It’s easy to relive your RV travel memories by publishing your own DIY memory book.

Don’t let those precious camping and RV travel memories languish in the dark recesses of your phone’s hard drive, publish the best ones in a book for everyone to enjoy. Designing and publishing your own little photo book is easy and inexpensive.

As much as I’d like to say only serious professional photojournalists can be called documentary photographers, we are all documentary photographers. Sure, we’re not capturing the honors of war, strife, or social injustice issues for the world to see, but we are still documenting an important slice of our lives in pictures.

Official travel photographer.

Really, it’s been like that for years. I remember growing up, going on family vacations back in the old days, Mom was the documentary travel photographer and Dad was the driver.

Mom carried the Instamatic camera loaded with a roll of black and white or color film. She wisely conserved that precious film, only snapping a picture when the vacation moment was important enough to capture with one click, and only one click.

We all waited with anticipation for the roll of film to return to the drug store or drive-through kiosk so we could look at the 3-inch by 5-inch prints and relive those captured memories, if the pictures actually turned out, that is!

Those snapshots would be pasted into a photo album. The albums usually sat stacked under an end table in the living room readily available to thumb through.

When was the last time you actually looked at your pictures?

One way we have found to showcase our RVing adventures and keep the memories alive for us and other family members is by self-publishing small, soft-cover photo book. And it’s much easier to do than you probably think.

These days, we snap hundreds of images with our smart photos or digital cameras. Most if not all of those pictures never leave the storage drives of those devices. What a shame.

I envision having a dedicated slot on the living room bookshelf for these little memory books of all our adventures. Returning from our epic 11 state, 5,000-mile RV road trip out west in 2020, we for sure wanted to make a book featuring some of the top photos from the trip.

The nice thing is you don’t have print hundreds of books, unless you want. You can print one or two if that’s all you need. Of course, the price for a one-off book is going to be more than if you printed hundreds. But the fact you aren’t stuck with dozens of boxes of extra copies you don’t need is worth a small upcharge in price.

There are a number of companies that will print you book. Some of the popular ones include Shutterfly, Snapfish, Chatbooks, Blurb, Walmart, and Walgreens. (We’ll link these at the end of the article) These companies all have easy to use free websites for uploading your digital images and designing how you want your finished book to look.

Facebook will even gather all the images you post during the year on their social media platform and put them into a book for you. The service is called Resnap and through your Facebook account can automatically turn your memories into a hard-cover book. Prices start at around $19.

There are several sizes you can choose, as well as hard cover or soft covers, standard binding, or lay-flat premium binding. The choice is yours. The minimum number of pages for any book is 20 pages. You can add more pages at additional cost. The end cost of your book will depend on all these options. As an example, prices for a 20-page, 8-inch by 8-inch softcover book average around $30.

Putting it all in print.

If you are not a book design expert, don’t worry. Most of the websites feature templates and themes that allow you to drop in your images and let the software do the rest. If you are a scrapbooker, crafter or have background in graphic design and publication layout, these programs are a great outlet for your creativity.

For our books, we use Blurb. I have years of newspaper, magazine photography and page design background, even owning and publishing a small community news magazine for several years. Blurb also has templates that can be utilized to make a book, but I prefer to design the books myself.

Remember, it’s not all about the pictures. Adding captions, brief antidotes or accounts of the activities and experiences are important in the book, too. These stories also help bringing back memories of the RV camping trip

Keep a detailed travel photo journal

One method of arranging the trip pictures in the book is by chronological order – from pulling out of the driveway to when you park the rig back home again. If you do this method, we find it’s a lot easier to figure out when and where photos were snapped by keeping a detail travel and photo journal.

Looking back at our images, many times we’re left scratching our heads trying the figure out where we snapped the picture. After a three-week road trip, it’s difficult to remember exactly where we stop overnight, spotting a quirky roadside tourist attraction or saw that epic sunset.

Writing down the dates, times, location or GPS coordinates, weather, why we stopped, what campground was it, etc. is vital to putting together a well detailed and accurate account of your journeys.

Organize your images.

The hardest part was culling down the hundreds of digital images snapped during the journey to a couple dozen “top” photos that really captured the trip. For our Out West trip photos, I created subfolders within the main trip folder. I separated the photos by each state we drove through or stopped at for the night. So, for this book the folders were named “Beginning MN -ND,” “Montana – Idaho,” “Nevada,” and “California.” I also created folders for the return trip destinations such as “Arizona-Utah,” and “Return” for the photos snapped during the very “serious” nearly non-stop driving from Colorado to get back home.

Once that challenge was completed, I placed the main trip folder with its included on the computer’s desktop for easy access when dragging and dropping photos into the pages of your book.

Photos contained in these folders aren’t sacred. I went back and forth looking for forgotten images that were needed to illustrate the storyline. Some of the early picks never made the cut into the book. Like me, you’ll find that the pages fill up very quickly. I actually kept adding pages to the book so I could get everything into the finished book.

Putting it all together.

My advice is to start small for your first attempt at these books. The book will go together faster, and the cost will be very cheap. As you get better at putting the books together, you can tackle the higher page count volumes with confidence.

For an epic cross county trip like our Wild West Tour, you can expect the page count to be higher than a quick weekend camping trip to the lake, but no less epic. I recommend starting with the minimum 20 pages as your first book.

Use the premade templates included with the book software to start with. Just drop the photos into the predesignated boxes. It’s easy to copy, paste and place text and headlines, too. You will also need to make a front and back cover for your book. Give the book a descriptive title and pick one cover photo that sums up this particular RV camping trip.

When putting images and text on the pages, remember to vary the size of the photos and the placement of text or caption blocks and headlines.

I tend to make the “money shot” larger on the page, with one or two supporting images smaller in size if desired.

It’s easy to adjust the size or location of the photos with the page design software. It’s basically click and drag. Text blocks are the same. If you follow the website design instructions, there are no surprises. What you see on the screen is what your book will look like. Just make sure you keep photos and text within the designated page borders and you’re good to go. And proofread your copy for typos!

So have fun. Don’t stress over the first book you create. It’s recommended to print one book for your first time. When you get it back from the printer, give it a careful once-over. See any errors or things you could have done better? Go back into your account and redo do the book fixing the boo-boos. Then when it’s looking good, print multiple copies so you can share with family and friends.

But sure to share your books with us in the comments. We’d love to see what you did and where you traveled to!

Here are some links to some of the most popular photo book self-publishing websites.

Leave a Reply