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The Importance of Backing Up Your Travel Photos

backing up your travel photos

Memories make the best souvenirs. Photos help us to remember those memories.

One of the worst things that could happen on your trip of a lifetime is that all your pictures disappear because of card error, loss, theft or accident. A photo of that epic sunset over the Grand Canyon, or that safari expedition you dreamed of for years, would be heartbreaking to leave without – especially since people aren’t going to believe that it happened unless you have the photos to prove it, right?

There are hundreds of different things that can go wrong when you travel, including lost bookings, missed buses and theft, but losing your travel memories shouldn’t be one of them if you know how to properly back up your files.

Backup Methods for Your Travel Photos

Your camera or your memory card could become lost, broken, stolen or full throughout your trip, so it’s important to have a backup file of each of them, preferably in two places.

Digital copy: An easy way to back up your pictures is through web programs. Dropbox allows you to automatically sync the pictures on your phone with your online account and desktop over WiFi. Cloud programs do the same, as does the Eye-Fi memory card. You can immediately send the file to a safe place over an Internet connection.

I’m a fan of Picasa, where I upload pictures during my trip. The web program, similar to Flickr and SmugMug, creates albums for online viewing for friends and family back home. You can also make CDs or download files from the program in case of loss.

Hard copy: Another type of backup you can do is of your drives. Remember, if traveling with a laptop, bad things can also happen to it (and the backup of photos you already did on it). I always travel with both an external hard drive (iOmega is my preferred brand) and a few USB drives just in case. If your camera gets stolen part way through a trip, you at least have the ones from the beginning backed up. Depending on your destination and access to computers and Internet, you can also mail your full memory cards, CDs or USB drives home part way through your trip.

Plan for the Worst: Save the Memories

I’ve had to plan for the worst a handful of times on my travels, including making CDs of my pictures in Florence, Italy and Chiang Mai, Thailand, as well as buying jump drives and backup memory cards in Asia. There was still a few weeks left in both trips and I didn’t want to delete any of my pictures. Instead, I walked into a camera shop and had a disc made for cheap. It gave me peace of mind and it meant I could keep shooting without worrying about filling up my memory card. I now travel with multiple memory cards just in case, which are cheap to pick up in many parts of the world. Lesson learned.

Hot tip: Don’t wait too long between backups! It’s better to lose a few days of photos instead of an entire month’s.

How do you back up your photos on the road?

Written by Caroline

Caroline Eubanks is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, but has also called Charleston, South Carolina and Sydney, Australia home. After college graduation and a series of useless part-time jobs, she went to Australia for a working holiday. In that time, she worked as a bartender, bungee jumped, scuba dived, pet kangaroos, held koalas and drank hundreds of cups of tea. You can find Caroline at Caroline in the City.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Allison says

    Good advice! We started using Flickr, but I’m not a huge fan so we’ll give Picasa a shot. Thanks for the helpful information:)

  2. Tracey - Life Changing Year says

    Super helpful advice. We’ve been on our latest little trip for 6 weeks and we decided not to bring a hard drive to do a photo backup since we only have carry-on. After 5 weeks I’ll admit I am nervously waiting to get home so I can make another copy and be a bit more secure with the pics! Thanks for the reminder!

  3. Samantha says

    Sigh…I lost two weeks worth of photos on a Christmas/New Years trip to London and Ghent in Belgium when my phone got stolen. Including the beautiful NYE fireworks display in gorgeous medieval Ghent. Lesson learned BIG TIME!

    We have several memory cards for our camera and intend on switching out, and want to use Dropbox for my phone but I am concerned with the wifi connection on my upcoming trip, do you know of any external storage capabilities whilst using an iPhone?

  4. Emily says

    Every night on the road I upload photos from my cameras onto my Surface Pro tablet. Then I put them on my external drive and upload them to PhotoBucket where they’re all private.

    If you do it every night upload times are shorter (due to less volume) and it becomes habit! And having them on my external drive AND online means I’ll always have a set somewhere because computers crash, technology gets damaged, things get stolen, etc.

  5. Renee says

    I have just bought the EyeFi card and so far, loving it – been testing it before my big trip to Spain. Copies photos to my phone (which also just go upgraded with a 64GB SD micro card) whenever accessing WiFi and then I can upload to Dropbox. I will be leaving for a month in October with no laptop, so this copying/downloading will give me peace of mind that my daily photos will be backed-up. Perfection!!!

  6. Katie says

    What if I’m not bringing a computer? Does anyone know of anything I could bring that wouldn’t need a computer as an intermediary to backup photos?

    • Sharon says

      Katie: If you have an Iphone or Ipad, Apple sells a little accessory that you can backup your photos from an SD card to either or both Iphone/Ipad. I do that on vacation instead of bringing a laptop. You can then share your photos on social media platforms like Facebook, etc.

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