Unique Ideas for Decorating with your Favorite Travel Souvenirs

Anticipating a trip – researching adventures, making plans, and reading about your destination – bring more pleasure than the trip itself!* The reality of travel – crowded flights, packing and unpacking, jet lag, etc. – can be less fun than the months of anticipation.

But what about after the trip? Many people jump right back into work and obligations, and let those travel memories fade. But spend time after the trip ‘working’ on your trip, decorating with favorite photos and souvenirs, and those travel memories will bring you joy forever.

Decorate with Your Travel Photos

We downsized our home several years ago so we’d have less house maintenance and more money for travel. As we planned for the move, we began decluttering. We donated what we could, boxed up treasures we couldn’t part with, and tossed the rest. We made a decision to simplify our home and promised ourselves we would only have things in our new home that were meaningful to us.

As part of this promise we decided we’d make the photos of our trips our souvenirs, rather than bringing home knick knacks. Not only do we save packing space, but we’ve enjoyed finding ways to incorporate these photos into our home in ways that are really meaningful.

How to create a travel photo book you’ll be proud to display

Photo Book for your travel memories created with Shutterfly

Yes, the tried-and-true photo album where your photos are available in print format. This is so important. We all love the convenience of taking photos on our phones, but unless the (best) photos are printed, they may be lost. Lose your phone and you might lose those priceless pictures! Or as time passes you’ll just forget they’re on your phone. Nice images rarely enjoyed. So print those pictures and put them in an album. Get extra creative if you have Scrapbooking talent.

We use an online service (like Shutterfly, Snapfish, or Mixbook) to create a professional looking photobook. This can be as simple as uploading pictures and hitting the ‘arrange’ button, or as personal as designed the book yourself.

How to Create a Custom Travel Photo Book

With enthusiasm and some simple software, you can create a photo book that will be as nice as any coffee table book. We use Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop to make the most of our photographs, but much of this work can be done on your phone in the photos app, or with an inexpensive photography app like Snapseed or Afterlight.

  • Weed through your photos. Most photo apps and software will allow you to rate or ‘tag’ your photos. In Adobe Lightroom you can quickly set flags for your best photos as well as color coding photos that might need some work.
Make simple adjustments to your image in a photo editing program for your travel photo book.
Example of a quick adjustments in Adobe Lightroom
  • Post-production work. (from simplest to more difficult)
    • Crop photos to bring the eye to the most essential part of the image
    • Adjust lighting and color. Some photo apps will have an ‘auto’ button like this, but we prefer to make the adjustments ourselves. Bring up the shadows, dial down the highlights, adjust the black balance.
    • Sharpen, or apply ‘structure’ – not a shortcut for focus, but a help…
    • ‘Heal’ photos IF necessary. This is a tricky. Healing a photo means duplicating a small area of your photo to cover up else. In the example above, we removed the electrical poles from the image using the heal option in Lightroom. This is easier to do in photoshop, but for an area like the sky, Lightroom works…
  • Place the photos in your online photo book. Allow an automatic photo placement or do it yourself.
  • Choose a template that works for each page. Alternate your templates to add interest to your book
Shutterfly workspace for travel photo book
  • Add text – We like to add sections from our travel journal, to recapture the memories and thoughts we’d had along the way.
how to customize your travel photo book

Fun idea: use a photo as the background for your page. We loved the Gaudi designed pavers in Barcelona, so snapped a picture to use as a background image.

Having made…seven?!?… of these books, we know what we like. We use a consistent style, and order the largest size available. But no matter what company you use, or what size you choose, the quality of these online books will be so nice that you’ll be proud to share them with friends. And, most importantly, you will keep those travel memories alive.


Create a photo gallery wall

Create a Travel Gallery Wall With Your Travel Photos

We just love seeing our favorite photos on our walls. Choosing consistent framing can turn even novice photographer’s prints into a stylish gallery wall.

A ‘gallery wall’ sounds elegant but is easy to create. Chose your very best for a prominent display (left) or just create a fun collage with memorable pix from every trip(right). You can switch out pictures occasionally to refresh your display or let the wall spread outward as your travels continue.

Tip: for a structured gallery wall like the one above left, we used kraft paper (or newsprint) to cut squares the same size as the frames we were considering. These were taped onto the wall. This allowed us to play with the layout without committing to holes in our new condo’s wall!!

For our snapshot wall we use inexpensive black plastic frames to give some consistency to the display. No fussing over layout as this is just a fun hallway design.


Use your travel photos to create travel accessories!

Design your own luggage tags, passport covers, or reusuable water bottles with your photos. Easy and inexpensive, these make great gifts. AND there’ll be no mix-up with luggage when you have your owned personalized tag!


Create your own map and photo display

Map Poster Wall by Martha Stewart
Map Poster wall idea | Martha Stewart

Mount a world map on an oversized cork board and place photos around the map as you travel. For added fun, attach a colorful string connecting your image to the destination. Kits are available to do this for U.S. states, etc., but this is an easy DIY project.


Display photos and memorabilia in keepsake boxes

Display travel photos in Martha Stewart Photo Keepsake Boxes
Martha Stewart

Travel Keepsake box – such a cute idea for those extra prints, museum maps, ticket stubs, etc., that we all keep as we travel! Visit the article on marthastewart.com to see how it’s done!


Bring home travel souvenirs you’ll use in your home

It’s a wonderful feeling to actually USE the souvenirs you bring home. I love the memories that come when I put on my Kazuri Beads necklace, and the joy I feel when I set my table with Portuguese ceramics. These are souvenirs that have become a part of my life, and are developing new associations – Thanksgiving dinners, weddings, etc. Here are some things we’ve brought home that are meaningful to us.

Choose tableware that’ll bring back travel memories

Travel Souvenirs to decorate your home

Instead of the typical (likely made somewhere else) gift shop stuff, buy local arts, crafts and specialties that you’ll be able to use in your home. Ceramics from Portugal, table runners from Zambia, and a wonderful carved fruit bowl from Hawaii are USED daily in our home and bring back memories.

If traveling super light, with no room for extras, I will usually pick up a piece of jewelry on the trip, which brightens my days when I’m back home in a New England winter.


Travel souvenirs make great holiday decorations

Travel holiday ornament from Original T Bag Designs

Always a traveler’s favorite. We choose a special ornament on each trip and look forward to seeing them when the holiday season rolls in. (left: delicate ornament from T Bag Designs in Hout Bay, South Africa.)

Another idea: make your own with bits of memorabilia. The grandchildren have helped us create treasures by inserting photos from our trips into clear plastic globes.


Display favorite travel collections

There are always those one or two pieces you just can’t resist on your trip. Display those special travel souvenirs so you’ll see them every day.

Some people like to sprinkle these pieces throughout their home, but some have collections that will be displayed together. Large collections might get pride of place in a china cabinet. But if you’ve got a small travel souvenir collection to display, buy an inexpensive shadow box from a craft store to create a display of photos, ticket stubs and memorabilia. Or buy a desktop organizer like this one from Pottery Barn to showcase a collection of travel trinkets:

Display travel souvenirs in a Cubby Organizer by Pottery Barn

Creative Travelers Create!

Tip for Travelers with Kids: Engage the children in making travel crafts and suggest they share some of these projects with extended family. This will give an opening for conversation about the trip and dreams of future travel. Let your children become travel storytellers!

DIY Travel Themed Crafts

1. Create magnets with your leftover change – a great idea from Tattered Style

2. Glass jewel map magnets from The Happy Housie. These would look lovely in a tabletop bowl as well.

3. The Country Chic Cottage creates map tile coasters. I’d think you could make these with photos as well!

4. Make a super cute tray with postcards chosen along the road, a great idea from My So Called Crafty Life.


New York Times – What a Great Trip! And I’m Not Even There Yet.
How to make a travel photo book you’ll be proud to display, and other ideas for decorating with travel souvenirs
How to make a travel photo book and other ideas for decorating with travel souvenirs
10 ideas to decorate your home with travel photos and memories
Using travel souvenirs in your home to keep travel memories alive
How to make a travel photo book and other ideas for decorating with travel souvenirs

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