When your nine-year-old gets nerdily excited about a travel journal, you know you’re doing something right. My kid spent an hour perusing all the options available on the Journey Jotter Books website and then waited breathlessly for it to arrive in the mail, which is how I knew I had found a winner. Journey Jotter Books turned out to be an educational, fun way to create a personalized travel souvenir, and I’m so glad my boys got the chance to use them on our recent trip to Costa Rica.
Travel with kids can be tricky. You’d expect them to be grateful, right? (“Do you know what a vacation was when I was a kid? Shining my father’s shoes! While climbing a mountain barefoot! In a foot of snow! Uphill! Both ways!”) If you have contrary kids, however, you might find that they are unhappy with just about anything that isn’t their idea, at least initially. They might be thrilled to go to Costa Rica. Or they might be furious that they are missing Valentine’s Day at school, as mine were this year.
However, the one thing they always get excited about is missing school to travel. I say this knowing it will probably infuriate lots of teachers, many of whom are my dear friends, but yes, we pull them from school to take advantage of cheaper flights and lower-priced hotel rooms. It’s one of the ways we can afford to go places. As they get older this will get harder, and I appreciate the burden it is on their teachers, but we do it anyway. Our kids are still young enough that they don’t have specific make-up work to do while they are gone. Instead, their teachers usually encourage them to work on writing while they’re away.
Which brings me to the subject of travel journals. There are a lot of printable travel journals on the internet, but you have be organized enough to find the right one for your child, have printer ink on hand, print them out, and bind them. Organization is not my strong suit, so I got stuck at step one, bewildered by the possibilities on Pinterest. Therefore, I was thrilled to find Journey Jotter Books, and even more thrilled when Jessie at Journey Jotter Books agreed to send me one for each of my older boys to use on our recent trip to Costa Rica.
Journey Jotter Books aren’t really travel journals; they are customizable activity books designed by a teacher. The activities help your child explore the world around them as they travel. As they complete them, they are recording their journey.
I appreciated the customizable chapters, not just because you can adjust them for the age and interests of your child, but because the book includes so many different types of activities. Depending on where you are and what your child feels like doing — they can draw pictures, code, study the world around them, take photos or write a paragraph.
My nine-year-old chose to add the Naturalist, Engineer, and Seeker chapters to his book. I chose the Designer and Seeker chapters for the six-year-old. The Essentials chapter, which comes with every book, is also well-designed with different types of activities to provide a range of options for your child: drawing, writing, making predictions, even a game.
My favorite part of it is probably the “Restaurant Review,” a brilliant couple of pages that gives your child something to do during the interminable wait at a restaurant. (Hint: as part of the evaluation, they get to review their own behavior at the restaurant, which is the best part of all!)
Our recent trip was mostly out in nature, and you can’t write in a book while surfing or hiking Our Journey Jotter books were very popular during the initial flight to Costa Rica (the preparation phase!), and during occasional evenings when the kids were tired and it was dark outside and they were looking for distraction. We had a couple long ferry rides as well and we did a lot of our activities during those times. A more urban trip that involved a lot of time on trains or in nice restaurants may have given us more time to work on our books. I can imagine using these more on a daily basis when my kids are older.
Journey Jotter Books are recommended for older kids, ages nine and over, but because my six-year-old hates to be left out and insists on doing everything his older brother does, I got one for him, too. There were a few activities he enjoyed, such as the letter search and some of the drawing exercises, but I do think the recommended ages are appropriate. My nine-year-old was the perfect age for most activities.
Journey Jotter Books are a great idea for kids that want to explore the world around them and want a guided way to record their travels. My son’s initial excitement wore off, of course, once he was on vacation and found he’d rather build sandcastles than write.
I would recommend deciding ahead of time if you are using this as a completely fun, optional exercise or if you want this to be more educational and you are requiring your child to complete some of the activities. I did this, and I was glad I did. My son ended up liking a lot of the chapters, and some of them (like the currency exercise, for example) were great tools for teaching the kids something about the local country that we wanted them to learn anyway.
Journey Jotter Books have a few cover options and are customizable with your child’s name, which my kids totally loved. They come with a little plastic sleeve attached inside for storing pens or pencils, which was a useful surprise. If you are looking for a gift for a traveling kid, or a book to keep their brains active during vacation, you can’t go wrong with Journey Jotter Books.
Disclaimer: Journey Jotter Books provided complimentary books for my kids for the purposes of this review, but as always, my opinions are my own.