creating a personalized travel guide

In this week’s post, I’d like to introduce you to Irene Ternier Gordon, an author friend of mine who did a guest post on about her speaking gig on Via Rail. This week, Irene shares with us how to create your own travel journal. Over to Irene …


Irene Ternier Gordon


Creating your own personalized travel guide

 by Irene Ternier Gordon

When I casually mentioned to Doreen one day that I had spent much of that day preparing a personalized travel guide for the trip my husband Don and I were planning — a combination of Caribbean cruise and 10 days at Marathon in the Florida Keys — she asked me if I would do a blog post on the topic.  My first reaction was, “Doesn’t everyone do this in the Internet Age? Why would anyone be interested in my guide?”  She convinced me that everyone was not making personalized guides and that I should write about mine.

My guides consist in material downloaded from the Internet and filed in a binder. I usually begin by checking out what Wikipedia has to say about the places we’re visiting because Wikipedia includes an overview of their history, geology, climate, flora and fauna, and culture and recreation. Next I check official websites from these places.  In many cases official sites have far too much info on hotels, restaurants and shopping and not enough info on places to visit for my taste.  Because I am a history buff and Don loves maps and geology, I also download Google maps and extra articles about the history and geology of the places we are going.

Two useful sites for Marathon, Florida (a place we were visiting) were Road Trip: Florida Keys” at and The Florida Keys: Marathon” at  Then I downloaded more detailed  information about three places that sounded particularly interesting — the Dolphin Research Center, Curry Hammock State Park, and Crane Point Museum and Nature Center.

the guide for each destination will be distinctly different

The guide I produced for a trip to Scotland last year was much more detailed than usual because we went with three distinct purposes in mind — to visit the town where Don’s great-grandfather was born, to see the sights of Edinburgh, and to visit places connected with the books I have written about the Canadian fur trade.  Because it was not possible to book tours for many of the specific places we wanted to see, we rented a car and planned our own tour. Don is one of the few people I know who is brave enough to drive in the British Isles on the wrong side of the road.  I already had a large amount of historical material about the places connected to the fur trade, but I copied detailed physical descriptions and hiking guides so that we could tour them on our own.

Once we arrive at our destinations, we usually are able to obtain brochures and maps to supplement the information I have included in my guide.  Then on our return home, I convert the guide into a souvenir journal.  I discard material that we didn’t use, and I add brochures and maps that we collected and download more information about some of the things we saw or did.

In the top picture on the cover of my guide I am posing with a gumbo-limbo tree in Curry Hammock State Park. For those who are unfamiliar with this tree, it is nick-named the tourist tree because its red, peeling bark looks like a sunburn.  The lower picture  shows the Queen’s Steps in Nassau, Bahamas.

Thanks, Irene for this great post! I think it’s really cool how you’ve created these personalized travel guides for each of your trips. Way more economical than purchasing travel guides, also more up to date, as you pull the info off the internet right before you leave (or as you are doing your planning) vs taking it from a guidebook that may  be a year or more out of date.  How about the rest of you? Have you done something similar to what Irene does in her trip planning? Or have you come up with another unique way to prepare for your trips? 

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

32 Responses

  1. Susan Cooper says:

    I have done that for the wine regions near where I live. It’s quite expensive and constantly changing so I try to keep it up for anyone who may visit. I have been lax of late, so this a good reminder to refresh that guide again. As far as when I travel, I hadn’t really thought about it but that is a such a great idea. 🙂
    Susan Cooper recently posted…Dad’s Home Brewed Beer: Story (Podcast)My Profile

    • Doreen says:

      Hi Susan: Yes, Irene’s idea really struck me as being an excellent pre-trip planning tool, a convenient resource when you are travelling (she can easily add stuff right into the binder while they’re on the road) and a terrific souvenir/resource for post-trip pleasure. Cheers!

    • Irene Gordon says:

      Thanks for your comments, Susan. We’ve visited wine areas in the Niagrara area and in California.

  2. Jeri says:

    I still like to buy a current travel book related to my vacation destination, but now, more than ever, I find myself printing out bits and pieces of information gleaned from the web and making my own stapled packet of info. I tend to place the pages in the order they will be needed, including tickets and confirmation numbers, and then tearing off the pages as I go. Also, lots of great travel apps exist. I will queue up a list of interesting things on TripAdvisor and star them for later reference while I am on the road.
    Jeri recently posted…Work in Progress: The Inspiration for Lost Girl Road (Update #7)My Profile

    • Doreen says:

      Great idea, Jeri, to combine paper and online sources, and to incorporate the travel tidbits (advance tickets, etc.) into the place in the itinerary where they will be needed. I love that idea. It’s great how we’re all sharing ideas and learning from one other. That’s what I love about blogging!

  3. Irene Gordon says:

    Hi Jeri,
    Thanks for your comments. I agree that it is important to arrange everything in chronological order. We always start out with one binder which includes both my travel guide and all the tickets, hotel reservations, travel insurance, etc. that my husband has collected as our official travel agent. Normally by the time we are ready to leave, however, we have so much material that we need two binders.

  4. My late husband would research our trips in advance, especially the antiquarian book stores that might be in the vicinity, as he was a true bibliophile and a prolific “journalist.” Charles would write a daily summary of our travels, no matter where we were, and then paste in the ephemera like theater stubs and programs. Some of it seemed so trivial at the time, like what we had for breakfast. But those details are what enrich story telling, which is what a journal is. I am so glad I have them as reminders of our trips and the happy times we had together.
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted…Is Google Giving You the Search Results You Need?My Profile

    • Doreen says:

      Hi Jeannette: I, too, save ticket stubs and other small memorabilia from trips and special moments in my life. It really does help keep the memory in tact, and as you mention, can also provide sentimental value when looking back on days gone by and our departed loved ones.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. Irene Gordon says:

    Hi Jeannette,
    Thanks for your comments. I too avidly seek out secondhand or antiquarian book stores every where I go, so I would have loved to meet your husband.

    Although I didn’t mention it in my blog, I do keep a journal on my trips and it becomes part of my souvenir travel binder.

  6. This is a great idea. While I have done a bit of exploring online or with brochures, most of my trips are journeys into the unknown. I can only imagine what we’ve missed as a result. I’m going to try this for our next trip. Thanks for the tips.
    Debra Yearwood recently posted…The Fastest Way to a Politician’s Heart is Through a Camera LensMy Profile

  7. Irene says:

    Hi Debra,
    Thanks for your comments. All you need to know is the general direction you plan to go. For instance, I live near Winnipeg and we plan to take a trip west into Saskatchewan and possibly the northern states this summer. I can start with an overview of the area and then check for more details of places that sound interesting.

  8. Jon Jefferson says:

    I have never done something like this. In the past most of my travel was work related with little time to explore.

  9. Irene says:

    Hi Jon,
    I hope you will get time to explore on your next travels. Although my husband and I have done a lot of travelling for pleasure, he has also had his share of trips in which he started his days with a business breakfast and ended them with a business dinner and saw nothing in between because it was dark when he left the hotel and dark when he returned.

  10. Kelly Wade says:

    I tried really hard to keep a journal while I was studying abroad. I lived in Barcelona, Spain but traveled to a number of different countries. I did well at the beginning but slacked off while becoming too busy with class and having fun These are good tips though. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to take another amazing trip like that and be better at documenting it!
    Kelly Wade recently posted…Tips for Running While PregnantMy Profile

  11. Irene says:

    Hi Kelly,
    Despite being a writer, I too find it difficult to keep a journal regularly. I finally gave up except while I’m on holiday. If you download info about the places you go and the things you do, however, it does reduce how much writing you need to do in order to have a souvenir record of your trip.

  12. Salika Jay says:

    I do almost similar things too when planning a trip. Other than that I always find quite a lot of useful information by reading other travel blogs. Since many of them share their personal experiences, it prepares as to what to expect.
    Salika Jay recently posted…6 Best Family Days Out In BritainMy Profile

  13. Irene says:

    Hi Salika,
    Thanks for your comments. I enjoyed reading your most recent blog.

  14. Vianney says:

    This is such a great read! 🙂 I love reading all of your work and I’ll do it until I can. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  15. Arianne says:

    This is important when travelling. Not only to avoid being lost but also to make sure that we truly enjoy the trip. It’s worth planning for anyway. 🙂

  16. Catarina says:

    Good post. Am used to making “travle guides” whenever I went to work in a new country. The focus was slightly different because it looked at economics and who’s who in the country. But it worked. Good idea to do it for personal trips as well.
    Catarina recently posted…Are leadership and democracy truly compatible?My Profile

  17. I’m a compulsive journaler. My friends call and ask the name of the wine we loved on a trip or the hotel we stayed at and I have it down, usually with the names of people associated with it and my impressions. Comes in handy when I’m writing a scene where the information makes it all feel real!
    reneejohnsonwrites recently posted…Is There a Gender Bias Among Authors of Genre Novels?My Profile

    • Irene says:

      Hi Renee,
      Thanks for your comment. Keeping a detailed journal would be very useful for many kinds of writing. As I mentioned, part of my reason for going to Scotland in September 2012 was to visit some of the places connected with the history books I write about the Canadian fur trade. For instance, I have included pictures and a description of the birth place of the fur trader William McGillivray in my biography of him — which will be published in fall 2013.

  18. James says:

    I like your point with regards on your post, It seems to be interesting and great to hang out with friends.

  19. Irene says:

    Hi James,
    Thanks for reading my blog. A personal travel guide, converted into a souvenir guide, is a good way to share with friends once you have returned from your trip.

  20. Just stopping in to let you know that I enjoyed your post. I did something similar prior to coming to Florida to spend the winter, but I saved information that I found online in a binder software program.

  21. Johndevid531 says:

    Great posting. To determine the Value of home these tips are really tremendous. I think this tips would be helpful for all. Thank you for sharing with us. keep it up.

  22. whenever i planning to visit any new place atleast i search some prior details/routes on internet or on that country’s map book. Thanks for sharing this wonderful article. because of work i am too busy from last 1 year not visited any place. Its mind refreshing blog and now i am also planning to visit somewhere….

  23. i’d love to see that guide.
    Christopher James recently posted…Tao of BadassMy Profile

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