How to smash the Edinburgh Fringe on your own – Insider tips from a local

It’s the largest arts festival in the world. There are 50,000 performances of well over 3,000 shows across a whole month. Squillions of people visit Edinburgh every August for the Edinburgh Festival, Fringe Festival, Military Tattoo, Book Festival and all the other events.

Learn how you can skillfully navigate this mayhem like a local.

Where is the festival?

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Fringe venues

Every accommodation description will tell you its ‘near the festival’ but what does that mean?

Most events are in the town centre but they’re pretty spread out. With over 500 venues ranging from theatre halls to public bathrooms there’s no one central place. It’s more a series of smaller hubs and individual locations.

Insider tip:

Make sure you know exactly which venue you’re going to. The names can be very similar and the locations not quite where you’d expect.

Assembly Mound is not at Assembly Halls. Pleasance Dome is not on the Pleasance!

Where to stay


Staying in the Old Town is best for the Fringe Festival as it’s near a large proportion of venues. The Grassmarket, Royal Mile and Cowgate are lively areas for bars, restaurants and a good concentration of the Festival venues.

New Town is more upmarket and will be a little quieter but still walking distance as long as you don’t mind a bit of a hill to get into the town centre.

Further afield we have places like Marchmont, Tollcross and Gorgie/Dalry to the south. These are all around 20-30 minutes bus ride from the centre.

Or to the north there’s the famous Leith. Some areas of Leith have a bit of a reputation but the main road into town, Leith Walk, is full of independent shops, multi cultural restaurants, and there’s a lively artistic community.

Graduation unversity students
They’re not using it. Stay in university halls of residence

University halls of residence are hired out over the summer and can be much cheaper than big hotels. They’re clean but basic. Use the University Rooms website to search for a room. Just check the location on the map before booking.

There are camping and caravan sites around the edge of the city too which are cheaper but not as handy.

Use Google Maps to see how far your prospective accommodation is from St Giles Cathedral. That’s on the Royal Mile so a good proxy for the ‘centre’ of the Festival.

Insider tip:

There are no e-tickets, you need to collect your physical tickets instead. The Royal Mile ticket office has reeaally long queues but there are loads of other collection locations.

Since you’ve got the map open check out where the other collection points are.

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Getting around Edinburgh

Walking is easiest but it can get confusing as Edinburgh’s Old Town has roads that run underneath other roads and little wynds that cut between streets. Prepare for some steep hills and steps too.

The two main taxi companies are Edinburgh City Cabs who have a handy app which uses your location if you’re not sure where you are; and Capital Cars which can be cheaper than metered fares.

The bus system is focused on going into and out from the centre of town along main arteries rather than round the houses (which can have its own drawbacks). Go to the Lothian Bus website for maps and timetables.

Single fares are £1.60 no matter how far you go. There are no transfers, you have to pay again if you swap busses. The bus driver doesn’t have change so have the exact change ready.

To make things easier you can get bus tickets on your phone. If you don’t want to use a lot of mobile data, or you’re staying a little longer you can get a prepaid citysmart card from one of the Lothian Bus Travel Shops.

Insider tip:

Download the My Bus Edinburgh app before you go. You can see all the bus routes and stops, set your favourite stops, and it tells you how long there is to wait for any bus at any stop. Lothian Bus also have their own app but I find My Bus is better.

You can always ask the drivers for help… but if you’re the third person in a row to do that the locals will start tutting and rolling their eyes at you.

Where to eat


There are hundreds of superb restaurants in the city to suit any budget and taste. But eating out is a bit different when you’re on your own. If you don’t want a table service dinner or are pressed for time there are still lots of options.

  • Mosque Kitchen: 31-33 Nicholson Square
    The Mosque Kitchen offers cheap, hearty, delicious Indian food in the Old Town. It’s between The Pleasance and University areas which are both major hubs for shows.
    It’s cafeteria style service so go up to the counter and pick up your food then just find an empty seat. It’s much easier for a solo traveller because everyone just slots in where there’s a free seat.
    Note that it closes for a short time on Friday lunchtime for prayers.
  • Waverley Mall: 3 Waverley Bridge
    If it’s raining and you’re near Princes Street pop in to Waverley Mall. It’s right off the station too so very handy for transport. Plus you can do some shopping while you’re there.
    The food court has a range of meals from sushi to pizza, fast food or baked potatoes. It’s open seating so it’s very easy to find a space for one.
  • Marks and Spencer: 54 Princes Street
    It doesn’t look like it but there’s actually an M&S supermarket underneath their Princes Street shop. They have packaged sandwiches and lunch items as well as ingredients for doing your own cooking.
  • Food stalls: Everywhere
    A lot of the Festival venue hubs have food and drink stalls. So George Square, The Pleasance Courtyard, the Udderbelly will all have burgers, noodles, crepes, that kind of quick fix.
    Queues aren’t normally too long either.

Is it safe?

Edinburgh is a pretty safe city and there’s a bigger police presence during the festival to keep things in line.

The biggest issue will be the crowds. Especially around the Royal Mile or the festival hubs where there could be thousands of people at any one time. It’s an inviting place for pick pockets and opportunists.

Keep your belongings secure. Keep your bag close to your body and properly zipped up.

The street performers can be amazing but don’t get so absorbed that you don’t notice someone dipping into your bag.

If you’ll be out late remember some venues don’t normally have so much footfall and the area might be dead at night. Plan your onward travel in advance and take taxi phone numbers with you.

What shows should you see

With so many shows to choose from use the website rather than scouring the 450 page printed brochure to find something to see. You can specify timeslots, locations, genre and key word to drill down into something you’d like.

Reviews are helpful but the official fringe website only allows the person who booked the ticket to review the show online, and some performers don’t allow reviews on there.

Look in the free specially published guides and in newspapers for recommendations, or ask the people you meet while you’re there.

Insider tip:

Lots of places use a chalk board to write up the names of that day’s sold out shows. They’ll show you what’s popular so you can get a ticket for another day.

Scheduling – not just for organisation lovers


You’ll need to be organised if you want to pack in a number of shows in one day. Most are 1 hour long but they could be longer or shorter. They don’t have nice organised half-hourly start times, it’s every 5 minutes.

  1. Start by making a short list of shows you like
  2. Transfer the key information to a spreadsheet or time planner app.
    (I’m old school and do this by hand, writing times down the side of a grid and each show in a different column along the top. Then I shade in the timeslots so I can see the overlaps at a glance)
  3. Pick out which shows would fit together into one day. Leave at least 1 hour between one show finishing and the next one starting.
  4. Transfer your finished schedule to your planner!

Insider tip:

Get the EdFringe app to see what’s on near your current location, what’s at the half price hut, your calendar and maps. It’s really handy if you’re rushing from one place to another and you want to check the map for the exact place.

Top Tips


What’s that? You want some more advice?

  1. Queue up early
    Give it half an hour if you can. It takes some logistics to get everyone into and out of the rooms. Plus seating is not assigned so if you want a good seat you need to get there early.
  2. Keep cool
    Edinburgh isn’t known for its heat but most venues don’t have air conditioning, windows and other such luxuries. Add 50 people and some bright lights into that room and it can get very stuffy.
    Take water and a paper fan with you. Flyers make a good fan, there’s no shortage of those!
  3. Take snacks
    Save money by bringing a packed lunch, or just have a snack bar in your pocket for emergencies. If you’re in a long queue you won’t want to lose your place to hunt for food
  4. Half price hut
    The hut is by the galleries at Princes Street. They sell half price tickets for shows later that day.
  5. Free tickets
    If you’re willing to take a gamble you can sometimes get free tickets from promoters on the street. (I once saw an utterly terrible show set in the inside of Celine Dion’s mind that way.)
    Or if you’d rather choose for yourself there’s hundreds of free shows in the listings. Just be prepared to give a donation at the end. Be a good person.
  6. Prepare for all weather
    Bring a light rain coat instead of an umbrella. Unless you want it to join the umbrella graveyards that build up around every bin on a windy day. Edinburgh can get VERY windy.
    Layer up your clothes so you can adjust as the weather changes every ten minutes.
  7. Escape the crowds and explore
    It’s not all about the shows. Go and see the castle and galleries. Take a walk up Arthur’s Seat or Calton Hill. The Royal Botanic Gardens is a beautiful escape from the noise and crowds.
  8. Forgive the locals
    For a few years I had to walk along the Royal Mile to get to and from work every day. After 9 hours in the office, an IT failure and a 3-hour meeting I’m not going to be in the mood to wait for tourists to take pictures.
    Locals have busy lives to lead as well as the festival to contend with. Please forgive us if we’re not as welcoming as we could be sometimes. We’re sorry!



Do you have any other gems to share? Pop them in the comments below…

12 pros (and cons) of travelling alone while female

Travelling alone is immensely liberating. Nobody to compromise with or have to accommodate.

Understandably some are nervous about the prospect and have many different concerns. Women in particular face many different obstacles when travelling alone. But we can also reap benefits that men, or people travelling together, can’t get.

First the pros

Pro 1 – You can do what you want

Do what you want do it my way independence

This is a bit of a no-brainer.

You can spend hours photographing every stall in the market without someone tapping their foot waiting for you.

You can eat what you want when you want without having to wait for the other person to become hungry.

You can make up your mind on the spot as to what you want to do. You don’t have to consult anyone or make compromises.

It’s really all time just for YOU so make the most of it!


Pro 2 – People warm to women more easily

Women talking chatting

I’ve often struck up conversations with strangers in restaurants, on trains, in shops, even just walking down the street. I’ve always been met with a smile and a warm response. There’s something safe about speaking with a woman which means people will often be open with you, particularly other women.

People are more willing to help you out when you tell them you’re travelling on your own. I’ve been offered so much advice and support from strangers when they realise there’s nobody to support me.

Perhaps there is some benevolent sexism involved but I’ve always felt people just want to be kind, not that they think I need special help.

I’ve heard many stories about women travellers striking up friendships with local women, being invited into their homes and being shown a side of the culture you just can’t get anywhere else.

It’s a shame that a man in a similar situation is viewed with that bit more suspicion. And a couple is a self contained unit that people don’t want to get in the middle of.

But the benefit for women is that when we travel we’re met with a little more warmth and friendliness.


Pro 3 – Boost your confidence

Confidence woman fighter

  • Are you in a rut and need a break from your routine?
  • Are you looking for ways to become more confident and learn some life skills?
  • Have you been in a dominating relationship and want to find your own feet?

Solo travel is a fantastic way to build yourself up. Remember it’s not the distance that counts, it’s the experience. You don’t need to spend a month backpacking around India, you could spend one night in a neighbouring city.

Boost your self esteem. Prove to yourself that you are capable. Prove to others that you’re capable, if that’s what you need to do.

When you’re in a new place on your own you’re reliant on yourself and only yourself. You’ll have to get yourself out of any jams. You have to make ALL the decisions.

For some people this is terrifying but all the more reason to go for it!

If it’s a brave step for you then take it. You’ll be a renewed person because of it.

Pro 4 – Push your boundaries

Push your boundaries rop bridge adventure

Travelling alone is a brilliant way to be your true self. All expectations are removed. You’re not your job, your relationship status or your motherhood situation. You can find out who you are when all these labels are removed.

Women in particular face lower expectations and have fewer opportunities to push themselves due to financial and home life obligations.

Even a small trip by yourself can push these boundaries and help you explore different skills and qualities you didn’t know you had.

If you’re introverted you can push yourself to speak to strangers and make decisions. If you’re extroverted you can push yourself to spend time quietly by yourself.

Whatever your personal boundaries, travel is a great way to explore and conquer them. Doing something brand new will open your eyes and heart in a way nothing else can.

Pro 5 – You’re more engaged with what’s going on around you

Fruit market

With nobody by your side chatting about their work woes or the house renovations you’re free to really soak in what’s going on around you. You’re more in tune with the sights, sounds and smells without the distraction of someone else’s chatter.

It’s easier to get involved in the culture when there isn’t someone by your side anchoring you to your home life and topics of conversation.

Here’s an example from my own travels…

I was once in France by myself and wanted to try out my language skills. So I summoned some bravery and asked;

“C’est combien?”

“Deux euro cinqante” she replied

It took me a moment to figure out what number she’d just said. (I never said I was good at French!) But when I got it she was so pleased for me! She handed over the juice with a massive grin and we shared the joy of my small success.

That beautiful moment wouldn’t have been as sweet with someone providing a safety barrier for me. I was fully immersed in the effort and celebration of the short exchange.

Pro 6 – Room for a little one?

Only single seats available

There’s often room enough for one person where a couple would struggle. It can be hard to find two seats together but there’s normally one odd seat available. When you’re travelling solo you can squeeze in wherever there’s space and people are more willing to accommodate just one.

  • One remaining single seat in the front row
  • The small table in the corner of a packed restaurant
  • Space for just one more on the bus

Now the cons – and how to conquer them

Con 1 – You’re move vulnerable

Bag snatcher thief steal

Women are often put off travelling alone because they’re more vulnerable. Don’t let fear put you off doing something amazing. Women are, unfortunately, more of a target in general but there are steps you can take to look after yourself, you’re NOT powerless.

It can be disconcerting to be somewhere you don’t know, or you don’t speak the language. So plan ahead and be prepared.

  • Research safety tips for the particular area you’re going to
  • Look at what cultural norms you’ll encounter, any areas that are less safe, what the local taxi number is
  • Make sensible decisions
  • Take some language lessons or even self defence classes
  • Wear a fake wedding ring and carry a dummy wallet

There’s so much safety advice out there I can’t list it all. Just don’t let your worries stop you when you can be prepared for most situations.

I will add that it’s a good idea to keep in touch with people back home more frequently than you feel you need to. You know you’re fine and enjoying a walk in the park. But your loved ones don’t know that and are probably anxious for you. Take a moment to put their minds at ease and you’ll give yourself peace of mind that someone at least knows where you are.

Con 2 – You might get bored or lonely

Lonely teddy

I admit when I’m travelling I do miss conversation.

You might be alone but you don’t need to be lonely, there are fascinating people all around. Strike up a conversation with another person on their own. Talk to the person next to you on the tour bus and find out what they’ve enjoyed on their trip. You just need to take the first step.

If you’re staying in a hostel there’s normally a common area you can make friends, organised pub craws or walking tours. If you’re couch surfing or at an Airbnb you can get to know the host.

Hotels are a bit harder but definitely not impossible.

Besides, being bored can be good for you. It forces you to think creatively and find new things to do. You’ll see more of your destination if you go on an extra walk than if you stayed in the hotel room chatting to your travel buddy.

With our busy lives it can feel very strange to be disconnected from our gadgets and TVs. So take the opportunity to get to know yourself and find some peace.

Con 3 – It’s selfish

Chess pawn king selfish


Ok maybe you have massive financial responsibilities and a family and a job and all these grown up things. All the more reason to invest in yourself and become a better person.

Taking a break from life and changing the scenery is good for your mental health. Looking after your own happiness is vitally important and if some people think that’s selfish then they don’t have your best interests at heart.

(Unless you’re literally bankrupting your abandoned family to fund your next adventure. That would be bad.)

It doesn’t need to be a long trip. And it doesn’t need to be expensive. Whatever suits your timeframe, budget and bravery level is just perfect.


Con 4 – You can’t share someone else’s passion

Leading by the hand

Other people can open your eyes to experiences you wouldn’t have chosen yourself. By sharing their passions you’ll get to try new things.

  • Fall in love with a new artist at the gallery you’d have walked straight past
  • Try different food you wouldn’t have chosen
  • Hear beautiful music at an outdoor concert you didn’t realise would be good

But you can still fill your adventures with new experiences. Ask the hotel staff for local gems or swap tips with fellow travellers.

Taking a tour is a great way to soak up some enthusiasm for local arts and culture that you’re not already aware of. You don’t need a travel companion to give you this boost.

If you remember to try new things on your trip you won’t miss out.


Con 5 – It costs more

Wallet money squeeze

That damn single supplement! It’s the thorn in the side of any solo traveller. You have to pay for the whole hotel bill when it would be half the cost with someone else.

There are low budget options like couch surfing, hostels or Airbnb. I personally prefer to save up and get my own hotel room because my shared accommodation years are behind me now.

But if you don’t mind a bunk bed check out hostels with good safety reviews. Or if a 2-star hotel would suit you fine just go lower budget.

The accommodation and taxis are the main things that will cost more because you’re not sharing. Everything else from flights to food is the same price so really it’s not THAT much more expensive to go on your own.

Con 6 – “Can you mind my stuff?”

Backpacks luggage baggage

The problem – You’re half way through dinner at a lovely restaurant on the promenade. You’ve got your rusksack by your feet, a jacket on the chair and half a pizza in front of you. Then nature calls.

Do you ask the next table to watch your stuff? Do you hold it in?

The solution – Never leave anything unattended. Even with people who look nice watching it for you. Just because someone looks nice doesn’t mean they haven’t noticed that expensive camera lens in your bag, or that drink beckoning to be spiked.

Just have a bit of forward planning with things like bathroom stops. You can keep your rucksack padlocked and hook the strap under the table leg to be a little more secure.

But the main thing is to travel as light as you can. It’s easier to carry, it’s less in the way, it’s less of a burden in general. As the old saying goes

“Take half what you think you’ll need and twice as much money”


I hope you’ve found some of this inspiring. You can share any other pros and cons I’ve missed in the comments below.

Never play the damsel in distress – for all women’s sake

Nobody likes the security lines at the airport. Patting your pockets to make sure you remembered to put everything in the tray. Did you put your lip balm in the plastic bag? Will they want your shoes?

When you’re in another country it’s even more nerve-wracking as the security staff yell instructions in another language.

I was in just this situation recently, coming home from a solo travel adventure. I heard a conversation between two girls behind me. Let’s call them Louise and Clara.

Louise “Did you put your perfume in the plastic bag?”

Clara “No I had too much make up in there. I’ve just left it out”

Louise “Just pretend you didn’t know”

Clara “If they catch me I’ll just cry and they’ll let me through. You can just get away with anything if you cry, they don’t know what to do”

This made me so angry.

Firstly, why are they above the rules when everyone else is doing their best to follow them. Trying to understand instructions in a foreign language.

Secondly, you’re doing all women massive damage. By turning on the tears and purposely playing a weak victim.

It’s hard enough getting people to take us seriously. We’re ignored in business meetings, we’re objectified and belittled constantly. We’re seen as weak, emotional and infantile. And when we complain about it we’re seen as whinging victims.

And these girls want to use that to their personal advantage.

Strong women don't play the victim

Women need to pull together. To exercise strength and dignity. Unless you’re in real actual danger turning on the waterworks is completely inexcusable.

Men already think women use tears to manipulate situations to their advantage. I’ve heard it said of many women around the office.


If you use the fact that you’re a woman to get out of doing something you are not just manipulating the people around you. You’re taking advantage of other women who are genuinely struggling. And you’re damaging yourself by being lazy and contriving.

Getting people to do something for you is not a privilege that comes with being female. Instead have some integrity. Suck it up and do things you don’t want to do sometimes.

So to Louise and Clara, and anyone tempted to play the victim – Stop crying wolf. Because when women really do need help we’re not getting it.




How ‘Valerian’ fails women in film

Contains spoilers. 

It’s rare that I leave a film heart-pumpingly angry. But Valerian: City of a Thousand Planets was infuriating.

I go to the cinema most weeks with a group of friends. We all have quite different tastes which can lead to some interesting chats afterwards.

Each week I keep an eye out for representation of women, whether the films pass the Bechdel test and what trailers are shown beforehand.

On the surface Valerian is about a man and a woman saving a space city from doom. The posters and interviews with director Luc Besson lure you in to thinking you’ll see positive depictions of strong women.

That’s true to an extent but it also does women a huge disservice.

Why is it so bad? I’ll summarise into 3 main points.

1. It’s a sausage fest

Sausage fest

The main character Laureline is ALMOST the only woman in the universe. Aside from one other female in the military whose job seems to be passing messages, all the government and military leaders are men.

  • The highest military leader and his henchmen are men
  • The second in command and his support are men
  • All soldiers are men
  • All general army staff and extras are men (save for the messenger)

You get the idea.

500+ years in the future and women have not progressed above the role of Sergeant and have zero authority.

What about the minor characters?

M-34_VDF-23798_rv2 med-res.JPG

The next closest thing to a meaningful female character is Bubble, a shape shifting stripper played by Rhianna. We’re introduced to Bubble via a pole dance involving a variety of sexy outfits like ‘French Maid’ and lots of gyrating.

Amongst other smaller characters we had

  • Male submarine driver hunting a male sea creature
  • Male doctors and scientists
  • Male tour guide
  • Male gluttonous aliens (Boulin Bathor) ruled by a male leader who is catered for by a male chef (there was one female, she mostly held up dresses while geurning)
  • Male pearl alien leader
  • Three male oracle aliens, the Doghan-Deguis*
  • Male tourist exasperated at his wife’s shopping (Ooh! A woman with a couple of lines!)

*  My friend “John” insisted that the Doghan-Deguis could have been any gender or none.
But the director went to the lengths of demarking other aliens as clearly feminine if they were female and didn’t do so with these.
hey have low voices, flat chests and no clothes while all other female aliens had (some) clothes, softer features, higher voices and other traditional gender markers.

Valerian Doghan-Daguis
Doghan-Deguis – Male or female?

Interesting that John didn’t notice the lack of women in this film until it was pointed out. Could that be because it also contained aliens, making it look diverse? Are we trained to expect fewer women in sci-fi and fantasy?

Laureline’s name was even removed from the title of the original graphic novels the film was based on.

Ok the source material is from the 1950s but it’s an adaptation. It’s well within Luc Besson’s powers to ADAPT a few of the characters into clothed women.

2. Laureline gets overly sexual costumes

For the first 45 minutes Laureline wears a bikini with a sheer wispy top over it. The camera lingers on her body as she stretches. She’s apparently dressed as a tourist but nobody else is wearing similar clothes.

She then gets to change into her military uniform… which involves a mini skirt.

Her ‘badass’ armour has massively oversized boobs built in, raising eyebrows and frustration from many.

Boob armour is a quick way of enhancing a woman’s breasts while pretending like she’s doing something active and practical.

“What are you complaining about, she’s in armour and she has boobs so she needs boob armour” moan men who don’t know how breasts work.

Boob armour is impractical, always massively oversized and only serves to sexualise. A sports bra and a flatter shape would be much more practical and pain-free. But then what would the people gaze at.

Her final outfit is a pretty lacey dress with various parts cut out. Thankfully she finds a jacket to cover it up in the last 30 minutes of the film. But not before being a sexy potential meal for the Boulin Bathor glutton alien leader to simultaneously lust and salivate over.

3. Valerian is a sex pest

The message here is “No doesn’t mean no. She wants you to persist”.

Valerian kiss
Valerian et Laureline, 2013

As a Major Valerian is Laureline’s superior. He constantly tries to kiss her, professes his love for her and asks her to marry him. He has a string of ex lovers in a ‘playbook’, including photos, which apparently anyone can view.

Humiliate much?

Laureline’s rejection is clear and strong. Strong enough for me to think ‘wow she really can’t get any clearer, he is just sexually harassing her now’. But he doesn’t take no for an answer and persists.


In the end she relents and admits her love for him. To the inner scream of the women in the audience.

In too many film and TV shows women are pushed by men, even to the point of rape, until they relent and ‘enjoy’ it. See the Poldark rape scene as a prime example.

The message here is “No doesn’t mean no. She wants you to persist”. This narrative contributes to rape culture and men’s sense of entitlement to women’s bodies.

John and I didn’t see eye to eye on this either. He thought Laureline was just as equal in the budding relationship as Valerian. But Valerian was always the one to raise the issue and Laureline was constantly shutting him down.

We hear you sis


Summary: I actively disliked almost every minute
Bechdel test:
I was looking out for this and it may have technically scraped through (if you think ‘thank you’ in alien speak that had to be translated by a man counts). But I don’t class this as ‘conversation’ and am going to say it didn’t pass.
Entirely unscientific women’s representation score: 3/10
Group’s average score: 3.5/10

Make a better travel journal than you could buy

I’m new to bullet journaling but totally love it. So when I was planning my latest trip I wanted to take a dedicated travel notebook with me.

I also wanted to actively journal each day. I don’t normally journal but wanted to try to record more than a photograph can. What did I think of the food – what was it actually like going on the boat ride I have a nice picture of.

As well as just remembering what you did, journalling is said to be a great way to consider what you’re doing more intimately. By really thinking about every aspect of your trip you experience it more deeply.

So I browsed the shops for a specialist travel journal. I wanted something I could keep my pre-trip research in, notes on opening times, train schedules and important information I might need to hand. It needed to be;

  • Lightweight
  • Enough pages for me to journal every day
  • Pre-printed pages for different kinds of information

I ended up choosing this small hardback notebook from Paperchase.

It’s small enough to fit in my bag without being a burden, it had sections to write down various pieces of information as well as blank pages for journalling. Plus I just liked the cover.

I’d have been better buying a blank notebook


At first I liked all the different pre-printed sections and layouts. But most will remain blank. You might think ‘so what it’s a blank page’. But to me, and anyone who loves stationery, it’s a blot in my perfect book.

  • Vaccinations – I didn’t need any
  • Packing list – I keep a personalised packing spreadsheet. I’d never just write a list from scratch
  • Itinerary – This was pages and pages long. I only had two flights 
  • Contact details for new friends – Who is meeting 30 new people they like enough to want to keep in contact with?


What to consider when making your own travel notebook

Specialist notebooks look lovely but I recommend all stationery-loving travel geeks make their own journal for travelling. I’ll certainly do that myself on my next adventure.

Start with the notebook itself

  • One big one you take on every trip, or one small one for each trip? 
    • Do you want to note down all your adventures in one place?
    • Or take a new, more portable, one each time
    • The benefit of getting a new one each time is you get to shop for new notebooks!
    • Plus you won’t have to deal with all your research on Russia when planning your trip to Japan.
  • Size and weight 
    • It will need to be portable if you’re going to carry it around with you the whole time
    • Or do you plan on buying a big beautiful beast and leaving it at your accommodation
  • Dotted, lined, blank or squares
    • If you’re already a bullet journaller you’ll have strong opinions on this
    • If not just consider what kind of things you’ll be writing down. Will you be sketching in it too or just writing in straight lines? Grids or dots help you to draw neat lines and decorations around things
  • Storage
    • It’s really useful to have a pen loop, and a pocket for keeping tickets, receipts and even decorations like stickers and stencils
  • Durability
    • If it’s going to be in your rucksack for a month trekking in Laos it’ll need to be robust



You can use some creative flair or keep it purely functional. Take inspiration from the other books available and just adapt it to your needs.

Some pages you could include

  1. About you – contact details, home address
  2. Emergency information – credit card phone numbers, medication, next of kin, insurance details
  3. Itinerary – flight numbers, check-in times
  4. Accommodation information – Phone number, full address (you can show this to taxi drivers if there’s a language barrier)
  5. Useful information – Taxi numbers, key transit routes, exchange rates
  6. Packing list – One for the whole trip, one for your flight’s hand luggage
  7. Research – What do you want to see? What good restaurants are near the hotel? What time does the museum close?
  8. New friends contact details – If you’re very sociable leave lots of space. If, like me, the possibility of making 30 lifelong friends in a week is slim just leave one page
  9. Journalling –  Most importantly have plenty of pages for writing about what you’re doing, who you meet and what you see
  10. Plus anything else you want to create! A list of souvenirs to buy, addresses for your postcards, local delicacies you want to try. You can make a page for anything you want

Deorated travel journal by Elizabeth M
San Francisco by Elizabth M


You can be as artistic as your abilities allow. Pre-printed books look lovely on the inside but you can replicate the look with washi tape, stencils or your own artistic flair.

This is the part that really makes it visually appealing. Unless you prefer the utilitarian look. The joy of this project is it’s totally yours to do what you want with.


I’d love to know if you do this yourself and how you get on.

Don’t assume I’ll cover while you take care of your kids

It’s hard enough making sure you’re doing your best at work. Let alone keeping half an eye on the people around you to make sure you’re not pulling their weight too.

So I always shudder when I hear the phrase;

“Can you finish this up? I have to pick up the kids.”

Angry woman steam ears

Look, I have absolutely nothing against people having family commitments. It’s very difficult to juggle caring responsibilities with a working day.

What I do object to is the assumption that I can pick up the slack. Because my life is less important.

Have you been in this situation?

You owe it to yourself to take care of your physical and mental wellbeing in your own time. This might mean

  • Going to the gym
  • Seeing friends
  • Taking the time to cook a healthy dinner
  • Going on a date
  • … or any number of things that aren’t work

In fact it’s incredibly important for people without families to nurture caring and supportive relationships with their friends. We all need a supportive community and friendships are a vital part of that.

Of course, cover for others when they really need help. You’re not a total Scrooge. Just remember your personal time is precious whether or not you have children, or what age they are. Your life has its own worth regardless of someone else’s situation.

Just because there are no small children at home doesn’t mean you should consistently work longer hours or pick up someone else’s tasks.

Never assume someone else’s home life is less important than yours.

Working mums in particular hear a lot about the need to be strict with their work time. But don’t make that at the expense of someone else because their situation is different.

Try giving your colleagues some slack too. Letting them leave a little early for something they’ll enjoy will go a long way when you need to leave early to pick up a sick child.

Let’s create an environment of mutual respect for each others’ lives. No matter what shape they take.
UPDATE: How timely! The BBC just published an article on exactly this. How To Say No At Work When You Don’t Have Kids