Even a few minutes of research into the best journals and notebooks will yield a recommendation for the Traveler’s Notebook. The universal love of this notebook system makes it clear that this is one of the most unique stationery products sold today as well as being one of the one’s people are simply obsessed with.
So, what’s the deal with the Traveler’s Notebook?
Traveler’s Notebook Background
The Traveler’s Notebook is made by the Traveler’s Company. This company is based in the Nakameguro section of Tokyo, Japan but the notebooks are sold all over the place, from an official company store at the Narita Airport (also in Tokyo) to paper stores all over the world. The notebooks and accessories are also sold many places online, including Amazon, and nearly ever premium stationery retailer.
The notebook might seem like something that has been made for dozens of years — a wonderful throwback to the pre-computer era — but that’s not the case. The standard Traveler’s notebook has been sold since 2006 and the smaller passport size first went on sale in 2010. The company that makes the Traveler’s notebook was original called Midori, but the name was changed to the “Traveler’s Company” in 2015.
The parent company of the Traveler’s Company as well as Midori Paper is Designphil Inc., which has been in existence since 1950 when it was formed under the name Midori Shokai Co., Ltd.
While officially known as the “Traveler’s Notebook” most people refer to the notebook as the “Travelers notebook,” dropping the possessive which seems unnecessary and counter-intuitive.
Traveler’s Notebook Basics
The Traveler’s Notebook is a notebook system, which is to say that there is no canonical “Traveler’s Notebook” but rather endless variations on the company’s notebook system. The basic components are a leather cover, notebook inserts, and then a range of accessories that include rubber bands, pockets, stickers and so forth.
The notebooks are prized for their ability to be refilled, their excellent accessories, and their ability to be incredibly customized so no two Traveler’s notebooks are alike.
Traveler’s Notebook Inserts
Each notebook is composed of a leather cover and then inserts. These insert components include:
We’ll dig into each type in a bit.
Traveler’s Notebook Sizes
The notebooks are sold in two sizes: Regular and Passport. It’s critical to know what cover you have so that you buy the right inserts to fit it. The two sizes are different and are not cross compatible.
The only real difference between the two sizes are their dimensions. They are as follows:
- Regular: 12.0 x 22.0 x 1.0 cm (W x H x D)
- Passport: 9.8 x 13.4 x 1.0 cm (W x H x D)
The paper that each notebook uses is different as well. Traveler’s notebook paper has the following dimensions:
- Regular: 11.0 x 21.0 x 0.4 cm (W x H x D) and 64 pages
- Passport: 8.9 x 12.4 x 0.4 cm (W x H x D) and 64 pages
The notebooks do not adhere to standard paper sizes. The closest standard sizes would be B6 for the Regular and B7 for Passport.
Traveler’s Notebook Covers
The outside of a Traveler’s notebook is a single layer leather cover that is smooth on the outside and suede on the inside. It’s sold in black, brown, dark blue, and a reddish brown, known as “Camel.” The covers are made of a fine leather and they age wonderful, even if you are not particularly careful with them.
The covers lie nearly flat when open and have no branding on them. The main features on the cover are an elastic band that hold it shut and one that holds the inserts in place.
Each leather cover ships in a linen bag that protects it when en route to its own. The cover is prized by buyers but doesn’t have a purpose outside of presentation.
The leather covers are made in Thailand while all the paper is made in Japan.
Traveler’s Notebook Refills
The refills are the beating heart of the notebook — they are the paper that goes inside. The refills come in Regular and Passport size, just like the covers and use excellent quality Midori paper, which is a major selling point, especially for fountain pen users. The paper does come in a number of varieties.
For the Regular size notebooks these include:
- Regular Paper, White: Blank, Lined, Dot Grid
- Regular Paper, Cream: Blank
- Special Paper: Lightweight (Tomoe River), Sketch, Craft, Watercolor
- Planners: Daily, Weekly, Weekly Vertical, Monthly
For Passport the selection is a bit more limited:
- Regular Paper, White: Blank, Lined, Dot Grid
- Regular Paper, Cream: Blank
- Special Paper: Watercolor
- Planners: Weekly, Weekly Mid-Year Start, Monthly
While the notebooks are not a standard size, competing companies do make compatible notebooks. Some of the top options for these non-Traveler’s refills are Yamamoto with their Ro-Biki refills and Raymay’a A5 Slim refills.
Traveler’s Notebook Storage Options
Traveler’s notebooks are small but mighty, partly because they have options for holding more than just your ideas.
The Card File is a bit outdated in the era of the iPhone, but it’s use for storing business cards. There is also a Craft Paper Card File that will store more cards than the standard model, or can be used for assorted scraps of paper, stickers, and so forth.
Double-sided stickers are sold to insert photographs, cut out articles, and other mementos. The Film Pocket Sticker is quite similar, but it’s actually a light plastic sticker that adheres to your notebook or inside a refill and then you can place a photo or piece of paper inside without damaging it. Traveler’s Pocket Stickers are similar but are angled at the top and fully open, so they can used for storing taller items. The Large Pocket Sticker can hole a full photograph or index card on its side.
The most robust storage options are the Zipper Case and Three-fold File, which can handle larger items and much more of then. The Three-fold File for the standard notebook can even hold a full-sized piece of A4 paper that has been triple-folded (like a you would do to a letter). The Zipper Case can hold ink cartridges, a small pencil sharpener, paper clips, refills or other similar items that won’t fit in a pocket.
Traveler’s Notebook Accessories
Traveler’s Company loves their accessories… and so do Traveler’s notebook enthusiasts. Some of the accessories include:
- Pen holder
- Additional elastic bands (known as Connecting Bands)
- Plastic Sheet Underlay
- Repair Kit (replacement elastic bands)
- Refill Binder (for storing refills that are full and no longer needed in your notebook)
- Brass charm (for accessorizing the notebook)
- Traveler’s Company stickers
Traveler’s Notebook Alternatives
The Traveler’s notebook might be a distinct thing made by a specific brand, but many other brands have recognized its success and sell similar products. After all, it’s not like the Traveler’s Company was the first to invent a leather notebook cover or to put excellent paper and handy pockets inside of a notebook, journal, folder, or folio!
The main choice with an alternative will be if you want a leather-covered notebook or just a customizable notebook system. Both of these are reasonable ways to define the Traveler’s system, so shop according to your desires for a leather cover, a modular notebook system, or both.
Some of our favorite options for alternatives are:
- Kokuyo Jibun Techo 2020 3 in 1 Set
- Kokuyo Systemic cover and notebooks
- Chic Sparrow Notebook system
- Field Notes Everyday Inspiration Leather Cover and memo pads
- Bellroy leather notebook cover and notebook inserts
Is there an A5 sized Traveler’s Notebook?
No, an official Traveler’s notebook in A5 does not exist. Chic Sparrow does sell a similar refillable, leather-covered notebook in A5 as do other, lesser known brands, but Traveler’s does not.
How do I care for a Traveler’s Notebook leather cover?
The leather cover on a Traveler’s notebook is made to wear in and weather over time. It uses a natural dye that is beautiful but not as tough as some other leather products. The leather should never be washed or cleaned except in the case of a spill where it can be blotted with a damp cloth.
What do I do if the Traveler’s notebook cover gets wet?
If the leather cover gets wet, you should pat it dry, not rub it, so as to not pull out any of the natural dye. Unnecessary rubbing or friction can pull dye from the leather when it’s wet, so this should be minimized. When as much of the moisture is removed as possible the notebook should be emptied and left to dry in the shade, not out in the sun.
What to do if notebook’s cover has a stain or blemish?
The Traveler’s notebook’s cover was lightly treated exactly so that the cover could wear in. Try to ignore the blemish and continue to use the notebook. Over time it will wear and developer a patina and personality and the blemish will be unnoticeable (or at least well hidden). Unsightly stains and oil spots can be treated carefully with any leather cleaner or leather care cream, though try a small patch first to make sure the natural dye is not affected.