How to keep travel memories alive? Here are 10 tips to incorporate into your travel routine before you head out the next time. Some are as easy as planning a meet-up with locals who know the lay of the land; others are about collecting information you can use when you return home. Here are 10 ways to enhance your photo memories.
Create a written itinerary and build on it
That itinerary you created with flight times and hotel reservation codes is the first step in your process. Keep amending and adding to it as your trip goes on. Store it on your phone, laptop or Google Docs. Scribble down restaurant names or picnic locations for your meals. Pubs and bars too. Take a quick photo of each place to record the location.
Give yourself time to make those memories
As you’re building that itinerary, leave time to ensure you have time to take photos. On road trips, I used to cover 300 or 400 miles a day. Now I aim for 200 because I want to stop for an hour if a great-looking roadside diner pops up. Or a rainbow. Or a lonely road twisting into the distance. Those are some of my favorite pictures.
Include a class or meet-up in your plans
Then keep in touch. Not every trip yields a new friendship that will endure. But if your itinerary includes a cooking class, photo meet-up or on-the-spot language brush-up, you connect with more people. If it feels right, collect email addresses and social media contacts. If nothing else, you can send them a photo or two that you didn’t share on the spot.
Grab coasters and hotel stationery (or take photos of them)
I stuff those things into my carry-on bag almost as a reflex. Also, I’ve never smoked, but I have dozens of matchbooks from travels in the 1980s and ‘90s because their graphics, colors and shapes are tangible reminders of certain settings.
Snap photos of people you meet (with their permission)
That way, you won’t come home with images only of what you ate and the same loved ones you hang out with. The next time you’re eating in a restaurant don’t just take a photo of your plate. Ask if you can take a picture of the waiter delivering the food. It’s easy to interact with only your travel mates and the guide. Don’t get lazy.
Keep a journal and/or be diligent with social media posts
But not too diligent. The point is to have an experience, not justify yourself on Instagram. If you can draw a bit, sketch a few things. Even if the results are lousy, the process will help you slow down and soak up the scene. The photographic version of this is using a tripod. It demands deceleration.
Collect as much caption info as you can
Do this as you’re taking the pic. Things can blur if you’re traveling among small towns or similar landmarks. Get place names so you can reconstruct your route. Thanks to mobile phones and Google maps, this is getting easy.
Organize your photos within a month of return
Preferably within a week. I suggest organizing by year and location. Then back them up someplace other than your phone or the cloud. I suggest an external hard drive. That said, Apple’s and Google’s most common image management software can be very helpful. (The app is called Photos in both cases.) I make a folder for every year, and within each year I have folders for each trip, labeled by month and destination. I mark the best 10% of the images with stars and usually disregard or delete the rest. I mix video clips with stills, but some people separate them. I’m moving my archive into Adobe Lightroom Classic, which combines an organizational framework with powerful image-editing options.
Print your favorite travel photos
If you’re a digital native, you share pictures with your phone or laptop and keep a few favorites as screen-savers. All good. But there’s old-school power to putting pictures on the wall. If you take the time (and expense) to display travel images in your home, you’ll be reminded of those trips more often. Costco, Shutterfly, Bay Photo and many other companies will print your digital images in all sorts of formats and mail them to you.
That is, don’t bore your friends with the same travel stories. But if you have loved ones who shared those adventures with you — then, yes, tell, retell and retell again. That’s how you keep them alive. In fact, through some miracle of human psychology, those stories get better every time.