How do you organize your travel research?

moleskineHow do you organize your travel materials? I don’t mean your valuables — passport, money, etc — but less “valuable” though equally important stuff — maps, guides printed from the web, pages torn from a guidebook, etc.

We’ve written before about the value of a little research before you travel, whether it’s browsing forums, searching local websites, photocopying books from the library or buying a local map. A little planning and research can add a lot to your experiences abroad.

Digital research is easy, just bookmark it or e-mail it yourself and you’re all set. But what about those of us that want to bring some of the physical stuff along? As anyone who’s ever shoved a few pages in their backpack can tell you, well, that’s not a good way to store it.

It could be that I’m in the minority carrying this stuff around (largely a result of wanting to write about my travels), but I generally have a fair bit of paper stuff when I head out the door and organizing it has proved something of task. At the moment I just shove it in the back of a Moleskine notebook, something I noticed that Erik Gauger (of Notes From the Road fame) also does, though he appears to have taken it a bit further:

I always compress everything for my trip into a single moleskine journal – itineraries, contacts, airplane tickets and so forth. I also add notes about the places I am going. The process, before and during travel, helps me learn about different subjects.

Gauger is an artist as well as a writer and posts his Moleskine journals (which are quite beautiful) on his site for others to enjoy.

But what I’m really interested in is hearing how the rest of you store your little notes and plans when you’re on the road… got an ingenious solution? Let’s hear it.

[Photo of Moleskine by Erik Gauger, Notes From the Road]

Posted by | Comments (5)  | September 23, 2009
Category: General

5 Responses to “How do you organize your travel research?”

  1. Nora Says:

    Heh Heh – I just wrote about it!

    I’ve toyed with the idea of replacing my trusty notebook with an iPhone or equivalent, but I still can bring myself to rip the pen from my hand.

  2. Ted Beatie Says:

    I use moleskines religiously when I travel, because I love the feel of writing in a journal. But aside from PDF excerpts from Lonely Planet, My recent trip to China showed that my iPhone gives me everything else that I need. Of course, there was net even on a small tourist island southeast of Shanghai. There’s also net in the Sahara.

  3. Brett Says:

    The Paperwork (from the bureaucratic essentials down to the weigh-yourself ticket with Kareena Kapoor’s picture on it) goes into a Ziplock freezer bag. A piece of paper folded in half is about half the size of the bag.

    The printouts, little cheapo spiral notepads, and all manner of tickets, receipts, business cards, napkins with emails, postcards, intriguing wrappers, beer labels, newspaper cutouts, and maps (etc.) arrange themselves in that bottom half of the freezer bag. It’s kind of a Paperwork dreadlock–it all finds a way to stack into a brick about the size of a cigar box. As pocket notepads are filled, they add to the density.

    When sealed and folded in half, it’s tight, waterproof, and can give a bit of structure to the inside of your backpack. The downside is that it’s easy to get pretty fearful of losing it… I’ve been working on at least typing in the journals to a cloud doc editor while on the road, maybe once a week, so if the bag is lost, the stories aren’t…

  4. Scott Gilbertson Says:


    The freezer bag is the part I never do. And I should know better, I already have far too many ink-smeared, water logged moleskines…


    I do actually carry an EeePC with me these days, but I still do all my initial writing and notetaking longhand so the notebooks are indispensable.

    Glad to know I’m not the only one that obsesses over these things…