The Travel Journal is Dead: How to Auto-Document Your Trip

Fred Perrotta

Do you carry a Kindle for reading but still write about your travels in a physical book?

If so, this post is for you.

Some people prefer the simplicity and beauty of pencil and paper. By writing something down, they remember it better.

I used to do it that way too. But not any more.

Using the amazing computer you have in your pocket, you can easily document your trip for posterity.

Back up your photos. Remember all the cool stuff you stumble upon. Find it later. Share it with your friends.

If you’re ready to make the leap to a smartphone-powered 21st century travel journal, keep reading.



Most travelers take photos either with their smartphones or with DSLR cameras. Simple point-and-shoot cameras are quickly becoming extinct.

Smartphone Photos

For smartphone photographers, this is easy. Just use the online backup service Dropbox.

Join Dropbox with this link for an extra 500 MB of free storage space.

First, install Dropbox on your iPhone, Android, or Blackberry. Then, authorize the Camera Upload feature in the Dropbox app.

Now your smartphone pictures will be automatically backed up in the cloud and accessible via the Dropbox app or website.

Note: You will need to occasionally prompt the Dropbox app to sync your pictures. Just open the app, and your latest photos will be automatically uploaded to your Camera Uploads folder.

Easy and damned near automatic.

If you’re using an iPhone, Apple’s iCloud can sync your most recent photos to all of your devices.

DSLR Photos

DSLR photographers will need to do a bit more work to back up their photos.

You can still use Dropbox’s Camera Upload feature but will need to connect your camera to your computer first. Remember to keep an eye on your storage quota in case you need to upgrade.

Dropbox photos on web

Another option is to use an Eye-Fi SD memory card. It works just like any other memory card, except that it can automatically upload your photos to your computer without a wire via built-in WiFi. Very cool.



You won’t forget the Eiffel Tower. But what about that delicious restaurant down the dark alley? What about the store in Tokyo selling all those crazy tchochkes that you’d never be able to find again?

Unless you’re a meticulous journaler, you’ve probably forgotten many of the coolest places you’ve ever found. The best ones are never in the guidebook. Hell, you probably only found them after getting lost.

My notes are usually either incomplete, or indecipherable, especially when I’m writing down names and addresses in a foreign language.

I once used Google Maps’ Street View to retrace my steps through Frankfurt, find a restaurant, and look at the sign to figure out what it was called. Answer: Affentor-Schänke.

Obviously, that’s not a very good solution.

Affentorschanke Frankfurt Germany on Foursquare

To the rescue: Foursquare. Find a beautiful church? Eat an amazing meal? Just open up Foursquare and check in. No need to remember your notebook or to try to recall the name and address later from memory.

Rather than tracking everywhere you go, I’d recommend limiting your checkins to just the places you want to remember. Then your records will only list the good stuff. No need to sift through your missteps.

Plus, you’ll spend less time on your phone when you’re supposed to be experiencing another culture.

With each check in you can even take a picture and notes so that you can remember what the place looked like or which delicious dish you ordered.

You can even create a list of your favorites in each city to share with your friends or to remember on your next visit.

Use Foursquare Explore to find cool places to check out. It’s a lot more interesting than the well-trodden list of recommendations from your guidebook.

The (big) caveat here is that not every bar or restaurant is listed on Foursquare, especially in smaller and less developed countries. Don’t worry. The last item on this list will be our “catch all” way to document anything that doesn’t fit into the other buckets.

Everything Else


When all else fails, we have our trusty backup, Evernote.

Join Evernote with this link for a free month of Evernote Premium.

For the uninitiated, Evernote is an “outsourced brain” that helps you remember everything. Coincidentally, that’s exactly what we’re trying to do.

Evernote overview

Evernote is structured like a searchable notebook.

Notes can be text, images, or audio. Evernote can even scan and transcribe the text in images to make it searchable.

Each note is stored in a notebook and tagged for easy categorization and searchability.

I recommend one of two approaches:

  1. A ‘Travel’ notebook where notes are tagged with the country, city, and type of note (restaurant, landmark, architecture)
  2. A notebook for each city or country you will be visiting with more detailed tags

Either way, you’ll be able to pull up all the cool stuff you’ve documented and share it with your friends.

Take a picture of a cool sign, save it to Evernote. Type up the name of that restaurant and what you ordered, save it to Evernote.

You’ll quickly develop your own system. Best of all, you’ll stop trying to remember everything and trust Evernote to do the work for you.

As a bonus, you can use online service connector IFTTT to back up your info to Evernote too. From IFTTT, you can send Foursquare checkins, Instagram photos, and most anything else to Evernote automatically.

When all else fails, save it to Evernote, your infinite, searchable travel journal of the future.

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