Altered Book Travel Journal

Since we were on the subject of Christmas in July a couple posts ago, I thought I’d share a gift that I gave my mother for Christmas a couple years ago. I am sharing it now, so that if it gives you inspiration to create one as a gift yourself, you’ll have time to finish it before Christmas! Don’t wait until November to start! ~ as fun as these are to create, they are time-consuming.

In 2000 my mother & I went to Paris together. I kept a journal and upon return, I typed it up and designed it into a booklet with photos and bits & pieces from our trip (not shown here) ~ this was a task since I didn’t have a digital camera back then and had to scan everything! My mother loved it so much she wished that I’d done this for previous trips we’d taken with my brother and Captain Hubby.

When I discovered “Altered Book Art” I loved the concept. The problem with me is, my art is purpose-driven ~ I just can’t make something like that to sit on a shelf, but the idea of a travel journal using this technique excited me.

So I decided to combine all our European trips to that date in one Altered Book travel journal as a gift to my mother. She absolutely went bonkers for this journal. She says that she takes it out and looks at it again and again. Maybe someone you’ve traveled with would treasure such a gift?



I began by sketching out a rough thumbnail of what I wanted to include on each page without actually planning what they would look like. This allowed me to consider how many spreads I would be creating so that I could properly choose a used book size. Garage sales and/or thrift shops are a great source for these. I chose a thin-ish book based on a calculation of about 3-5 pages in the book per page in the finished book because you will use an archival glue stick to glue pages together to make them more rigid. The book I chose contained verses about friendship, and you can always let bits of the original book pages show through, but in this case I did not. I did, however, like the gold foil-stamped flower on the front and allowed that to be part of the end design.

Use the archival glue stick to combine bits & pieces of scrapbook papers, magazine tears, pages from an old foreign language dictionary, things gathered on your trip (like maps, menus, tickets, etc) ~ add paints, inks, rubber stamps, metallic pens and whatever else you can think of ~ anything goes!

Tear the edges of the papers & photos (I recommend color copies or printouts rather than actual photos ~ easier to paint/stamp, etc.) Oh ~ and an old phone book works great as something to use your glue stick against ~ you can just flip the page to a fresh one for the next piece!


Here’s a closer look at the first spread ~ the note on the right is a prescription from a doctor in Venice ~ I was very sick when we went , but that’s another story!altjournal_02_detail.gif

On the next spread, using my x-acto knife I created a die cut window, through which you can see mom & I tossing our coins in the Trevi Fountain. A “must” do if you want to come back! The coins are little pieces of jewelry I clipped off a necklace I picked up at a garage sale because I just knew I’d need those coins for something some day!



If you want to cut a window or cut the edge of a page wavy so that the edge of the next page shows (as I have below to see the red paper), do it after you’ve glued the pages together. However, I decided I wanted a peek-a-boo window on this spread as well, so I chose the pages I would glue together and used a circle punch to punch through them all before gluing them because I wanted to slip a sheer piece of velumn between them so that you could see the picture of my mom on the next spread through it.


Also be mindful about what you’ll see through a die cut or wavy edge when the page is turned.




Pockets are another fun way to add an element of surprise to your design. Here’s a detail of the pocket shown above. When you pull out the tassel you get a photo behind it as well as seeing the whole photo of the little bit you see through the die-cut window of the pocket. In this case we were at the flea market, hence the money images on the page!




For the page above (right), I actually glued down real Euro coins using Elmer’s glue rather than the glue stick. If you do something like this, glue your pages together first (it’s a good idea when adding something as heavy as coinage to glue a few extra pages together to make it sturdier) and give it plenty of time to dry before moving on ~ a good stopping point for the night! I also took a regular single hole punch and punched a line of holes down the right side of the page in a wavy design to see the paper below on the next spread.


I just have to show a closer look at the photo on the lower right…We splurged and had drinks at the Ritz in Paris. Every drink came with rose. Afterwards we went from the Ritz to Pizza Pino on Champs Elysee and this shot just captured the fun of the night ~ my mom laughing with a pocketbook full of roses!



I hope this post has you flying to the shoebox of bits & pieces you’ve been saving because you just knew you’d use them for something someday~

8 Responses to “Altered Book Travel Journal”

  1. Brenda Pinnick Says:

    beautiful! Makes me want to go pack my suitcase and take off for parts unknown!
    It was great meeting you in person in NY!

  2. Sue z Says:

    This is really beautiful BJ. What a wonderful gift for your mom, priceless.
    Thanks for sharing the process.

  3. Dorothy Reinhardt Says:

    Hi BJ, gorgeous book. Who wouldn’t love to receive a gift like this?
    (I got sick in Venice and went to see a doctor…it was just a cold, but I was worried about flying back with it. It was an interesting experience.)

  4. robin zingone Says:

    What a beautiful book BJ…but better yet- getting to travel to Paris with your mom!

  5. Anna Lloyd Says:

    I love your sketchbooks! Amazing work.

  6. Nancy Lefko Says:

    this is wonderful….what a fabulous keepsake….

  7. Alison Says:

    This is absolutely gorgeous… I love it.

  8. Anoeschka Says:

    Love it, thanks for sharing…

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