Family Vacation Photo Overwhelm: Five Ideas to Save Your Sanity

by Lain Ehmann on August 15, 2011

Vacation photo overwhelm was the topic of a thread on a Facebook group I’m part of, called My Favorite Place to Take Kids on Vacation Is… One of the members wrote, “So I got 250 photos from my Costa Rica trip – but not yet sure the best thing to do with them. Any thoughts?”

Thoughts? Well, I have some thoughts!

First, I had to assume that someone wasn’t planning to scrapbook all 250 photos (although it’s a noble goal, I figured he’d want to eat, sleep, and bathe at least a few times before his kids leave for college). Once that was off the table, I had some questions. After all, before I could make recommendations about what one should do with vacation photos, I needed to know more about goals. My questions:

  • What do you want the end result to be? (digital or physical?)
  • How much time/effort do you want to put into it?
  • And do you want the ability to make copies/share, or is it just for your family?

If you’re in a similar situation, start by answering these questions. Once you know the answers, you can proceed through the following list and pick which options best suit your goals. Here, let’s discuss:

1. Photo Album Scrapbooking.

Photo album scrapbooking is the process of taking a regular photo album (as opposed to a traditional scrapbook), and turning it into a scrapbook by adding a bit of embellishment and journaling. Stacy Julian was the one who popularized the term. She’s a big proponent of the practice and suggests it as a way to get the maximum number of photos scrapbooked in a minimum of time.

Positives: You’re using all (or almost all) of your photos, they’re all in one place, and you get to add your personal touches via embellishments and journaling. It’s also fairly inexpensive, with the cost determined almost entirely by the kind of photo album you select (leather-bound photo albums will be more expensive that the trendier ones but not necessarily by much!).

Negatives: If you’re the creative type, you might get frustrated by the restrictive format of a photo album. There’s only so much you can do inside a set space. Also, some of the cute little albums that look so adorable aren’t necessarily up to the scrapbooking sturdiness standards and may show wear and tear more quickly than other methods. Also, it can be a bit time-intensive figuring out how to organize your album, how to incorporate journaling and embellishments, etc. You are also restricted by the 4×6 size, so enlargements aren’t a possibility.

Shareability: Low. One of a kind, unless you’re the type of person who will happily duplicate hours of work for friends and family members. If you are this type of person, you’re probably also the type of person who is actually attempting to scrapbook all 250 photos (see introduction) and thus won’t have read this far.

2. Family Favorites Scrapbook. 

We just returned from a week-long vacation to Virginia, and we came back with a deep love of the state as well as a few SD cards loaded with memories. My solution will be a Family Favorites scrapbook. I’m going to have the five of us select our favorite three memories from the vacation, then print photos to match. I’ll do the scrapbooking while they’ll handle the journaling. The result: A 15-page scrapbook (with title page and possibly a pocket with additional memorabilia) that will fill my goal of documenting ALL of our memories of this very special vacation.

Positives: It hits the high points for each of us, and is manageable in a weekend or few evenings’ worth of work. I’ve also got all the supplies on-hand. The format is completely flexible; I can create an 8.5×11″ album, a 12×12″ scrapbook, or some other size as I choose.

Negatives: It only handles about 5% of the 250 photos mentioned earlier, so many photos won’t make the cut. Also, it’s more time-intensive than some of the other methods. It can also be a bit costly if I choose to use more expensive supplies.

Shareability: Low. It’s likely one-of-a-kind.

Gather hundreds of photos in a photo book!

3. Photo Book.

Photo books are all the rage, and it’s easy to see why! You can upload and create a book with as many photos as you like, in whatever sizes you like, in an hour or less. Hit “Buy” and it’s on its way to you!

Positives: Flexibility is the main sell here.  You can choose layout, photo sizes, etc. You can also use as many (or as few) photos as you like. You can order more than one copy as a gift (see “Shareability” below). It’s fast, too! Most programs offer a number of different pre-made templates where you just plug in your photos and it does the formatting. Coolio!

Negatives: Can be a bit pricey (but I have an answer for that… read on!). Also, if you prefer a lot of texture or three-dimensionality, you won’t get that with a photo book. Another drawback is that because you CAN include all the photos, you might not be as selective as you would be if you had to print out and deal with hard copies. While that’s an advantage, it can also lead to oversaturation — you know that look when people are forced to sit through a two-hour slideshow of someone’s trip to North Dakota? Yeah, that’s oversaturation. Sometimes culling down to the best is an advantage.

Shareability: High! You can print multiple copies of your book to share with loved ones and enemies alike. :)

Now, remember how I told you I had something to help you with cost? You can save up to 50% on your photo book from Mixbook, my new go-to source for photo books! Just use code BK50MX at checkout, and order before Aug. 18, 2011. I know, that’s not long — get going! (But finish reading this article first.)

4. Video Slideshow. 

If you’re a wannabe Coppola or have film clips you’d like to incorporate video clips and audio into your presentation, you can create a personal video slideshow easily with tools like iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, and Animoto. This multimedia approach may just be the next phase of scrapbooking!

Positives: Very cool and hip. Plus, it’s inexpensive or free (iMovie comes standard on Mac, while Windows Movie Maker is free for PC users). Being able to include your audio and video with your photos is super neat, too.

Negatives: It’s all digital. You can’t hold something in your hands, which bothers some people. It can also be very time-intensive. A three-minute video can take several hours to create, especially if you have no idea what you’re doing! Of course, that learning curve flattens out over time.

Shareability: High! Upload to Youtube and email the link to your friends and family, or burn a copy to a DVD and send to Grandma and Grandpa.

Use video frame to highlight your vacation photos.

5. Static Slideshow.

Want the ultimate in low-stress memory-keeping? Transfer all your photos to an SD card and view them via a digital photo frame. Prop it on the kitchen counter or send it to the office with Mom or Dad to keep those memories of St. Thomas close at hand!

Positives: Easy. SUPER-easy. You can even add audio if you want but make sure your digital photo frame supports it (this one does).

Negatives: Digital photo frames can be pricey (from about $20 to $100 or more). With frames, you often get exactly what you pay for, so don’t try to low-ball it if this is Granny’s one and only Christmas gift. Also, there’s no real opportunity to add context or stories to the photos, so they’re just one part of the vacation’s memory (but this method can work very well in conjunction with some of the other ideas above!).

Shareability: High! Copy your photos to an extra SD card. Just make sure whoever you share your photos with has a frame that supports the same card as you have.

Now you’ve got a wealth of ideas for your family vacation photos, all of which will show off your memories in style.

P.S. I will be sharing a video review of my first MixBook later this week… stay tuned to see why I love them so much!



  • Sayeh

    Very nice post. I am a big fan of iMovie. It has all built in features for transition,
    Title , etc. You can also upload it in your private YOUTIBE or your hidden ( not public page).

  • Sayeh

    Nice post. I am a big fan of iMovie. With all built in features it is very easy to make. Also can upload on YOUTUBE or your own site.

  • Anonymous

    Great point, Sayeh – anything that saves me a step gets a thumbs-up in my book! :)

  • Clare

    Great timing – Having been berated by my husband for only just printing the photobook from our 2009 vacation he wants to know when he’ll get to see 2010 and 2011. Since we always vacation in Disney World many of my photos seem to be of the same thing year in year out so I decided to do a Last 10 years at Disney book… I’m currently struggling to find the photos for two of our trips and I’m already up to 12000 pictures! Bitten off more than I can chew? Maybe ;) Plan is to whittle them down to a reasonable number (discarding out of focus and duplicates) and then create a photo book. I love the fact that I can digi scrap on 12×12 and then get them printed up into a book, Sure it’s costly, but they look fantasic!

  • Anonymous

    Wow, that’s amazing! What an undertaking. Yes, they do look incredible. Let me know how it goes!

  • Dawn Coelin

    Great post, Lain! I just received my first Mixbook (first trip to Disney with the kids last month!) and it came out very nice. I am a texture type of gal, so I will be scrapbooking the pictures, too, but this will hold the grandparents (who have been bugging me for a month to see some photos )off till I can get started.

  • Lzepponi

    THanks for the insights!  I have a ton of vacation photos and they are daunting!!! Now I have some alternative ideas for them.

  • Pingback: Weekend Reading for August 19, 2011 | Simple Scrapper()

  • Pingback: Weekend Reading for September 9, 2011 | Simple Scrapper()

Previous post:

Next post: