What is a Travelers Notebook?
A travelers notebook, in its simplest form, is a rectangle of leather (or other material) strung with some elastic bands in the middle on the inside and an elastic loop on the outside for closure.
Doesn’t sound like much, does it? And yet people pay anywhere from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars to own one – or often – many. I myself currently own five, unless you count the two I made, which brings it up to seven.
When I first saw a travelers notebook in the craft store, I pictured a man in “official” hiking shorts and boots carrying one along with a pencil that looked like a stick sharpened with a knife.
The fact that I was at the craft store instead of a sporting goods store and the notebook was likely something like pink or purple didn’t change my thinking. And it was so skinny and thin, and so were the inserts that went with it. Not for me at all, I thought.
This is a good time for a short lesson on terminology:
- The leather cover with elastics is called a notebook or travelers notebook or TN for short.
- The Travelers Company of Japan invented the Midori, which was the first travelers notebook. You may hear this term being used, or even “fauxdori” which is a knockoff of the original. No offense to those who make them.
- What you put inside these notebooks – what you might call a notebook or note pad – are called inserts.
How Does a Travelers Notebook Work?
Travelers notebooks come in a variety of sizes and can vary depending on where you purchase it, but in general, they correspond to the standard sizes of notebooks available. The notebooks, or covers, will tend to be somewhat larger than the inserts themselves.
Be prepared to be confused. I have been enthralled with TNs for several months now and still don’t know one size from another.
In addition to the actual size of the travelers notebook, you will need to decide how many elastics you want inside. There are three options:
- One elastic
- Four elastics
- Six elastics
Each elastic theoretically holds one insert. However, with additional elastic bands (sometimes called jump bands), you can add additional inserts. For instance, you can easily fit three inserts onto one elastic.
I know this is confusing. Please don’t give up on me yet. It’s worth it, I promise.
The Beauty of Travelers Notebooks
The real beauty of travelers notebooks is their versatility. Inserts come in an almost endless variety, and when you combine that with your own imagination, you can use a TN for almost anything.
For instance, I have a small TN, about 3” x 5”, that I carry in my purse. Michaels happens to carry inserts that fit it perfectly. I ended up with a tri-fold file folder (!) with both an accordion file and a top loading one, and three matching inserts, all for less than $5.00 on sale. And one of those inserts has monthly calendars plus five weeks per month!
This TN also has pockets to fit my cards or other things I might want to carry.
Here are just some of the things that you can use an insert for:
- Menu planning
- Art journals
- Keeping track of spending
- Keeping track of calories or what you ate
- Memory keeping
- And of course, planning!
Another nice thing about travelers notebooks and their inserts is that you can change your mind (and your notebook) easily, at any time. Don’t need a monthly calendar? Pull it out and put a weekly one in instead.
Don’t want to take the whole thing with you grocery shopping? Pull out the insert, do your shopping, and then put it back when you get done. But those pockets in your notebook – or file folders – are great for holding coupons.
Want to carry around stickers or sticky notes? No problem. Add some bling to your notebook like the planner girls do? You have no idea. You can put jewelry on these things! Well, charms and beads. And I’ve seen videos on taking your jewelry apart so you can put it on your TN.
Think about this: you can buy one travelers notebook. Make it leather if you want something that will last, or another material. Decide what you mainly want to carry as far as inserts go – for instance, will you be using this as a planner? Then you’ll need some calendar type inserts.
Find some undated printables on Etsy, purchase them once (for a very reasonable price) and then learn to make your own inserts. Basically print, cut, and staple.
And guess what? You never have to buy another planner again! Unless, of course, you want to.
Is This Something New?
Yes and no.
Currently, travelers notebooks seem to be enjoying renewed popularity and are being discovered by planner nerds like me. As a result, you see a lot more about them online and you will find a lot of accessories for them as well.
The creator of the original Midori made his notebook for a trade show competition back in 2005, however, I suspect that the idea of a travelers notebook has been around much longer. Likely they were homemade (they are easy to make) and not standardized as to size.
If you’re wondering if this is just a passing fad, I would have to give the same definitive answer as before – maybe.
Some people will try it and play with it for a while before going on to something else. But a great majority of people will not. As I said, at some point they may find it harder to get certain things, but the inserts have been around for a long time and likely aren’t going anywhere.
Where to Begin
So, if you’re at all interested in trying a travelers notebook for yourself, you most likely want to rush right out and get one. Well, if you’re like me, anyway.
Here are some thoughts first:
- Try to decide what you will use the inserts for and how many you want.
- Think about where you will use the notebook and if you need to carry it with you.
- Think about the amount of room that you need. Is your handwriting on the big side, or small? Do you need to put a lot of information on a monthly calendar or could you use the weekly pages for that?
- Once you have an idea about those things, you can start to figure out what size you might like. In addition to my 3” x 5” that I keep in my purse, I have two that are 5” x 7”, and one that is 4” x 6”. There are other sizes, smaller and larger.
Once you have an idea of the size or sizes you might like, go to Walmart and pick up some notebooks (these would be used as inserts when you get your TN). I’ve heard Walmart has the TNs as well, but I haven’t seen them.
You can find these notebooks at other stores too, like Target, Meijer, and craft stores like Michaels, Joann, and Hobby Lobby, as well as Amazon and Etsy. I suggest Walmart because of the price, but it’s up to you.
Once you find a size you like, you can begin looking at travelers notebooks. The exciting part!
The craft stores and Walmart may have some; Amazon does and so does Etsy. You may also want to consider eBay. I’ve purchased two of mine there and love them. Here are some of the companies that make travelers notebooks. Most are small, independent businesses. And should you order a custom piece, be prepared to wait about a month for delivery.
- Portland Leather. This is where I bought my first one. They’re not very girly and there’s not much variety, but the quality is perfection.
- Foxy Fix. This is a very popular brand and the workmanship is superb. The selection will make you dizzy. I have four of theirs. The only one I bought directly from them (my purse one) was from a mystery sale. You choose the style and they choose the rest, at a very discounted price. You have to watch for these. There are also groups on Facebook where you can buy, sell, and trade them.
- Chic Sparrow. I’ve heard wonderful things about this company. I have not purchased from them mostly because I don’t like their leathers – the colors or the seeming stiffness of the TNs.
- Speckled Fawns
- Websters Pages
- Apple Pig – I’ve heard very good things about this shop from some of the people who use planners the most. The shop owner is not only talented but kind and generous as well.
- LeCow – this store has some very unique designs.
My Travelers Notebooks
As I said, I have seven TNs total. Of the two that I made, one (made from leather) is usable; the fabric one, not so much. It’s too flimsy.
I currently have three TNs that I actively use.
The 3” x 5” Foxy Fix that I keep in purse holds:
- A file folder that holds the product description of the inserts in case I want to buy them again. It also has some sticky notes attached in the middle. The top loading folder is empty.
- The first insert is the calendar. I use it for appointments only. I use my Happy Planner on my desk for anything else I need to note during the month, like calls to make or bills that are due. I rarely use the weekly part of the calendar.
- The second insert is for lists; mostly shopping lists. I create my meal plan and grocery list on one sheet. I also have ongoing lists of things we need to buy when we are out, depending on where we are.
- The third insert is for notes of any kind. If I have an idea, or someone tells me something I want to remember, it goes there until I get home and can do something with it.
I have two 5” x 7” TNs I am using. The sturdy one from Portland Leather (with one elastic and a hair tie used as a second) is currently holding:
- A sketch pad. I’m not very good at drawing, but it relaxes me, so I trade that for drawings that look like a two year old made them.
- A reader’s journal. This is a brilliant idea I never thought of before that I got from The Reset Girl. I read a lot of inspirational books and there are always things that I want to remember. Now I can!
The other TN is a beautiful, soft one from Foxy Fix. It has four elastics and they hold:
- My morning pages from The Artists Way. That’s another reason that I like TNs and their inserts – they’re smaller and fill up quickly. The Artists Way requires you to write three pages of longhand every morning, first thing. Small inserts are good!
- A dream journal.
- A moon journal. I’ve been reading a number of articles about how the moon might affect your moods, dreams, and even how you feel. One suggested keeping a journal for a month or two noting the moon phase and how you feel, what you dreamed, etc. I’m giving it a try.
- A writing journal. I like to write a lot, and when I was younger (much younger), I wrote short stories. This journal holds any ideas I come up with. That’s all right now. I haven’t tried to turn any of them into anything else.
I’m working on ideas for my other TNs. My husband just laughs at me. If it makes me happy, he’s OK with it. I’m a lucky woman.
What do you think? Would you try a travelers notebook?