This article discusses several note-taking apps for travel writers, travel journalists, and travel bloggers not interested in taking notes by hand in a journal. It explains how you can leverage note-taking apps like Evernote, iOS Notes, OneNote, and Joplin when traveling.
The methods below will help you take better notes, capture more raw data, and write more efficiently. And, at the very end of the article, you will learn a note-taking secret that will boost your travel writing productivity.
There are too many note-taking apps on the market to write about in this short article, but most offer the same basic functionality. So, while this article focuses on Evernote, iOS Notes, OneNote, and Joplin, whichever note-taking app you choose will work.
Evernote is a great note-taking application available on iOS and Android platforms. It is an excellent tool for travel writers, travel journalists, and travel bloggers as it enables you to type notes and embed images, audio notes, videos, and hand-drawn sketches within the note itself. It also automatically geo-tags your notes where you create them with accurate location pinning.
Evernote has a free plan, which limits the amount of data you upload each month and the size of each note (currently at 60 MB / 25 MB, respectively). While the basic account should be sufficient for many people starting out, use our affiliate link to sign up and you’ll get a free month of service if and when you’re ready to go Premium.
Best of all, your notes can get stored on Evernote’s servers and sync with the desktop version of Evernote. Check out our guide on using Evernote.
iPhones come with a powerful note-taking app pre-installed called iOS Notes. While it looks fairly basic, it has much of the same functionality as Evernote. You can type notes, embed photographs, sync your notes with the Notes app on your MacBook, and backup your notes to iCloud. While you can embed audio and location information within a note, it takes an extra step to do so.
While the functionality is somewhat limited compared to note-taking apps like Evernote, the fact that it is free is very appealing especially for travel writers, travel journalists, and travel bloggers who are starting out. Its cloud-syncing storage limit depends on your iCloud account, but every iPhone user has a free 5 GB of cloud storage that is shared by everything you store on iCloud like your resource-hungry photos. Currently, $1 a month gets you 50 GB of iCloud storage.
Check out our guide on using iOS Notes.
For those who prefer the Microsoft ecosystem, the OneNote app is a great alternative on both iOS and Android platforms. With the exception of note tagging and automatic geotagging new notes, OneNote operates much like Evernote. Users can create notebooks and color-coded, tab-like sections within them.
OneNote is free to use, but it has a 5 GB OneDrive storage limit. Upgrading is appealing—a $7 per month upgrade increases storage limits to a massive 1 TB and includes Microsoft Office software like Word, which is a great offer for writers.
The Joplin note-taking app isn’t as well-known as the other apps on this list, but it is a stripped-down and open-source alternative with a lot of potential.
Being an open-source app, the interface feels a bit unfinished when compared to the other apps in this article.
While it geotags the notes you create and allows you to take a photo within the app, it doesn’t have advanced features like taking voice memos or finger sketches from within the app.
But it allows you to customize your backups using your own Dropbox, OneDrive, or WebDAV account and syncs to the desktop version. And it supports E2EE encryption, keeping your data secure.
Note-taking apps comparison
|Typed notes||Typed notes||Typed notes||Typed notes|
|Native image embedding||Native image embedding||Native image embedding||Native image embedding|
|Native audio embedding||No native audio embedding||Native audio embedding||No native audio embedding|
|Native video embedding||Native video embedding||Native video embedding||No native video embedding|
|Native location pinning (based on note creation)||No native location pinning (work-around available)||No native location pinning (work-around available)||Native location pinning (based on note creation)|
|Native hand-drawn sketches||Native hand-drawn sketches||Native hand-drawn sketches||Native hand-drawn sketches|
|Desktop sync||Desktop sync||Desktop sync||Desktop sync|
|Cloud backups||Cloud backups||Cloud backups||Cloud backups (using your own service like OneNote, WebDAV, or Dropbox)|
|Free (60 MB monthly upload limit, 25 MB max note size) / Premium (10 GB / 200 MB limits, currently $8 a month)||Free (5 GB iCloud storage limit) / Premium (iCloud upgrade 50 GB, currently $1 a month)||Free (5 GB OneDrive storage limit) / Premium (OneDrive upgrade, currently $7 a month with 1 TB storage and access to Office apps like Word, Powerpoint, and Excel)||Free (Storage limits dependent upon cloud storage service)|
Workarounds for location information and audio embedding
For these apps, there are work-arounds to include location information in notes. It takes an extra step, but it can be helpful.
To include location information in a note, simply open your map, drop a pin, and share the pin/location to your note-taking app. You should be able to specify which note or notebook you want to share the information with.
Another way to record location information is to take a photo using your stock camera app and share the photo to your note-taking app, specifying which note you want to embed the image into. If you have the feature enabled, your stock camera app will record the GPS location of the photo. However, a photo may not have location data it is taken using the note-taking app interface.
If you’re using an iOS Notes and you want to append an audio clip to a note using the Voice Memo app, simply create your voice memo and share it to a note.
If you’re using an iPhone, you can create a powerful shortcut using the Shortcut app to automatically append data like the date, the time, location coordinates, map URL, location address, altitude, and weather to a note of your choice. With the press of a widget, this information gets pasted onto a note. Send us an email if you want to know how to set this up.
How to organize your notes
The ways in which you can organize your notes depend upon which app you’re using. For instance, Evernote has specific tagging features that iOS Notes lacks.
And it also depends on the nature of your trip and organizational preferences. A multi-city trip might have different organizational needs when compared to a single-city or a multi-country trip.
At the end of the day, organizing your digital notes will depend on you, your trip, and your own preferences. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Consider creating a folder/notebook for each trip. For example China 2021 or Beijing Autumn 2021.
- Consider keeping a note for each city, day, location, or highlight of a trip. For example Beijing Day 1, Beijing Day 2, The Forbidden City, Conversation with Yao Ming, etc.
- If you’re on a specific assignment, consider creating one note on the project you’re working on. For example Beijing’s Underground Music Scene.
- Use Evernote’s powerful tagging feature instead of or in addition to using notebooks.
Note-taking productivity secret
An idea came to me suddenly when I was out on a morning walk. I needed to write it down, but it was a chilly morning and the cold air made my thumbs unresponsive. So I tried out my phone’s built-in voice-to-text feature. By the time I walked through my front door, I was surprised to find that I dictated more than 2,000 words.
I became an advocate of dictation that day.
Every modern smartphone has built-in speech-to-text functionality. And they are all fairly accurate. To be sure, while the prose that speech-to-text produces is oftentimes sloppy, unpolished, and ranty, the amount of words you will have to work with while writing and editing is impressive.
Travel writers, travel journalists, and travel bloggers can dictate more words than they can type using their thumbs. It is simply more efficient. Plus, dictation helps capture the writer’s “voice” and keeps the tone of the writing casual and conversational.
You will need to learn and use the basic dictation commands like “period,” “comma,” “quote,” “end quote,” “new line,” “new paragraph,” and “question mark.” Using the commands while talking is awkward at first, but it becomes second nature in short order.
Give it a try.
Travel writers: which note-taking apps do you use? Let us know in the comments section below so we can consider adding it to this article.