Simple steps for organizing your digital travel photos

Updated: October 21, 2018 | Contains affiliate links

Traveling is great! Taking photos while you travel is a must and it’s even cooler because you get to experience your trip over and over again by looking at your pictures. When we travel we take thousands of pictures and if I’m not careful, I’ll be lost trying to find them when we get home and remember where they were taken. So, I have devised a simple method to organize my travel photos while I travel so that when I get home I simply transfer the pictures to my desktop computer and that’s all I need to do. Read on to find out how I organize my travel pictures while traveling.

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Simple example for a travel itinerary

Before talking about organizing digital travel photos, let’s imagine a fun trip abroad. Let’s say you have the money and time to do a Europe trip for about three weeks in the month of July. So, how about visiting various places in Belgium, France, Switzerland and Italy. Sounds like a great trip!

You have you phone, camera, charger and batteries ready for action. You are prepared to take lots of digital travel photos.

In addition, let’s say that you will not have enough room on your memory cards to store all your travel photos. So you bring a light laptop with you so you have extra room for storing your photos.

Just by using this scenario, the organization structure for your digital travel photos becomes very simple. As you can see, travel photography revolves around location and that should be the criterion for creating your high level folders.

There are two phases to capturing and storing your travel photos. First you have to transfer and store your digital photos while you are traveling. Secondly, once you get home, you have to transfer your photos from your travel laptop to your main storage device at home.

Let’s take a look at each of these phases in more detail.

Organize travel photo folders while traveling

While you are traveling you can prepare for the time when you arrive back home and you need to transfer your fresh digital travel photos to your main computer and storage.

You have to take care of your photo folders first. When traveling, your folder structure is the most important because chances are you will be moving photos from one device to another, from memory card to laptop and maybe to external hard drive and who knows where else. So, be very religious about organizing your photos folders.

So how do you do it? Well, location is the best way to help your brain. Following my system I would create a simple folder structure like this:

My Pictures
  TRANSFER - interim place to transfer straight from the camera.

What does this folder structure for your digital travel photos tell you? It’s simple isn’t it?

The TRANSFER folder is the obvious location for transferring pictures from my camera. Then I delete the bad pictures, rename the folders and move them to the right location under the EUROPE-TRIP folder.

As a summary, you create a folder for travel photos for an entire country and put the dates in the folder like: 2011-07-01_04-BELGIUM. This means that this folder would contain the travel photos from my trip to Belgium from July 1st to July 4th, 2011.

Then inside each folder, I create a subfolder for each day and place. If I see two places in the same day then I create one folder for each place. For example 2011-07-18-Padova and 2011-07-18-Venice. Padova is a smaller tourist attractions that you can see on the way to Venice. So in my example I would’ve seen Padova in the morning and spent the afternoon in Venice. As a result I create a separate folder for each place.

I found that having the date and the place in the folder name is always sufficient for remembering the places I travel to. So help your brain by creating folder names that match what you need for remembering events while you travel.

Add image tags if you have time

Now tagging! Hmmm…when I travel I rarely have time to tag my travel pictures. I’m happy to just transfer them from my camera to my laptop, rename the folders so they make sense and that’s all I usually do.

However, if you have time to tag, do so! It’s very helpful to add meaningful tags that will help you later with specific details from your trip.

That’s all you have do do while traveling!

Most importantly however, make sure you don’t spend all your time organizing your travel photos. Instead, make sure you enjoy your trip if you ever get to do a cool trip like this.

If you want to see all the cool places I visited over the years, check out my travel blog

Transfer your travel photos when you get home

Now you arrive home with all those travel photos. You have them all on your travel laptop and memory cards (the photos you did not have time to transfer to your laptop). What do you do now?

It is very simple!

Some people have a separate folder called TRAVEL where they want to put all their travel photos separated from the rest of their photos.

I choose to place my travel photos together with my family photos since I travel with my family anyway. So mine will go in the correct year folder under my FAMILY folder.

Once you know where the photos will go, I transfer the entire EUROPE-TRIP folder to the destination folder on the main storage device at home. My folder structure would look something like this:

My Pictures
  TRANSFER - interim place to transfer straight from the camera.
      2011-07-01_19-EUROPE-TRIP (simply copy the entire folder and add the date)           

If you use a TRAVEL folder instead of the FAMILY folder because you want to keep all your travel photos separate, then you would do the same copying of the entire folder structure under your TRAVEL folder.

Essentials for organizing your digital photos

Here are the essential products and services I have come to rely on for many years to keep my media collection organized and safe. Even though these are affiliate links, I wholeheartedly recommend them.

Excellent Lightroom and Picasa alternative. If you need a cheaper and simpler photo manager then ACDSee Photo Studio for Mac (save 20% until Feb 15) or ACDSee Pro for Windows (save $20 until Feb 15) is my preferred solution for organizing all my media. It has a very fast browser, great image editing and it's simple to use.

If you do a lot of image editing like I do, I recommend using Adobe Lightroom Classic CC via the annual Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. Lightroom has best photo editing capabilities even though it comes with a steeper learning curve. If you do image editing, Adobe Lightroom is my favorite.

I recommend Backblaze Cloud Backup for affordable & reliable unlimited cloud backup. I have been using Backblaze for backing up all pictures & videos for more than 5 years now. All my invaluable digital memories are safe and secure. This is the best solution especially if you have a large quantity of media files.

Use a reliable & affordable external hard drive for backing up everything on your computer. It is absolutely essential for keeping all your memories backed up and safe.

Start organizing now using detailed, step-by-step instructions and videos:
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