What are you going to do with your summer vacation pictures? A lot of our pictures get stuck on our phones or our hard drives or in cloud storage somewhere. We share them immediately on Facebook or text a great shot to somebody, but what about long term? Photobooks are so easy to make these days, and it’s a great way to share your pictures. The problem is time.

Even though photobooks are easy to make, it can take time, so many of us put it off. Then we feel like we need to play catch up and get overwhelmed. Let’s make photobooks easier and better—it starts with done is better than perfect.

Create a Summer Vacation Photobook

If you have a backlog of photos to create into photo books, try making one just of your summer vacation. Just get that done. I find taking one step at a time helps me get started and lose the overwhelm.

Some of my favorite sites for photobooks are:

Pro tip: Many sites periodically offer discounts on photobooks. Instead of waiting for one and then scrambling to get your book done before the deadline, get the book done when you have time. Then you can decide if you want to print or wait for a sale. (Unless you thrive under a deadline and that’s the kick you need to get it done. In that case keep your eyes peeled for sales or discounts.)

4 Steps to Move Your Photobook Forward

You’ll have choices for page size, cover type, perhaps a theme. You’ll need to decide which pictures to use. The key is not to overthink it. Make a decision and keep going. There are no wrong choices here. Whatever you choose you and your family will have a physical reminder of your precious memories.

The most time consuming part is often choosing your pictures. Look through your vacation pictures. Trash any terrible shots. Then let everyone in the family flag their favorites.

Often times you can upload the pictures you want to use and have them set up randomly in a book. From that you can make adjustments, but it makes creating each page less painstaking.

On the other hand, you may enjoy the process of reliving the memories as you go through page by page, creating each layout. Know yourself, and remember the goal: get it done.

Use Photobooks to Share Stories

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I’d argue that the words matter too. Here are two ways to use photobooks to capture stories.

  • Use the photobooks to launch stories. If you decide to let the photos speak for themselves, use the books to spark memories and shared stories. Sit down with your kids at bedtime and look through the book, taking turns telling a favorite story. Pull out a photobook from a few years ago and see what stories your family still laughs over.
  • Write the stories in the book. Instead of a highlight reel of what you did, try writing specific stories about your vacation.

    If you capture your kids with every Disney character while at the park, you’ll see at a glance who you met. What you might not see is the way your five-year old approached tentatively the first day, shyly hanging back behind his big sister, but was barrelling into them for a big hug by day 3. That’s where words come in.

    Instead of captions, write the story. Go from “Drenched! We got caught in the rain on the trail” to “As we neared the summit, we started to hear a tap, tap, tap. Under the trees, we didn’t feel much, but as we stepped into a clearing, we were quickly drenched by the heavy rain. Hurrying back under a tree, we debated going on or turning back. We were so close. The kids said, “Keep going!” So we hurried to the summit, took a wet picture, and sloshed down the trail in our soggy boots, wet but smiling.”

Tap into sensory details. Include the little moments that made the trip memorable. Share something about what stands out or how you felt, what you want to remember about this particular moment in your life.

Taking the time to journal about your vacation and write your stories, will take more time, but it can make your photobooks even more meaningful. You don’t have to include everything you write, but writing will help you remember it too.

Try journaling on these prompts:

  • The thing I’ll remember most about this vacation is …
  • One thing my kids did that surprised me was …
  • 10 tiny moments I loved from this vacation …
  • It wasn’t funny at the time but …

You can add these reflections into your photobook as well. And you can make it a family activity to answer these questions together. Interview each person, have them write their thoughts or just have a big brainstorm over dinner or Sunday breakfast. Reliving the memories will bring back the happy feelings all over again. You can collect the answers and include everyone’s favorite memory. Imagine looking back on that 3 years from now – so much fun.

Most of all, think of your photobooks as a chance to share stories and memories, not as a chore on your to do list. It doesn’t have to be perfect or include every picture you took. You just want to capture your memories and be able to share them.

It’s a good habit to write your stories down. Save them in these photobooks. You’ll be surprised how much it means — to you the writer and to those who read it. Often the first step in saving family stories is learning them, which means asking questions. Here are 5 to get you started.

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