The safest way to never lose your important vacation pictures

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Summer is almost here, time to do some traveling! When you’re on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, and taking hundreds (or thousands) of pictures, one of the worst things that could happen is for you to lose those pictures. How could this happen, and how can this be prevented?

vacation photos


Here are a few ways this could happen:

  • You drop your digital camera in the water.
  • Your camera gets stolen.
  • Your camera gets left behind in the hotel room and the staff checks and can’t find it.
  • Your camera’s memory card gets corrupted.
  • You accidentally delete the pictures you intended to save.

Of course there are other bad things that can happen to electronics while traveling, but you get the idea. A lot can happen, and the risk of loss is pretty high since these photographs are essentially irreplaceable.

But there’s a simple process you can use that will virtually guarantee the safety of your pictures.

First, you will need a few things:

1. A memory card for each day of your actual vacation. 10 day vacation, 8 memory cards (assuming the first and last days are spent in transit). If you use SD cards that are 8 GB in size, and your pictures are 10 mb each or less, that means you can take 800 pictures each day. Cost of 8 of these memory cards: around $50.

vacation photos


2. A laptop computer. I’m going to assume you already own one.

vacation photos


3. A portable USB drive. If you don’t already have one, this is something you can use at home even after you are done traveling. These are about the size of a pack of cigarettes, and the only cable is the one that plugs into the USB port of your laptop. If you get a 1 TB drive, that will provide more than enough storage space. Cost: about $55.

vacation photos


Here’s the strategy you use for taking pictures each day:

1. Spend the day having fun and taking as many pictures as you want.

2. At the end of the day, connect your camera to your laptop and COPY the pictures to a folder named “Day 1”. It’s important that you do not move the pictures, you just want to copy them. Now the pictures are still on the memory card in your camera, and they are also on your laptop. You would do the same thing the next day, using a folder called “Day 2”.

3. After you have copied the pictures to the “daily” folder on the laptop, connect the USB portable drive to your computer and copy the folder of pictures from the laptop to the portable drive. Then disconnect the portable drive and put it back in your suitcase or in the hotel room safe. At this point your pictures for that day are in 3 places: the memory card, your laptop, and the portable drive.

4. Take the memory card out of your camera and put it in a safe place, such as a small envelope inside a purse. Then put the next day’s memory card in the camera and you’re ready to get started the next morning, capturing a bunch of new memories for that day.

As you read through the steps detailed above, it might seem like this is a big hassle and too inconvenient. But in reality, it just takes a few minutes at the end of the day and after a couple of days it will be such an easy routine you won’t even think about it being a bother.

So if you accidentally leave your camera behind and never see it again, who cares. You have the pictures on your laptop and external drive.

If you lose your camera AND drop your laptop in the ocean, you still have the pictures on your external drive.

If you lose your camera, AND your laptop, AND your external drive, you still have all the originals on the individual memory cards.

That might seem like overkill or paranoia, but consider the alternative. You just get a 64 gb camera memory card and take a few hundred pictures each day, just adding them to that same card continually. This means all of your 800 pictures are all on that one card, in that one device. You take one last picture on the airplane flight as you head home, and stick the camera in the seatback pouch in front of you. As you are driving home from the airport, you remember it – but it’s never found. That’s when you would wish you had been a little more “paranoid”.

This is all based on the assumption that you are using a digital camera to take all these pictures. If you use your phone, you could actually use the same process and just pop a different memory card in your phone each day. But you can also set up a process so that whenever you take a picture on your phone, it’s automatically uploaded to Dropbox or Google Drive or some other online storage service. But uploading to the cloud assumes you have internet access, which may not be the case depending on how remote your vacation destination is.

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