The Crazy Suburban Mom: Comparing the Midori Traveler's Notebook to an A5 Filofax

Friday, September 21, 2012

Comparing the Midori Traveler's Notebook to an A5 Filofax

While an A5 Sized Filofax is the perfect size for me, I did explore other options before taking the leap to a planner that large, which admittedly can be a bit of a tome to carry around.  

I tried a personal size Filofax first and it's got much more schlepability.  

My  A5  Filofax binder clocks  in at about seven and a half inches wide and almost nine inches tall (the inserts are smaller) which puts them firmly on the other side of portable for a lot of people.   

Add in the heft  from stuffed to busting 30 mm rings and it can feel more  like a brick then a diary.  But for me it's the size that works.

I did try other planner options before taking the A5 plunge.  Filofax Personal Pages (3.75 inches across x 6.75  tall) kind of fence me in.  To accommodate their writing space I altered my handwriting and diary style but it never felt natural.  When the large Moleskine didn't turn out customizable enough I tried the Midori Traveler's Notebook from Japan. 

There are a lot of very positive things about the Traveler's Notebook and some negatives as well.   I found the writing space very comfortable and the paper is dreamy.   For someone who can't carry around an  A5 but finds the personal size too small it's a great compromise.  The Traveler's Notebook is close in size lengthwise to my A5 binders as you can see here....

BeFunky Instant 2 on iPhone

But about half the width.

BeFunky Instant 2 on iPhone

This makes it lighter and easier to stash away in a purse or coat pocket. 

BeFunky Instant 2 on iPhone

If you need  rings, nope. There are none in the Midori.   Inserts, accessories, and stray papers slide under an stretchy cord that runs down the center lengthwise.  If you really like rings this would be a deal breaker, but the Traveler's Notebook is pretty configurable.  Midori sells a kit to replace all parts except the binder itself so I foresee having this planner forever.  

I'm very comfortable writing in it too.  Even though the width of the pages is similar to the Personal size, they are A5 in length.  In fact,  you can hole punch Midori inserts for use in a Filofax A5.

 If you have one with a back pocket like the Finchley you can slide the insert right in.

You can even slide the whole binder back there.

It fits!

BeFunky Instant 3 on iPhone

The Binder is a single piece of beautiful leather with an elastic cord to hold inserts and a placeholder.  There are no pockets but you can buy sticky backed pockets for the inside covers and even though I thought, no way are they going to stay on - They have been on over a year.

The Traveler's Notebook lays flat but the inserts are another story.  It's a lot like writing in a bound journal.  

BeFunky Instant 2 on iPhone

There are many inserts to choose from and the paper takes ink wonderfully.  But unless you' re in Japan, there is limited product availability.  Midori  does have an English website but does not ship to the US (HUGE MINUS!) and that limits what you can get.  How much you can customize your notebook with Midori products depends on what you can find from an online seller that ships to your country.

BeFunky Instant 2 on iPhone

Of course, you can customize in tons of ways yourself - I used an old skeleton key here...

BeFunky Instant 2 on iPhone

And a smaller one hangs off the bookmark.

BeFunky Original on iPhone

Midori sells tags and charms for the outside stretchy cord (that holds the notebook closed)  but I used a vintage button.

BeFunky Instant 2 on iPhone

This is one of my favorite inserts and is usually stocked where I shop.   It's a 2 month undated planner that has one page per day as well as two at a glance monthly pages.   I really like this insert and I love the paper, it's sturdy but elegant.  It's not as smooth as Clairefontaine paper but it has a translucent elegance about it.

BeFunky Instant 3 on iPhone

There are several types of pockets, zips and slots...  

BeFunky Instant 1 on iPhone

All are flexible and feel like good quality.

BeFunky Instant 1 on iPhone

I love the credit /business card inserts.  They are thick, pliable, are large enough for credits cards and are double-sided.    The front and back of each side is a separate card slot.  In this picture there are three card slots, if I turn this page over it would show three more.  

BeFunky Instant 3 on iPhone

Total there are 12 distict card slots on this insert, so even if you only put in one card per space, it's roomy.  

BeFunky Instant 1 on iPhone

The Traveler's Notebook  leather  is vegetable tanned and  handmade in  Thailand. Vegetable tanning is a time consuming process that produces a beautiful finish, that's a  plus and a minus.  While absolutely lovely it doesn't have the durability and colorfastness of a commercial process.  Contact with water should be minimized.  

If you're someone who frets over nicks, dings and scratches this might not be for you.  I've found the whole aging process to be lovely and it enhances the leather but the lived in look isn't for everyone!

As an aside, I used Nivea to clean/condition it once or twice and some of color came off.  It also changed the finish some what.  The next time I'm going to purchase Saddle Soap.  

Saddle soap contains mild soap, softening ingredients, and beeswax.  It's gentle and the beeswax leaves a nice sheen which I think is similar to the one it came with.

BeFunky Cooling 1 on iPhone

 The Midori Traveler's Notebook feels like quality top to bottom, inside and out. The inserts are well thought out and durable and it's design is simple and elegant.

There are only a few binder options; this size in brown or black and a limited edition camel color.  And the passport size that I just ordered which runs 3.75 inches by 5.25 (closed).    The initial binder purchase comes with the binder, a blank insert and, a cotton dust bag.

The Traveler's notebook is usually priced around fifty dollars but you have to factor in the cost of inserts (from just a few dollars to about fifteen for the pen attachment).  Still, I think it's a bargain for something of quality with a  timeless design.  I can't imagine feeling out of place anywhere carrying this binder - It's got a little black dress quality about it; neither under or overdressed... And always fashionable.

You can purchase a Midori Traveler's Notebook at Maido, Baum-Kuchen, Resor The Journal Shop  and Tabiyo, as well as eBay and Amazon.


tabi yo 9/22/12, 12:30 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
tabi yo 9/22/12, 12:30 AM  

Very nice write-up! I love my Traveler's Notebook too! :)

Tracy Reinhardt 9/22/12, 2:09 AM  

Tabi yo, I added your shop to this post. I'd never seen it before, am always happy to find another source of traveler's notebook products.

Thank you so much for the comment!


tabi yo 9/22/12, 4:20 AM  

Hi Tracy, right, we are a newly set up online shop mainly selling Traveler's Notebook & other Midori products. Thank you so much for added in our shop under your post. We really hope we can help more people to have own this wonderful product in every places :)
Have a great day!

austinlinda 9/22/12, 8:10 AM  

Interesting alternatives to Filofax and Franklin Covey! Thanks for the informative blog subject today!

Tracy Reinhardt 9/25/12, 3:11 AM  

AustinLinda, It's a great notebook, different but great in a lot of ways!


Morag 9/25/12, 1:07 PM  

I loved your detailed description but (call me dumb)I don't quite get how you can have more than one insert in the Midori without layering them. Is that right?

Tracy Reinhardt 10/5/12, 6:46 AM  

Morag, Yes, you do have to layer them - one inside another but I've not found that to be a problem. The nice thing is it's very easy to add pages you've made because they slide in under the elastic. Sorry it took so long for me to answer - totally missed this comment!

Doris 10/9/12, 5:40 AM  

It just occurred to me that a Midori Traveler's notebook would be great as a journal. Expensive though, hmmmm. (:

Tracy Reinhardt 10/9/12, 5:42 AM  

Doris, the really are great.
The smaller one tends to cost a little less but you can make your own inserts and that cuts down on cost. I don't know, guess I just love the thing a lot :)

The planner as a whole comes with one blank notebook and I don't think the initial cost is bad but the inserts get pricy


wakako 10/31/12, 5:58 PM  


Thank you so much for including Baum-Kuchen on your post! So glad to hear that you are enjoying your Traveler's Notebook:)

Hope to see you at the shop again!



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