Since we’re not going anywhere, it’s time to organize our travel photos

If you’re like me, you’re probably doing a lot less travelling these days which makes it’s the ideal time to finally organize your massive collection of travel photos because what’s the use of saving them if you’re never going to look at them again?

These days, most of us take digital photos, post a few to social media and save hundreds, or more likely thousands more, that never see the light of day. Make it your goal to bring those hidden gems to the surface where you can see them again and enjoy memories of your past voyages.

There’s no one way to organize your photo collection, but a good place to start is by taking inventory of where all of your images are stored and work at centralizing disparate folders into a single collection. Once everything is in one place, it’s easier to start deleting the duds and duplicates and go through the hard work of categorizing everything.

Use software to get organized

Adobe Photoshop Elements

The key to sorting through your digital photo collection is software.  One of the best in this regard is Adobe Lightroom. It’s a fantastic program for editing and correcting photos, but also has built-in tools to organize everything into one easily browsable catalog. The downside to make it fully searchable is that you need to write captions or tag your photos in order to find things quickly.

The learning curve for Lightroom can be steep, so many people opt instead for Adobe Photoshop & Premiere Elements, a more user-friendly program that makes it easy to not only organize your photo collection, but your videos as well.

Another tool that I use is Google Photos. This free service lets you store as many photos as you want on their cloud servers, although not at full resolution. Where it’s powerful is that you can search your collection by keyword, like you would any Google search, and it will display the most likely photos you’re looking for. I look at the date the photo was taken,  then turn to my Lightroom to find the high-resolution version that I need.

$73 on Amazon.ca

Transform your analog photos to digital

If you’ve got travel photos that were taken in the pre-digital age as slides or prints or maybe ones taken by your parents or grandparents, then they’re probably gathering dust in a shoebox somewhere. Digitize them with an affordable scanner in order to bring them back into the light. The Magnasonic All-in-One High Resolution Film Scanner is a good choice as it can not only convert slides and negatives in a variety of formats ranging from 35mm to 126 and 110, but it does it all with a built-in memory of 128 Mb along with a 2.4″ LCD screen where you can preview your scans. 

For scanning prints, you may already have a printer with a built-in scanner, but I like to use Google’s free PhotoScan app on my smartphone which is a quick-and-dirty scanner that cleverly takes four photos of a print which is how it reduces any glare from the photo’s glossy surface.

$115 on Amazon.ca

Get your photos framed

Aura digital photo frameDigital photo frames have come a long way since they were first introduced. If you gave up on those first-generation devices with their low-resolution screens and clunky interfaces, then you haven’t been keeping up with the times. Digital photo frames now have screens with incredible clarity and resolution and use internet-connected cloud services from which to draw your images. A great example is the Aura Mason Smart Digital Picture Frame. For what it’s worth, it’s a brand endorsed by Oprah and is a great way to enjoy your photos that would otherwise be forgotten. It’s also a good gift for relatives as you can share photos with them via the internet. 

I also like to print out annual photo books with my best photos as they’ll probably survive longer than any digital versions. There are numerous companies that can do it and I haven’t found any substantial difference between them so I just search for whoever’s currently offering savings coupons for their photobooks.

$259 on Amazon.ca

Get backed up

TerraMaster NASCentralizing all of your digital photos into one place is definitely convenient, but if the hard drive where they are stored has a catastrophic failure or is damaged in a fire or flood, then you’ll lose everything. It’s a good idea to have a backup drive on your home network that has a duplicate copy of all of your photos. A simple external hard drive is good enough for many people, but I use a TerraMaster F2-210 2-Bay NAS device which has space for two hard drives, one of which is a copy of the other so if one fails, the other will survive.

While putting a local backup option in place is good, it’s probably a good idea to pair that with an online storage service. I mentioned Google Photos above. While it has a free option to store unlimited web-resolution photos, they can store all of your images at full resolution, but you’ll pay a monthly fee depending on how much storage space you use. It’s not a lot of money and is a good insurance plan in order to keep your precious memories safe.

$200 on Amazon.ca

Hit the road with these 10 travel-themed board games

Long before the pandemic lockdown hit, I’ve been a big fan of board games and a group of us having been meeting monthly for the past 15 years (without missing a single month!) to play the latest games we’ve discovered.

In an effort to stay socially distanced, we’ve been using Tabletop Simulator to connect regularly and still play board games, except in a virtual setting. One of the hidden blessings is that it enables us to discover new board games more easily and inexpensively.

While there’s definitely a trend towards naming games after places like Jaipur, Puerto Rico, Carcassone and Istanbul (all of which are excellent) or to feature maps, like Pandemic, Risk and Settlers of Catan (an equally great selection), there aren’t really that many games that have travel themes. Several have come and gone, but board games are a competitive business and titles rarely see a second printing if they fail to catch on.

Fortunately, there are a few titles that capture the magic of travel so if you’re looking for some new board games to discover and play with your friends and family then check these ones out:

Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride board game
[Photo via Amazon.ca]
Ticket to Ride is a fun family game that has players competing against each other to be the first to complete train routes across North America. It’s a colourful, card-collecting game that is easy to learn and fun to play. It has proven so popular that Days of Wonder, the game’s publisher, has several spin-off titles with different maps and modes of transport like trains across Europe and Japan or multi-mode travel in New York and London.

$73 on Amazon.ca

Planes

Planes board game
[Photo via Amazon.ca]
Mancala is one of the world’s oldest games and countless varieties have sprung up over the centuries in many different cultures so it’s no surprise that we’re still playing it in the 21st century and that it has been updated with an airliner theme. Planes is a quick game to play and easy to grasp, but has enough subtle strategies to ensure many replays.

$42 on Amazon.ca

Mille Bornes

Mille Bornes card game
[Photo via Amazon.ca]
So far I’ve listed games about planes and trains, so I guess the next should be about automobiles. Mille Bornes is a classic card game that has players competing to be the first to drive 1,000 kilometres. Originally designed in France in the 1950s, the game is actually a copy of an earlier American game, Touring, that dates back to the 1920s.

$40 on Amazon.ca

Mississippi Queen

Mississippi Queen board game
[Photo via Amazon.ca]
So that’s planes, trains and automobiles covered, so let’s talk about a boat game.  Mississippi Queen has players racing their paddle-wheelers down the Mississippi River, picking up passengers along the way, but all while managing their coal supplies and navigating the tricky waterways before them. The game’s modular map means every game is unique.

$68 on Amazon.ca

Tokaido

Tokaido board game
[Photo via Amazon.ca]
If you like the award-winning game 7 Wonders, then you’ll like Tokaido, a wonderful travel-themed game by the same designer. While the game is a visual treat, it also features memorable game mechanics as players take on the roles of travellers crossing Japan’s magnificent East sea road. The traveller who discovers the most interesting and varied things in his journey is the winner. 

$50 on Amazon.ca

Backpacker

Backpacker card game
[Photo via Amazon.ca]
Anyone’s who’s ever gone backpacking will enjoy Backpacker, a light card game that has players competing to be the one who returns home with the most photos. Along the way, they get to visit different countries and cultures, enjoy beaches, go trekking, spot wildlife and meet other travellers who give them good and bad advice, all while trying to avoid getting sick or missing their planes. It would be a fun game to give to someone who’s about to go on an around-the-world trip, although a pack of regular playing cards is probably a better choice. 

$30 on Amazon.ca

The Voyages of Marco Polo

Voyages of Marco Polo board game
[Photo via Amazon.ca]
Marco Polo is a little more complicated than some of the games I’ve mentioned so far, but if you like worker placement games with lots of dice rolling, then this one’s for you. Players roll their dice to send travellers out to discover new cities while collecting and managing resources to complete contracts for victory points and more resources. Every player has his or her own unique power which helps randomize things even more and make it even more fun to play. 

$70 on Amazon.ca

Easy Breezy Travel Agency

Easy Breezy Travel Agency game
[Photo via Amazon.ca]
I don’t know if I’d want to be a travel agent right now, but wouldn’t mind being one in a board game. In this light game, the players are the top agents of Sheboygan’s own Easy Breezy Travel Agency. Each is competing to send their customers on exciting trips, keeping them happy and collecting big, fat commissions. 

$22 on Amazon.ca

Scotland Yard

Scotland yard board game
[Photo via Amazon.ca]
Scotland Yard has become something of a modern classic. One of the players takes on the role of the criminal mastermind Mister X while the others are detectives of Scotland Yard who must chase him through the streets of London before he escapes justice.  Players use travel tickets to chase him by taxi, bus, and underground, around Picadilly Circus, along the River Thames, and through Paddington Station.

$46 on Amazon.ca

Sagrada

Sagrada board game
[Photo via Amazon.ca]
The Sagrada Família in Barcelona is Antoni Gaudí ‘s masterpiece, but the cathedral has yet to be finished. It is hoped to finally be done by 2026, the centenary of his death. Imagine you’re part of the team finishing the cathedral in this game that has you playing the role of a skilled artisan building  a stained glass window in the church. Sagrada is visually beautiful and features unique mechanics that make it a lot of fun to play.  There’s even a solo mode so you can play it during lockdown if you have no one else to play with!

$50 on Amazon.ca

Do you have a favourite board game, even one that’s not travel-related? Let us know in the comments!

These 12 road-tested gadgets will make your summer road trips even more enjoyable

Road trips are in vogue again thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Domestic destinations have become a lot more attractive as international travel has been severely curtailed to many locations thanks and they are a lot more affordable, especially with so many people taking pay cuts, being furloughed or simply laid off. Who knows, people may just discover that they enjoy road tripping. I know I do.

Personally, I grew up on epic road trips, My parents schlepped us to every corner of North America. We drove from Montreal to Mexico in a Ford Falcon, then continued our journeys in a Ford Pinto and eventually started camping in a GMC Econoline van which took us across the continent more than once. I guess we were living the #vanlife even before it had a hashtag.

I’ve driven across Canada and the United States with my own family in tow and have explored many obscure corners by car so consider myself something of a veteran roadtripper. If you’re new at it, here are some tools and gadgets that you might considering getting to make your life on the road just a little bit easer:

Stay on track with a dedicated GPS

[Photo by Amazon]
Yes, you can mount your smartphone and use any number of free, GPS apps to help you navigate while you’re driving, but keeping your phone charged and having to unmount it when you need to use it for something else can be a chore. That’s why I still prefer a dedicated GPS unit and have always been a fan of TomTom’s devices. Their TomTom Go 520 is a nice choice. It connects to wi-fi so it’s easy to keep the maps up-to-date and can be paired with your phone for hands-free calling and integrates with Siri or Google Now for internet searching on the go.

$251 on Amazon.ca

Get a paper map for when technology fails you

Rand McNally road atlas
[Photo by Amazon]
Speaking of navigating, there’s something to be said for having an analog backup when your technology fails as it did to me years ago when my GPS unit died outside of Chicago. I had no data on my phone, no map and had a lot of fun finding my hotel without my electronic helper. That’s why I like to plan my itinerary on a map first so that I can still get to where I’m going when things go wrong and can double-check that my computer isn’t navigating me into a field or off of a bridge.  Road Atlases exist for individual states and provinces, for national parks or scenic drives, but I’ve also been a fan of the Rand McNally Road Atlas which covers virtually all of Canada and the United States.

$33 on Amazon.ca

Record the view for posterity with a dashcam

[Photo by Amazon]
Too busy driving to enjoy the scenery or simply don’t want to stop every two minutes to take a photo? Get a dashcam to capture video of the roads you travel. Easy to install and remarkably inexpensive, these little cameras can capture incredible detail. Ostensibly, they are for recording traffic accidents, but the footage is nice enough that you’ll want to splice together the best scenes to make a video to relive the highlights of your road trip. There are a million makes and models, some with cameras that record the passengers, the rear view and the scene ahead, but I like mine simple like this one that’s a bestseller on Amazon.

$60 on Amazon.ca

Keep your food cool with an electric cooler

[Photo by Amazon]
Every time gas prices rise, people predict how it will scare people away from travelling by car, but the reality is that gasoline is one of the cheapest expenses on a family road trip. The biggest costs are food and lodging and if you’re travelling with teenagers, it’s definitely food. For that reason, avoiding restaurants when you can is definitely a bonus. Eat the free hotel breakfast, then equip yourself with an electric cooler that you can plug into your cigarette lighter to preserve food you buy at the local supermarket. You’ll be able to move it into your hotel room and prepare meals in the microwave or make yourself picnic lunches by the sea. My go-to cooler for years has been the Koolatron 36-quart Kool Kaddy cooler. Mine has lasted for ages with no fuss or muss and can store a surprisingly large amount of food. You can leave it running in your car for three or four hours without it running down your car battery.

$118 on Amazon.ca

Tame your electronics with the right charger

[Photo by Amazon]
Keeping all of your in-car electronics powered with just a single lighter socket is an impossible task, but this splitter makes it a cinch. It turns one socket into three so you can have your GPS, cooler and dashcam always plugged in and the three built-in USB outlets means you can power up your smartphones, tablets and any other gadgets you’ve packed. There’s even a LED reading that shows you the power it’s pulling, has individual switches to turn on and off each socket and is designed to fit snugly into one of your cup holders. It’s a must-have even when you’re travelling around town.

$27 on Amazon.ca

Give your eyes a break with a good pair of sunglasses

[Photo by Amazon]
Long hours at the wheel can be tiring on the eyes, especially in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is low in the sky. A good pair of sunglasses are a must when you drive and it never hurts to have multiple pairs in case you break or lose a set. These polarized glasses from Duco with their carbon-fibre arms are nice because their design is timeless and they are lightweight enough that you won’t mind wearing them for hours at a time.

$45 on Amazon.ca

Can’t find a hotel? Sleep in your car, but do it in style

[Photo by Amazon]
Want to avoid the high price of hotels or simply want to avoid them because you’re worried about the ‘rona? Camping is an option, but not everybody wants to drive an RV, pull a trailer or even pitch a tent. Why not sleep in your car? If you’ve got an SUV, stow your luggage in the front seat, recline the back seat and cover it with an inflatable, two-person mattress especially designed for sleeping in your vehicle.

$79 on Amazon.ca

A portable air compressor can be a life saver

[Photo by Amazon]
Having to fix a flat tire by the side of the road is never fun. Paying for roadside assistance can be worth it when things go wrong, but maybe you’d rather roll the dice and save a few bucks. Use the money you saved to buy a portable air compressor which will let you fill a flat tire sufficiently to get you to a service station or a safer place than a highway to install your spare tire. It won’t work for blowouts, but is ideal for slow leaks and small punctures. On the plus side, you can also use it to inflate bicycle tires, air mattresses, balls and other recreation items you may be packing with you on your trip or back at home.

$58 on Amazon.ca

Mount the screen in the backseat where everyone can see it

[Photo by Amazon]
Never mind those expensive backseat entertainment systems. A cheap tablet or smartphone will keep the little ones entertained in between games of eye-spy and punch buggy. The trick is finding the right mount to keep the device suspended for two or more backseat passengers to watch movies at the same time.  This mount is kid-tested and parented approved. It can be placed behind one seat for a single passenger or put in the middle for multiple viewers and is designed to fit devices ranging in width from 4.5” to 10”.

$41 on Amazon.ca

Get a pet hammock when you’re travelling with furry friends

[Photo by Amazon]
Maybe you’re travelling with a fur baby in your car instead of an actual baby. In that case, you might think of one of these handy pet hammocks. They can be used to line the back of your vehicle, placed on top of your rear seat or configured as a hammock that protects the entire back-seat area and provides your pet with a comfortable living space while you drive away the miles between pit stops.

$30 on Amazon.ca

Tame the trash with a garbage can for your car

[Photo by Amazon]
Spend enough time in your car and it can quickly turn into a trash can as wrappers, cups and other detritus start to pile up. Tame the trash with an in-car garbage can. This dedicated refuse receptacle is designed for cars and a lot tidier than a plastic shopping bag.

$19 on Amazon.ca

Not every game has to be electronic to be fun

[Photo by Amazon]
Your kids will likely anesthetize themselves with the video games on their phones, but get them to interact with the rest of the family with some old-fashioned, analog games. Our family has invented a few over the years, but there are books, board games and card games available to keep everyone entertained when the data signal cuts out.  Games on the Go! promises 50 games to keep everyone amused on long car trips.

$13 on Amazon.ca

10 can’t-miss, wedding-gift ideas for couples who love to travel

Summer time is almost upon us which means it’s wedding season, but because of the ongoing pandemic, some couples are postponing their nuptials indefinitely, while others are going ahead with the marriage, but delaying the reception until a future date.

If you’re in need of some wedding gift ideas for couples that love to travel, here are some foolproof suggestions for you.

Hudson’s Bay point blanket

[Photo by Amazon.ca]
As a Canadian, my go-to wedding present is a pure wool, Hudson’s Bay point blanket. Strictly speaking it may not be travel-themed, but if you think of the remote trading outposts where the company originally set up shop and the voyageurs who travelled across distant stretches of this country, then you could probably make a case. Whatever, it’s a quality item that will be welcome on cold winter’s nights and durable enough that it will last generations.

$595 on Amazon.ca

Travel-themed door mat

[Photo by Amazon.ca]
For the couple’s new home, think of a door mat that will signal to the world their love for travel. This mat features a map of the world and greetings in multiple languages. It’s pretty enough that they just might be reluctant to wipe their feet on it!

$44 on Amazon.ca

Map of the world wall decoration and clocks

[Photo by Jet Set Generation]
Another house-themed gift is this impressive wall decoration that consists of a map of the world that displays several clocks showing different time zones which can be customized to reflect parts of the world that are special to them. It is perfect for the living room of any traveller.

$63 on Jet Set Generation

Uber gift card

[Photo by Amazon.ca]
When in doubt, a gift card is always appreciated and many travel brands offer them including airlines and hotels.  If you’re not sure of their favourites, then an Uber gift card is a good compromise as it will help pay for their transportation to and from the airport just about everywhere they go.

$Variable on Amazon.ca

Leather passport wallets

[Photo by Amazon.ca]
Passports are valuable items that need to be protected which is why these attractive leather wallets are ideal gifts for newlywed travellers. Not only are they smart looking, but are practical and their RFID-blocking qualities will appeal to those who value their privacy. Get one for each of them and choose different colours. They can decide who gets which.

$61 on Amazon.ca

Matching luggage tags

[Photo by Amazon.ca]
Mr. and Mrs. luggage tags are a cute touch for couples heading out for a honeymoon.  Shopping for a same-sex couple? Just buy two sets and give them the appropriate tags!

$21 on Amazon.ca

Luggage set for honeymooners

[Photo by Amazon.ca]

Chances are whatever luggage your couple owns is in need of an upgrade and if they’re still checking in their luggage, it’s time to convince them to go carry-on only. Savvy travellers can pack a lot into a small bag and few are as flexible as the Travelpro Crew Versapack 22″ Max Exp Rollaboard. Buy a matching set for them and they’ll never need to buy another bag again, at least until the baggage handlers lose them.

$190 on Amazon.ca

A book for trip inspiration

[Photo by Amazon.ca]
Until such time that we’re all travelling again with the same ease that we did before coronavirus, many travellers have become armchair travellers. Give them inspiration with coffee-table books like Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel, a ranked list of 500 of the world’s most unmissable sights as chosen by their global community of travel experts.

$36 on Amazon.ca

Couple’s bucket list journal

[Photo by Amazon.ca]
Not interested in someone else’s bucket list? Let them create their own with this unique journal that lets the couple list all of the places they want to go and all of the things they want to do together in the years ahead.

$10 on Amazon.ca

Kindle eBook readers

[Photo by Amazon.ca]

Yes, you can read on your phone, but there’s nothing better than reading a book on the beach. The thing is, books are bulky and take up valuable luggage space. Free them from the tyranny of paper with a pair of Kindle paperwhite book readers. Their waterproof so they are perfect for reading on the beach, by the pool or in the bath.

$120 on Amazon.ca

 

13 sure-fire Father’s Day gift ideas for dads who like to travel

Father’s Day is fast approaching and if you haven’t already bought a gift to give to him on that special day, then I’ve got a bunch of travel-inspired gift ideas for you. As I’m a dad and a traveller, I think I’m especially qualified to offer advice on what to get him and seeing that many of us aren’t so keen on going outdoors to shop in the real world, all of these items can be purchased online.

Globe-etched drinking glasses

[Photo by Amazon.ca]
If your father enjoys sipping a beverage or two, especially an aged whiskey from some distant land, then he’ll dig these rounded drinking glasses that are etched with an image the globe on them.

$94 on Amazon.ca

Viking-inspired drinking horn

[Photo by Amazon.ca]
Are etched drinking glasses too conventional for your father? What about a drinking flagon made out of a horn? It’s perfect not only for Father’s Day, but also for Ragnarok!

$58 on Amazon.ca

Hand-etched, city-map coasters

[Photo by Amazon.ca]
If your mother is always yelling at your father for leaving rings on the coffee table with his drinking glasses, then it’s time to get him one of these attractive wooden coaster sets with city maps etched into them. You can choose from more than 100 different cities including Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

$35 on Amazon.ca

Unbreakable sunglasses

[Photo by Amazon.ca]
If your father is like me, then he goes through sunglasses like nobody’s business. Get him these unbreakable sunglasses and maybe you won’t have to buy him a new set next year. Not unless he loses them, which he probably will. At least then you’ll know what to get him next time.

$34 on Amazon.ca

Smart Luggage ID Tags with Lifetime Global Recovery Service

[Photo by Amazon.ca]
ReturnMe helps return your lost luggage to you with these smart luggage tags, promising service for life. These tags are especially attractive if your father doesn’t relish the idea of putting all of his personal information on a luggage tag for all the world to see. These tags have a special id code that finders can use to track down the bag’s owner via the ReturnMe website.

$10 on Amazon.ca

Camouflage toiletry bag

[Photo by Amazon.ca]
The enemy will never see your Dad shaving if he’s outfitted with this cool-looking, camo toiletry bag. If camouflage is not his thing, then Kemy’s has several other attractive styles available to match any dad’s style.

$29 on Amazon.ca

Military-inspired canvas duffel backpack

[Photo by Jet Set Generation]
There’s a reason that duffel bags have been popular for so long. They are perfect for people whose packing style is to cram everything in until it fits. Durable and spacious, this military-inspired duffel backpack will become your father’s favourite.

$30 on Jet Set Generation

Traveller’s roll-up backgammon set

[Photo by Amazon.ca]
Portable chess sets are pretty common, but why not pack a backgammon set instead? Perfect for whiling away the hours waiting at the airport instead of gazing at your phone, these roll-up sets from Pendelton’s are lightweight and easy to store.

$52 on Amazon.ca

Wireless noise-cancelling earphones

[Photo by Amazon.ca]
Earphones are a must-have accessory for travellers these days and these portable beauties not only offer big sound in a tiny package, but their noise-cancelling properties are welcome on noisy airplanes or in noisy hotel rooms, at least when the day comes that we can all travel again. Until then, dad can use them to tune out people at home.

$63 on Amazon.ca

Activity tracker

[Photo by Amazon.ca]
Help dad stay in shape with this inexpensive, yet feature-packed, fitness tracker that looks as good as it is easy use. It’s so easy that you might not have to set it up for him. Okay, no guarantees on that.

$50 on Amazon.ca

Army-inspired wristwatch

[Photo by Zero Hour Watches]
If activity trackers are too high-tech, then you can’t go wrong with a wristwatch. They may be artifacts from an analog age, but they still look great and you don’t have to pull your phone out of your pocket every 10 seconds to tell the time. This classic design takes its cue from military field watches and will last for years to come.

$100 on Zero Hour Watches

Travel book for travel inspiration

[Photo by Amazon.ca]
Most travellers don’t actually need much inspiration to travel, but this fantastic book from Lonely Planet goes one step beyond. Offering insights into every nation on Earth, your dad may announce that his new goal in life is to visit every country in the world. You can buy it in hardcover, softcover or digital. You may want to buy yourself a copy.

$43 on Amazon.ca

Travel stub diary

[Photo by Amazon.ca]
Some dads (I’m guilty!) love to hang on to all of the paper ephemera that they collect while travelling. Things like train tickets, city maps, luggage tags and so on are tangible reminders of the places we’ve been. Help him keep track of those mementos with this handy scrapbook.

$21 on Amazon.ca