There hasn't been much travel this year but that does mean that many of us have been looking to make our living space that little bit brighter.

Whether you're still in lockdown, looking for the perfect gift or just enjoying some downtime over the holidays, you can keep the sweet memories of past adventures alive. Here are a few suggestions for personalizing your living spaces with vacation photos trapped on your digital devices.

1. Put a frame around it

A digital photo frame is one of the easiest ways to display your travel images. The latest generation of digital photo frames are Wi-Fi enabled and make it easy to link to popular social media and cloud-storage services without a big time commitment. Nixplay, for example, has free-standing and wall-mounted frames that connect to Dropbox, Google Photos, Facebook and Instagram.

The Nixplay mobile app unlocks more features, including collection curation, viewing preferences and sharing options. Digital frames also make great gifts for less tech-savvy family members from whom you’re socially distanced. You can create a dedicated email address so you and other family members can send photos directly to their frame.

A photo book overlays several other travel documents, including a map, a postcard from West Africa, and two other books
Photo books like these can be organized by theme or showcase specific trips © Laura Watilo Blake / Lonely Planet

2. Create a photo book of your past vacations

Instead of swiping through your travel photos on your phone, turn them into real page turners with a photo book. They can be organized by theme, color or by specific trips. No matter how they are curated, make sure to pick only the images you really love. Fewer photos will have maximum impact on the page, but you break up the book with collages of smaller images, too.

While services like Blurb, Mixbook, Printique, Costco, Mpix, Shutterfly, and Artifact Uprising have templates and tools that will help automate the process, they don’t always populate the layout in a way that makes sense.

Here’s some advice from Steph Lehman, a photo book editor and graphic designer for Far-Country Press, an independent book publisher based in Helena, Montana: “I like many options to work with for subjects and locations, including different orientations, color schemes, choices for usage as main images or accent photos, etc.”

3. Experiment with unexpected print surfaces

Society6 is an online marketplace for artists who sell their artwork printed on a variety of media, from more traditional framed prints to all kinds of home décor items and consumer goods. Anyone can join, which means you can upload your own travel photos and even make money selling them if you’re looking for a side hustle.

Don’t expect a windfall since you’ll probably want to buy all the cool products adorned with your travel photos. Among other things, you can beautify your home office with a photo calendar, enhance your daily meditation with a printed yoga mat and drift off to sleep snuggled under a custom-designed comforter.

There are all kinds of online printing services with unique products on which to print, including lampshades (Zazzle), wood boards (PhotoBarn), metal (Artbeat Studios), acrylic (Mpix) and peel-and-stick fabric (SnapBox).

A couple sit on a warm brown leather sofa in front of a wooden coffee table. A cat sits in the foreground looking towards a wall of framed photos
Kelsey and Grant Miller have a photo wall in their Columbus, Ohio, home. © Laura Watilo Blake / Lonely Planet

4. Go big with a wall mural or photo wall

It may feel like your world has shrunk a little, but your travel photos can be larger than life. Photo wall murals can make you feel like you’re sleeping in a Scandinavian forest or dining on a white-sand beach at dusk. Murals Your Way, for example, will take your photo and wall dimensions and create custom wallpaper with a water-activated adhesive backing. 

Kelsey Miller, a copy editor based in Chicago, likes to find unique ways for displaying images. She went the DIY route to save some money on a photo wall in her living room. “The image on my wall is a cloth tapestry I purchased from Society6,” she says. “I cut it into 12 pieces with a rotary cutter (for a super clean cut), then used a cornstarch/water paste to ‘glue’ them to the back of 12 square frames from IKEA. The best part is that I can peel off the tapestry and the cornstarch/water paste washes off with soap and water, so I can always replace it.” 

Photo walls can also be groupings of many different travel photos like the one Cleveland art director Stephanie Park has in her home. “They are from all different places, but I’ve made them cohesive by printing them in black and white. They are in silver frames of all different sizes and styles.”

There are a lot of ways to incorporate your favorite travel snapshots into your home decor © Carmen Gold / EyeEm

5. Don’t underestimate the power of a classic print

Printing out your photos isn’t a new idea, but chances are most of your images have stayed trapped in the digital realm. Give your memories some space in the real world and blow them up to appreciate the details on traditional photo paper. “Do your research before you print,” says Vincent McCracken of Mpix, the online arm of Miller’s Professional Imaging, the largest professional photo lab in the United States.

“While drugstores or big box stores might be a convenient way to print your photos, some use cheap paper and your color will vary widely from print to print.” Mpix uses certified archival quality papers and has in-house experts that personally review photos to ensure perfect color on every print. Their standard E-surface paper, which has a pearl finish that you commonly see in wedding albums, reduces glare, which you would normally get from printing on glossy paper.

5. Think outside the frame

There are all kinds of non-traditional ways to show off your travel photos on a wall. You can spend hours on Pinterest and other social media sites exploring all the possibilities. Some of my favorite ideas for exhibiting travel photos include wooden hanger frames, fairy string lights with clips, postcard racks and vintage luggage tags. Finally, if you’re one of those people who hoarded toilet paper at the onset of Covid-19, you can turn the empty cardboard rolls into frames, too.

You may also like: 

How to organize your travel photos in four steps

This article was first published April 2020 and last updated December 2020.

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This article was first published April 2020 and updated December 2020

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