Lifestyle, Travel

4 Ways to Commemorate Your Travels: How to Preserve Special Memories

If you’re anything like me, you return from a vacation or extended trip with great memories and loads of stuff to prove it – a photo gallery of some 10,000 photos and too many mementos (ticket stubs, brochures, receipts, stickers, postcards, etc). It can be a little overwhelming. What to do with it all?! You want to put something together that you can easily share with family and friends.

And I think there’s a misconception that in order to accurately “preserve” these memories, you have to journal or scrapbook, in the very traditional sense. But it’s the 21st century, my friends, and there are plenty of other options. 🙂 I believe there’s something for everyone, whether you’re the type of person who’s willing to invest a ton of time into the project OR the person who’d rather get it done quickly and easily in order to move on to the next adventure. I think I fall somewhere in the middle.

Nevertheless, I believe it’s so important to commemorate your trip, because you’ll forget the details sooner than you might think.

I’m sharing four ways you can easily commemorate your travels, using my own examples (commemorating my European study abroad experience!), and you’re sure to find something that will appeal to you. And believe me when I say this post is relevant for those who have recently returned from a vacation/trip, as well as those who are preparing to embark. (I’m in the same boat! Prepping to leave for my summer in NYC, and thinking NOW about how I’d like to commemorate the trip later.) Even if you have not yet traveled, it can be really helpful to start thinking about how you’ll commemorate your trip so you’ll have the appropriate material (photos, video footage, etc).

So how do we get started?

Equipment – Camera(s)

It’s probably given that you’ll take lots of photos while you’re traveling, and maybe even video. And in order to do that, you’ll need a camera. But different cameras serve different purposes. Before I went abroad, I had questions concerning the type of camera I wanted to take with me, and I did quite a bit of research.

I’d definitely be taking my iPhone overseas – I upgraded my iPhone 5s to the iPhone 6 so I could have more space (64 GB) and the better camera. The iPhone cameras get better and better with each new launch. But there’s just something about photos taken with a high-quality DSLR, and that’s something you might not want to sacrifice, especially whilst traveling to some of the most beautiful locales in Europe. I own a Canon Rebel T3I, which I love, and which I’ve taken on plenty of family vacations (including Italy and Hawaii), but I knew it was a bit too bulky to throw in my purse whenever/wherever. So I bought an Olympus OMD EM-10 Mark II, which is a smaller/lighter mirrorless camera that still takes high-quality photos. Problem solved.

I’m currently attempting to sell my Olympus – not because I dislike the camera, but because I just don’t use it anymore. My Canon takes better photos (it’s the true DSLR), and I’m looking into purchasing a Canon point-and-shoot for my trip to NYC as I can take better video footage. If you’d be interested in reading more about my cameras/equipment, or my purchasing decision process, let me know and I’ll write a separate post!

Anyhow, I’m really glad I had both my iPhone and my Olympus on the trip because the cameras served different purposes. My Olympus took great artsy/landscape photos, and I used my iPhone for the everyday stuff like food pics and silly selfies (and for a whole lot more, but I’m generalizing). Also, it’s important to mention that it’s super quick/easy to take video using the iPhone, which is something I didn’t do enough of.

Collecting Mementos

This is the fun part, collecting and saving tangible souvenirs, like theatre tickets, plane tickets, train tickets, brochures, stickers, and receipts (yes, receipts!). During my time in London, I’d stuff these items into my wallet or purse until the end of the day, when I’d transfer them into a portfolio that I’d shove into my closet. And once I was home, I had all the materials I needed to commemorate my trip.

Quick recap: photos, videos, notes, mementos.


I love scrapbooks because they’re so tangible. When I returned home from my program, I could hand my scrapbook to my relatives and friends to flip through. With a scrapbook, they can read my written thoughts and see my pictures, as well as the ticket stubs and receipts and postcards I’ve taped in.

I kept a scrapbook while I was in London because I’d joined an optional organization called “Scholar of the Semester.” We were required to journal / scrapbook in order to reflect on the things we were learning and experiencing. So I bought an A4 sketchbook at Ryman (wide, sturdy pages) and set to work. My book is part journal, part scrapbook. There are heavily written portions but also lots of pictures and mementos to complement the text.

Drawbacks: large time investment.

It takes a lot of time to put something like this together, and I soon fell behind. Luckily, I have my notes in my DayOne journal app to assist me whenever I go back to fill in the blanks.

ALSO, there are other methods of scrapbooking which save time. If you’re interested, you should check out the Project Life method – you purchase the binder and the inserts, which have pockets for photos of various sizes. Rather than all that time-consuming cutting and pasting, you simply slip your photos into the pockets and add “journaling cards” to complement the visuals.

An alternative to the scrapbook is the travel binder. I can’t take credit for this, as it’s an idea I found on Pinterest (check out Kelly Purkey’s blog post!), but I wanted to share it with you. You’ll need a small binder and a hole punch. Gather together all your mementos – tickets, receipts, photos, postcards, brochures, etc – and hole punch them to add to the binder. You can add captions and descriptions by attaching sticky notes or washi tape to the backside of your pictures.


Much like scrapbooking, journaling is the “traditional” option. I think everyone swears they’ll “journal” – they plan to record their thoughts or daily activities so as not to forget later. But the bottom line is that journaling just doesn’t appeal to everyone. And what’s unfortunate is that a lot of people think that written journaling is their only option when it comes to preserving their thoughts. But there are other ways to journal. Let me introduce you to DayOne, the phone app that enabled me to “journal” daily while studying abroad for four months…

The app is really simple. You click the “+” button to add a new entry, and with each entry you can add a photo/s. Every night when I crawled into bed, I’d open the app and add an entry about my day. Some days I’d write complete paragraphs, and some days merely bullet points. But I appreciate the short bulleted lists, too, because it’s a whole lot more than I would have had otherwise, trying to rely on the ol’ memory bank. And it was fun adding pictures from my iPhone camera roll, of the tourist attraction I’d visited or the fish n’ chips I’d had for lunch. Furthermore, the app recorded stats like location/weather/step count. Whenever I’m bored, I scroll back through my DayOne entries and read about my everyday life in London. It’s invaluable.

So this is absolutely for those of you who are intimidated by keeping a “journal” – if phone apps are more your speed, download DayOne and describe your day in simple bullet points. I wrote a whole blog post about why I believe journaling is important and how you could get started, and I discuss the DayOne app, so check it out if you’re interested.

ALSO… DayOne has come out with a new feature, book printing. Through the app, you can bind together a collection of journal entries and have them physically printed. I did this recently with my London entries, and was able to select the front cover photo as well as photos for the back cover. You can choose to include maps and stats. You can choose to print your book in paperback or with hardcover. The price is seriously inexpensive (!!).

A more modern option for journaling would be starting an online blog. This is really popular, simply because it’s so accessible. It’s easy to set up your own blog using sites like WordPress or Weebly. You can “post” directly to your blog whenever – daily, weekly, monthly. Blogs are an excellent platform for multimedia, for both text and photos/videos. And, best of all, you can easily share your blog posts. Email the link to all your relatives and friends, or “share” your latest posts via social media. I have quite a few friends who did this while studying abroad, and even I enjoyed reading their posts about their daily activities or weekend adventures (and I was there!).

Blogs have staying power. You can transform it into anything you want it to be later, and continue to post to it. A blog would look great on your resume – your site will showcase a variety of practical skills that any future employer would love to see.

Drawbacks: intangible.


If you’re not into scrapbooking or written journaling, creating a photo book or video diary could be the way to go. It’s a purely visual representation of your trip. (There is the option of including text in your photo book, but it’s totally up to you. I generally don’t add much text.)

I love creating photo books post-traveling because it’s my favorite method for displaying beautiful photography. This includes those artsy, landscape photos I mentioned earlier. Usually taken with a better camera than my iPhone. I enjoy the process of sifting through my photo gallery, selecting only my favorite photos for the book. And then I arrange them using the online book-making software. For years, I’ve used MyPublisher, because I appreciate the quality and the control over layout. Unfortunately, MyPublisher recently went out of business, so that’s disappointing. Fortunately, there are plenty of other online photo book options. (Shutterfly, for example, is owned by the same company as MyPublisher.)

While photo books are lovely, they are rather one-dimensional, so that’s why I’ve included “video diary” as the alternative visual option. Video is a unique medium that you’d want to utilize to its full potential. “Walk” down the street with your camera, or span the entire surrounding landscape. These days, it’s easy to shoot short video clips with your smartphone. “Save” any Snapchat videos you send to friends. One of my friends put together a video at the end of my study abroad program, and her Snapchat vids made up a large portion of her footage (which I thought was a great idea!).

Maybe you’re a vlogger, publishing weekly vlogs to YouTube. (Anyone can do this, actually, even if they’re not a “vlogger,” by publishing their videos to YouTube as “unlisted,” which means only those with the shared link may access the video. Great way to share your videos with only family and friends and not the whole wide world.) OR, you can take video footage throughout the duration of your trip and create a “highlights” video when it’s over. Totally up to you.

Something important to keep in mind is that creating a video might require some technical prowess. If you’re just starting out, consider using your iPhone and the iMovie app. I created short videos on my phone when I first became interested in video making. Now, I upload my footage to my computer and piece the video together in iMovie on my Mac (which has significantly more features than the app).

Drawbacks: intangible. Necessary technical skills.

Whatever you decide, know that it’s YOUR project and it’s all about commemorating YOUR travels. It’s doesn’t have to be perfect, or an award-winning art piece, but it SHOULD preserve your memories in a way that makes sense to you. Rereading your journal or blog, flipping through your scrapbook or photo book, watching your film – all your best memories should come flooding back. It should make you happy.

I hope you’ve found a method that will work for you, and I hope you commemorate your trip so you can look back on it later. Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions, comment below or reach out via social media!

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