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Walk on the beach

5 tips for documenting family travel

Documenting family travel (Mayan ruins at Coba)

I’m a picture-taker. You probably are, too. Especially on vacation. With our smartphones, it is so simple to snap and snap away. We want to capture the memories, but often end up with overwhelm at the end of the trip. Do you ever look back years later and wish you had done something with those photos from a great trip, but now you don’t remember the details?

First, let me say my most valuable tip is use Google Photos! It is truly a lifesaver for auto backup, curation, sharing and using your photos. Every time I prepare for vacation, or even as everyday memories are happening, I am grateful that Google Photos has my back! It is a free tool and if you need help using it to its full amazing capacity, Ben wrote a fantastic ebook to guide you.

That said, photos can still be overwhelming simply because we take so many. Don’t get bogged down by the sheer volume of pictures on your devices. You took them because you want to remember and relive these great times, so here are some helps and hints to do just that.

1. Delete pics as you go.

DON’T let all those pictures build up from the entire trip. Each day (maybe while relaxing right before bed, or perhaps while you’re waiting in line at an amusement park or basking in the sun at the beach), scroll through the shots from your day and delete, delete, delete! Delete duplicates. Delete blurry shots. When you take several of the exact same scene (I often do this), delete all but the best ONE (or two, if there’s a really compelling reason!). This takes just a few minutes if you stay on top of it every day, and you will be so glad you did! Trust me, those few minutes each day are well spent to prevent an overload of hundreds to go through when you return home.

2. Label difficult names and places right away.

We recently traveled to Mexico and visited Mayan ruins. I loved learning about the flora and fauna as well as the traditions and history. But the names of insects and places were difficult! I wanted to remember and I wanted to get the spelling right. BUT I didn’t want to carry a pencil and notebook with me in the hot, sweaty jungle. And I knew I wouldn’t remember everything we learned. So I started using my photo editing app (there are many free ones- I like Pixlr) to “write” on my pictures immediately, labeling them with the correct spelling and names and descriptors. I’m so glad I did!  My camera still retains the original photo in case I want it unlabeled, but I decided to include the labeled version in my travel photo book.

write on photos to remember their significance

3. Social media postings help.

When you post a picture on Instagram or Facebook, make sure you write about it. That information “in the moment” will jog your memory and provide some of the detail you’ll want included as you document your travel in more detail later. Also take advantage of the location tagging feature. When we visited a cenote (sinkhole/underground pool) for swimming in Mexico, I knew I would want to know which cenote it was, as there are many in the Riviera Maya. The spelling was difficult, the name unpronounceable.  But it came up on Instagram as the location! So now I have it preserved and can find that name to label our adventures.

Five tips for documenting travel: label place names

4. Curate as much as possible en route and as soon as possible upon returning home

While social media postings en route can be a great outline to documenting your travel, I always recommend that you flesh it out with more detail. Journal during your travels. Write about where you went, what you did together, new experiences, scary, funny, even sad happenings. Write about foods and shopping and outings and adventures. Write down special moments and memories. Pictures are rich, but the stories behind them are richer. Combined, they are a powerful record of important memories you want to remember and relive.

If your trip concludes before your journaling does, don’t get so caught up in the post-travel laundry and to-dos that you fail to finish writing. I have let that happen, to my chagrin. I also, at other times, have made documenting my travel a priority immediately.

For this last trip, I was spurred on by a soon-to-expire free photo book promotion. It ended literally two days after our flight home. So I spent much of one of those two days documenting our 20th-anniversary trip and creating a rich memory book we will share and enjoy for decades. Yes, it was a bit of a sacrifice that day. But the benefits of writing about the trip while it was fresh will be long-enjoyed. Plus, while friends and family are asking about the trip (now; they won’t be asking in months), I can walk them through it with my book. And, woohoo, now it’s not hanging over my head on my to-do list for weeks or months!!

Documenting family travel (Playa del Carmen photo book)

5. Don’t be so busy documenting that you miss out on living.

That should be self-explanatory. While preserving and sharing your memories is good, actually enjoying them with those you love is better. Don’t be so busy behind the camera or posting those great shots on social media that you miss embracing the moments as they happen. Live first. Re-live later.

You make memories. We make them last.


What tips do you have for documenting travel? How do you preserve vacation memories? I’d love your ideas.

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