapping a road trip route, to calculating your gas costs and editing the perfect #travelgram, there’s an app for that.
Sometimes, though, the ubiquity of technology in our lives makes old-fashioned pen-and-paper tools seem all the more appealing. Bullet journaling is a planning system created by Ryder Carroll that has grown in popularity in recent years. At its simplest, all it requires is a notebook and a pen. Beyond that, thousands in the “bujo” community have been using their journals as an outlet for artistic expression. (Read: 25+ Tips For Using The Bullet Journal System)
Here’s how you can use the bullet journaling method to add a little bit of analog mindfulness and creativity to the process of planning your next trip.
Step 1: Brainstorm your trip
What initially sparked your curiosity in this destination? Was it the beautiful beaches of Portugal’s Algarve region? Research the most popular coastal towns and jot down some notes. Dying to try sushi in Tokyo? Make a list of some sushi restaurants in your budget.
Have fun with this step! Take some time to delve into all of those blog posts you have saved, crack open a travel magazine, or head to the library to check out a good old-fashioned travel guide. Personally, I always head to Culture Trip when I’m planning a trip, and since I’m a sucker for a good photo op, I also like to search on Instagram to see where the most Instagrammable spots are.
Step 2: Lay down the solid plans
You’ve probably got a lot on your plate now, and you’re not sure where to start! Use your bullet journal to make a to-do list of what needs to happen.
As you’re making hotel reservations, booking flights, and scheduling tours, you’ll also need a place to keep track of all of the details. A page dedicated solely to writing down this important information will come in handy.
For flights, take note of your flight number, the departure and arrival time, what terminal you have to leave from, and what your baggage allowance is. For hotels, write down the address (just in case), phone number, reservation dates, and the times for check-in and check-out. For complicated trips on the metro, it can help to figure out your route in advance, so use your bullet journal to write down what lines you’ll need to take to get from the airport to your hotel, and how much a ticket will cost.
To make the days leading up to your trip less stressful, write out a packing list that you can use to make sure that everything you need actually ends up in your luggage. Use a pencil so that you can check everything off as you gather it in one place, then erase all the marks and double-check as you finally place everything in your bag.
Step 3: Bucket lists
Now that you’ve got your plans set, it’s time to figure out exactly how you want to spend your trip! If you prefer having a detailed itinerary set in place, you can map out a calendar of your time and start filling it in with the activities you plan to do each day. If you prefer to go with the flow, you can create bucket lists of things to see and do, and figure out your schedule as you go. Or, you can even draw a simple map and use that to figure out which attractions will be near your accommodations!
I don’t know about you, but food is one of my top priorities while traveling, so I make a checklist of local dishes that I want to try with a short description of each one. That way, I can keep an eye out when I’m famished after a day of walking around a new city.
When I make lists of sights to see and places to visit, I make sure to jot down a few notes on what the site is famous for, perhaps some historical facts about it. That way, I can be reminded of it as I flip back through the journal one day!
Step 4: Revel in the anticipation
There are more reasons to book a trip early than simply lower prices on flights. A study from the Netherlands in the journal Applied Research for Quality of Life showed that out of the entire vacation process, the biggest boost in happiness comes from planning the vacation, not the vacation itself!
Savor the time leading up to your trip by using your bullet journal to jot down some movies and books that are about, or take place in, the city you’re about to visit. You can immerse yourself in the new culture before you’ve even stepped off the plane.
You can even create a countdown calendar to your trip and check off each day as you get closer and closer to jetting off!
Finally, if you don’t speak the local language of your destination, you might want to create a page to write down a few key phrases for getting around.
Step 5: Stay on budget
One of the keys to a successful trip is not overspending. You’ll need money set aside for food, entertainment, souvenirs, etc. and you can use your bullet journal to plan how much you want to spend in each category, as well as a daily budget. Then, during your trip, write down your expenses to keep yourself accountable!
Step 6: Document your trip
The beauty of a travel bullet journal is that it doubles as a planning tool and a low-cost, personalized souvenir. Since you’ll probably have lots of extra pages left over, you can use them to write journal entries describing the new sights and experiences of each day. Or, keep it simple by summarizing it all into a “one sentence a day” page.
If you’re into scrapbooking and collecting mementos, you can go the classic travel journal route and paste in boarding passes, ticket stubs, sugar packets, luggage tags, business cards, maps, etc.
Step 7: Stay healthy while traveling
Traveling is a chance to get some much needed R&R, try new foods, and treat yourself! However, it’s still important to keep some healthy habits in place so that you can keep your energy levels high enough to keep up with all of your activities and your immune system functioning well enough to ward off any pesky colds that might interfere with your vacation.
Using a bullet journal to track habits like drinking plenty of water, exercising, and meditating ensures you’ll be reminded of these habits every time you open your bullet journal to check up on your itinerary or write about the day’s adventures!
Once you’re home from your trip, the journal is a very personal, detailed, and compact souvenir of your entire trip. If you’ve got room left in it, bring it on another adventure! Otherwise, give it a special place at home where you can look back at it often to conjure up those warm and happy travel memories again.