Packing List for Travel Journallers Who Want to be More Arty

Travel Journallers’ Packing List

For Those Who Want to Add an Arty Edge to Their Travel Memories

What’s the first thing you think when about to take off on a trip?
Chances are it’s…

What clothes shall I pack?!

Followed by a ritual spreading out of your wardrobe across your bed as you pick and choose:

  1. What do I need to take? (Essential as a must have – It’s practical and suits the purpose)
  2. What do I like? (No logic involved – But I like it – its pretty!)
  3. What will be useful? (Not essential, but, well, it could come in handy)

Arty travellers do the same, but with the contents of their drawing cupboard 
Pens, pencils, paintbrushes and paper are laid out like an offering to see and select:

  1. What I need
  2. What I simply like or…
  3. What could come in useful!

And just like clothes – it’s way too easy to over-pack, and equally surprising how little you really need!

If you want to record your travel memories
in ways other than just words –

Here’s a packing list for travel journallers 
who yearn to add an arty flair..

Comfortable Travel Journals

First thing on the packing list - a journal
Just as what goes on your feet will determine your ultimate comfort and will shape your perception of the whole trip (comfortable feet = a great trip) it is for the same reason, your travel journal must feel comfortable.

The cover needs to feel comfortable in your hand so you want to get it out and hold it.
And comfortable so when open in your lap you’re in no hurry to cast it aside.
The paper needs to be thick enough and have a texture that will make the nib of your pen sing as it rasps across the page and catch the pigment of your coloured pencils in its fibrous toothed surface.

It’s a subject in itself as to what kind of journal is ‘your’ kind of journal, and it’ll not only take many trips of trial and error to define that – it will also evolve as your style changes over time. But there are a variety of format options dependent upon your fancy and how you feel most comfortable working as to whether you take a:

  • portrait (vertical) travel journal
  • landscape (horizontal) journal
  • spiral bound (so it can fold back on itself and still lay flat)
  • stitch bound (so you can work across the central spine)
  • Or, as I discovered on my last trip – a Japanese journal, which concertinas out into a continuous strip.

But, just like the shoes you pack, I think it’s good to have opposite ends of the activities spectrum covered so I’d recommend taking two journals:

  • 1 x larger, heavy duty travel journal for telling the main tale.
  • 1 x smaller A6 light weight journal that can be carried all day with you for notating little vignettes observed, and acts as a reminder to yourself to stop and be in the moment rather than perpetually rushing forward to greet the next.

Travel journals, large and small

Outlines – The Shape of Things – Pens

For creating outlines, I used to fluff about with graphite pencils and erasers.
These had me pussy footing around, fiddling with how it went, or more to the point how it should go, which if you saw me at work it certainly appeared theatrically quite impressive with sweeping arm movements and hand flourishes. But this fiddle faddle ‘sketching’ was merely creating a messy mass of uncertain lines and eraser rubbings.

I surprised myself when I discovered, that by taking an indelible waterproof pen and casting a line with conviction that even if it appeared wobbly on the page and really not quite right that it still managed to convey a far more dynamic and honest portrayal of what I was recording.
Rather than my attempts at lifeless photographic renditions, I found my imperfect lines not only conveyed a spontaneity for the moment – They were human and portrayed far closer the truth of what I was feeling and experiencing.

Travel Journal pens for journalling

So trust your instincts and try taking only pens, which will allow your personality and inadequacies to shine through – and… save you a ton of time drawing a line, rubbing it out, and drawing the same line again (and again)!

  • A black Uniball fine Deluxe waterproof pen that is good for both drawing and writing, and
  • A brown Faber Castell Pitt Artist waterproof pen, for those times when the world isn’t quite so black and white.

Adding a Dash of Colour – Pencils

I love the effect of watercolours, but to use watercolours effectively takes skill and practice…
If you’re going away on a painting holiday to practice your art – Naturally take your full set of paints – But if your aim is to create a few memories in your travel journal I think you’re better off playing it safe and using watercolour pencils, which are so much easier to use.

Travel Journal illustration in watercolour pencils

Pages from my travel journal that have been coloured with water colour pencils, which after wetting appear just like they’ve been painted with watercolours.


Water colour pencils are used just like ordinary coloured pencils but once applied to the page, you take a paint brush and water – or a water-brush, which is a paint brush that has a reservoir with water that feeds to the brush head – and you then blend the coloured pencil lines on the paper, giving the impression you’ve painted it. (And if you don’t tell anyone, they’ll be none the wiser of your little secret!)

Travel journalling pens and pencils

I like to take about a dozen watercolour pencils so there’s a variety of hues, and a water-brush for the blending –
And to highlight a few areas with colour that won’t run when I add water to the page, I also take 6 ordinary coloured pencils in tonal shades that suit and reflect the region I’m travelling.


All you really need to take are therefore:
2 x Journals, 2 x waterproof pens, a few watercolour pencils + water-brush and a few coloured pencils (and a sharpener or penknife) –
As a romantic, like I’m sure many travel journallers who want to add a little arty flair to their memories are, I confess I find it hard to resist slipping in a very small compact size watercolour set and a couple of travel paint brushes (where the bristles are protected with a lid that unscrews and becomes part of the handle).

Accessories for travel journal journalers


In my excited anticipation of going off on a new adventure I always find myself conjuring up romantic images of myself sitting in some far-flung place sketching some distant scene that falls away before me –
It doesn’t happen nearly as often as I’d like, but when it does, the connection to the place totally grounds me, freezing the moment in time and space in my brain for posterity –

So, as the eternal optimist as to my time when travelling, as well as my capabilities, I confess that at the last moment I will invariably make room for my minuscule paint set to complete the ensemble.

Pulling it all together

Packing art materials is just like packing clothes –

You need to take enough to cover all eventualities, yet at the same time you don’t want to get bogged down by unnecessary weight and bulk.

Arty Travelling Kit

Just as you can’t take your entire wardrobe (as much as you’d like and feel tempted) nor can you carry an entire studio –
You need to be selective, mixing and matching materials to get the most use out of each piece, but they equally need to excite and inspire you.

Summary Packing List for the Travel Journaller Who Wants to Add Some Arty Flair


  • 2 x Journals (large & small)
  • 2 x Waterproof Pens (Black & Brown)
  • 12 x Watercolour Pencils
  • 1 x Water Brush
  • 6 x Coloured Pencils
  • Sharpener


  • Mini compact of watercolour paints
  • 2 x travel paint brushes (#8 & a sword brush)

Travel Journallers Packing List Kit


And just like with clothes –
There’s really no pressure to get it absolutely right –
As, surprise, surprise – there are shops for topping up on any supplies you later decide you simply can’t do without!

How good are you at packing?

Do you take way too much?
And find yourself coming home with things you haven’t used?

And what about art supplies?
Do you take any coloured pencils?

Do share in the comments below 😀

18 thoughts on “Packing List for Travel Journallers Who Want to be More Arty

  1. This was a perfect post for me. I’m constantly trying to get my husband to watercolor on location, now I’ll just buy him the pencils. Love this list!

    • To the true watercolourist, I think watercolour colour pencils could feel like a bit of a cop out –
      But we live in an imperfect world and I do find watercolour pencils are so much less effort to pull out in an instance, and apply to the paper with so much less fear of – Oh No – that is NOT what I meant to do, that in reality they’re the perfect accompaniment when on the road when applying yourself 100% to just creating an artwork is not an option.

    • I sadly feel most people equate drawing with creating a photographic rendition –
      While we accept the impressionists may create fuzzy splodgy images – if we do, we say its rubbish!
      If everyone that picked up a pen/coloured pencil accepted that art/drawing/coloured pictures are an expression rather than a portrayal we’d all be happy with whatever we create 🙂

    • Unlike watercolours which can runaway from you and turn muddy in the blink of an eye, watercolour pencils seem to remain far more firmly in your control as you layout where you want the colour, but when you wet them, that’s when the magic happens – and you get that lovely free spontaneous splashy look as you spread the colour away from where you applied it to the page and it flows and fades in that washy look I so love about real watercolours 🙂

  2. I used to journal trips all the time and have a few going back over 40 years- then I stopped- not sure why. Keeping up, I think. I just got a camera and am loving it as a way to record memories. Maybe some day I’ll got back to journaling- wish I could read my handwriting!

    • I know the feeling well when it comes to keeping up with journal entries –
      I sometimes wonder whether we put too much pressure on ourselves to do the perfect job rather than accept we live in an imperfect world where even an odd line is better than nothing!
      I love my photos too – but while you wish you could read your handwriting – I wish I was better at relocating those pesky little SD cards or File Folders on my computer! 🙂

    • Hehe!!
      At least a few watercolour pencils, a water brush and a couple of waterproof pens won’t break the bank… and who knows what fun and games might ensue 😉

  3. Interesting post, Linda. I’m not an artist, but as a writer and photographer, I do have to battle with which equipment to take. It has to be light and as you mention, comfortable. I’m so mad at myself for cheaping out on my latest journal. I don’t like it at all and can’t believe I bought it just to save $5 or so from the nicer ones.

    • The equipment will always win over clothes when it comes to packing!
      But I’m with you –
      For something you’re going to want to use every day, skimping on $5 is not such a good idea when the pleasure and comfort you lose out on is worth way more than that!

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