Warning: Long post ahead
Whenever I travel, especially when I travel alone, I usually bring along a little DIY guidebook I put together and a journal. I would normally use a Moleskine pocket plain notebook or sketchbook for my journal and my DIY guidebook would be something I print out on A6 paper. Both would be small and compact and wouldn’t take much space in my bag but there was a problem. The problem was that I would never fill up the entire notebook/sketchbook. My vacations usually vary from 3 days to maybe 10 days with the odd one month trip to the US. I could never estimate accurately how many pages I thought I might use to journal in as I tend to include little photos as well.
So for my last trip (which was to Seoul – more posts on that later), I decided to use a Filofax (FF) instead for my guidebook and journal – basically an all in one. I thought the FF would be great for my journaling because at the end of the trip, I just needed to store that pages that I used and keep the unused ones for my next trip. I had originally wanted to use a pocket-sized FF to keep things compact but when I thought about journaling space as well as how much information I could put on one page for the guide section, I decided a personal size would be better. Given that I didn’t want something too bulky, I went with a personal compact and got myself a Back To School in red.
The first thing I did was plan my FF setup. I decided to have 6 sections – itinerary, guide, phrases, lists, journal and expenses. I then decided to split the guide section into a further 4 sections – maps, sights, shop and dine. I’ll go into more detailed about each section as I got along. I created all the dividers and most of the inserts in Word and printed out the inserts on plain paper, either from FF or something I cut down to size.
As soon as you open my FF you’ll see my front cover which can also be used as a dashboard for post-it notes. This was actually a printable scrapbooking journaling card I found online (I can’t remember where so I can’t give proper credit but it’s definitely not mine). I laminated it (I have my own laminator) and punched holes (I have a 6-hole punch for my FF stuff). On the left you can see my Pilot Coletto pen which I keep in the FF – more about what I other stationary I brought with me in a later post.
Under my cover page I have a couple of things that will always be in the FF for every trip I take with it and they will never change.
First I have a business card holder. At the moment it only holds some of my contact info and FF registration number and FF contact numbers in case I lose my FF (fingers crossed that never happens). I haven’t filled in the other 4 slots yet but I’m thinking of adding some pics of places I’ve been or something.
Next up is a 2014 calendar, obviously this will change from year to year but I will always want to have a full year calendar.
Lastly, is a list of all my loyalty cards and membership numbers. I like having it all on one sheet so that if I need to book something, I just look at the one page, I have a copy of this in my daily FF as well.
1st Divider – Itinerary
In this section I have my flight, hotel and travel insurance information as well as details on how to get to and from the airport/hotel and also my daily itinerary.
Given that I don’t book my vacays through a travel agent (I am my own personal travel agent lol), I need to know how to get from the airport to the hotel and vice versa. Some hotels do provide a free shuttle or something but not all so it’s good to know before hand how to get to the hotel. I prefer to take a bus or a subway than a cab – I’m not sure why but I have a tendency of getting motion sickness in cabs no matter where in the world I am lol so try to avoid there where possible.
As for my daily itinerary, I don’t actually decide my daily itinerary till the night before but I do have a post-it where I’ve listed all the places I’d like to go. I group the places by location to make things easier for travelling that way I won’t be say going from one side of the city to another only to go back to the same side on another day lol. Once I decide, I then write my decision into the daily itinerary insert and then tick off each location I actually went there. I don’t actually set myself a time limit for any particular place so sometimes I may end up enjoying myself so much at a certain location that I decide to forego going to another place on my intended list but because I try not to cram too much in each daily, I tend to end up going to more places than planned lol. Oh the joys of travelling alone lol.
I created all the inserts in this section in Word and then printed them onto FF plain paper.
2nd Divider – Guide
This is essentially my little guidebook for my destination. To make things easier for me to find, I created 4 subsections and used top dividers for each of them.
At the front of the section I have some important information about the destination. All the information here was taken either from a guidebook I borrowed from the library or from the internet. I used the Lonely Planet series as a sort of guide on what information I should have. I keep things brief and sometimes just have the information in point form. Here’s a list of the topics I cover in this section:
- Geography – what continent, about the city
- History – just a brief one
- Time Zone – especially handy when it’s different from home
- Languages – self-explanatory
- Customs & Immigration – immigration rules on entry to the country and whether there are special rules for customs (eg prohibited items etc)
- Getting Around – how I’d get around the city as well as tips on travel cards etc
- Embassy / Consulate – I put the contact details of my home country embassy/consulate in case of an emergency
- Useful Phone Numbers – police, fire department, tourist information hotline, etc
- electricity – it always helps to know what voltage and plug they use especially if you bring a lot of gadgets (which I do lol)
- Internet / Mobile – how I can get internet or mobile access while I’m there. I usually try to get a prepaid Sim card with data to use while I’m there
- Weather – the general weather throughout the year
- Water – always good to know on whether the tap water is drinkable or not
- Currency – what denominations, coins and notes, etc
- Tax – so that I’m not suddenly surprised about tax lol
- Tipping Advice – good to know because while it may be the norm for me to tip at home, it may not be overseas and to some it may even be considered offensive
- Opening Hours – just general information about opening hours for stores and offices
- Dos & Don’ts – handy to know cultural differences so as not to offend anyone and end up looking like a bad tourist
- Precautions for Women Travellers – self-explanatory and good to know given that I like to travel alone and am a woman 🙂
I like to get some blank notepaper just after this in case I learn something while on the trip. Just after I prepared this for my trip to Seoul, I found out that a prepaid Sim card was available so rather that redo the whole section, I just wrote the relevant information on the notepaper.
The guide is then split into 4 subsections. The first subsection is entitled “Maps”. I think this is pretty straightforward. I either use maps I find online or take the ones used in Lonely Planet. Most of the maps can be printed onto one page so I just print them onto FF plain paper. For those that need to be a folded map, I will actually cut paper according to the size I want (either a bi-fold or a tri-fold map) and then print directly onto that. I will usually include a subway map if I’m planning on taking the subway a lot.
The inserts for the next three subsections are almost identical and were created based on an address book insert.
The next subsection is entitled “Sights”. This is where I put information of various sightseeing locations. I would have the name of the venue in English as well as in the local language, attraction fees, operating hours and how to get there.
The third subsection is entitled “Shop”. This is where I put information of various stores or malls. I would have the name of the store, the address, what they sell, operating hours and how to get there.
The last subsection is entitled “Dine”. This is where I put information of various dining locations – usually taken from a guidebook or recommended. I would have the name of the store, the address, what cuisine, operating hours and how to get there.
I usually also have a couple of empty inserts for each section in case I come across a place I would want to remember for another trip.
3rd Divider – Phrases
Now this section may not always be needed for each trip. It’s normally for those places that don’t speak English. For my Seoul trip, I took phrases that I found in a Lonely Planet guidebook. I followed the same format which had the word/phrase in English, in Korean and for phonetic pronunciation.
4th Divider – Lists
This is where I keep my packing lists, my “must to/go” list (which is a list of things or places I really want to do or go during the trip), my souvenir list and my shopping list. I don’t always have a shopping list but sometimes when I go to certain places there are must buy things lol. In the case of this Seoul trip, I wanted to get my Korean language text books as they’re cheaper there lol.
5th Divider – Journal
Well the title says it all lol. This is my journal section. I just have FF lined paper here. As I start each day on a new sheet, I print the day no. and date on the first sheet for each day and I usually use about 3 sheets a day for a total of 6 pages per day. I do put in photos along with my journaling and embellish the pages. I try to take note of what the weather was like that day and at the end of each day, I record what I wore for the day and also what my Fitbit stats were. At the end of the journaling section, I have a sheet of drawing paper which has enough “storyboard” sections for each day of my trip and I doodle stuff from that day as well as have a list. Here are some pages from this journal.
6th Divider – Expenses
This is the final section of my travel FF and this is where I record my daily expenses. I usually try to set myself a daily budget for food and for shopping and anything left over get carried over and added to my shopping allowance for the next day. I usually like to keep a record of my expenses because it helps me to remember how much things cost especially if I was buying things on behalf of others, and also helps with budgeting for future trips to the same location. This trip, I didn’t go over my budget and also didn’t regret not getting something so I’m good. At least now I know what’s my minimum budget for a expenses for a trip to Seoul but will probably increase it to do more shopping hahahahaha.
At the back of my travel FF is a pen holder with a pocket which came with the FF and a zippered pocket which I had cut down to size and punched holes in. In the pen holder pocket I keep a guide for my photos and in the zippered pocket I keep some receipts or cards that I pick up during the trip as well as some post-its. I also have a bookmark which is slightly taller than the page at the top and bottom so that I can easily flip to my last journaling spot. I made the bookmark by cutting a piece of double-sided scrapbook paper, laminated it and then punched holes. I also cut the holes from the left edge in to that the bookmark can be easily put on or taken off the rings without having to open the rings. This is based on the transparent today marker that normally comes with a FF.