Printing Press: Preserving Travel Memories in Print

Printing Press: Preserving Travel Memories in Print

Thunder Bunny Labs photo map

After spending two weeks in Thailand with my son in 2003, I searched for a creative way to share with our family and friends the special travel memories we brought back. I was a passionate scrapbooker, but I knew it would be too time-consuming to create a handmade scrapbook for everyone on my list. And digital printing options were still pretty limited.

My Thailand Mini Photo Album

Instead, I purchased a half dozen 5×7-inch, fabric-covered photo albums made by DF Albums, Ltd. I filled them with 48 5×7 prints and 10 pages of inspirational quotes, stories and photo captions. While the mini albums were a hit, the generic cover gave no clue as to the contents. And the presentation of images was, well, limited.

Photo Books and Albums

Today’s photo book options are far from limited. They can turn any traveler into a self-published photographer and author. Even if you don’t make photo books in-store, there are no shortage of photo book suppliers you can affiliate with. They range from popular photo gift websites like Shutterfly and Mixbook to the growing field of professional digital publishers like Blurb. There are also high-end printing sites that create one-of-kind, handmade art books to commemorate special photographic memories.


Mixbook is one of the most popular photo gift sites. It was awarded best consumer photo book supplier by several reviewers. TopTenReviews cited its wide range of book sizes and creative options, high-quality paper and printing, and ease of use as determining factors in their selection.

Mixbook Mini Travel Book

With nearly 40 different travel layouts, Mixbook offers a large selection of travel book designs and ideas. Themes range from tropical beaches to camping, as well as theme parks, military travel and popular tourist destinations. Each design is fully customizable. Leslie Albertson, director of marketing, says the travel category is very popular, accounting for 28% of the photo books sold on

Most customers start with a blank canvas, so they can mix and match templates, graphics and typeface to design their ideal travel log. The website also provides an “Inspiration” section where visitors are encouraged to try new ideas, like creating a spring break “recap” book with Instagram photos. Professional graphic designers offer creative tips and design ideas to help customers create their keepsake.

A Mixbook Travel Photo Boo

In addition, an increasing number of self-publishing websites provide access to high-quality printing that used to be available only to large publishing companies.

Blurb offers photo book printing starting at $14.99 for 7×7-inch softcover books and going up to $58.99 for 13×11-inch landscape books similar to those published by Life magazine. The company also prints trade books and magazines—from single copies to high-volume orders.

The Blurb website provides several options for turning photos into printed media, including online ordering with predesigned layouts and a Blurb app for iPhone/iPad for 5×5- and 7×7-inch books. Moreover, BookWright is a free book-publishing software for Mac or PC that enables users to publish custom photo books, magazines and novels in print and ebook formats. The company also has PDF-to-book services and a Blurb plug-in for Adobe InDesign. Retailers can join Blurb’s affiliate program at


MILK is a premium printing supplier that offers everything from 5×7-inch postcards—a perfect medium to share travel photos—to fine art prints, moleskin notebooks and premium stitched hardcover books and albums. All MILK products are designed to be simple and elegant. They’re made with traditional high-quality materials that are perfect for customers who want elegant, one-of-kind presentations.

MILK Moleskin Notebooks

Canvas prints are output on acid-free canvas with six-color ink sets and have a longevity rating of 70–100+ years. MILK’s premium travel photo books are made from archival materials, including 100% recyclable paper stock and stitched bound hardcovers. Their website also features a “book of the month,” highlighting their favorite customer creations.

Wall Prints and Maps

Large-format wall prints have always been an attractive and dramatic way to share travel photography. Individual oversized prints or clusters of smaller images make beautiful presentations in both homes and businesses.

Fullerton Photo

Fullerton Photographics in Fullerton, California, offers acrylic-mounted prints. Owner Gabrielle Mullinax says they are the most popular new product at her lab. It is a process that involves adhering a high-quality photographic print to a sheet of clear plexiglass. The print is “face mounted” using a thin optically clear adhesive film.

Acrylic-mounted print from Fullerton Photographics

“It’s a painstaking process that must be done carefully to prevent air bubbles and dust from getting between the image and the plexiglass,” says Mullinax, “but the results are worth it.”

When properly applied, the acrylic helps prevent fading and gives the photograph a strong, clear protective cover. In addition, adding a backing material provides rigidity to the art. Images mounted on acrylic produce sharper blacks and more vibrant colors, making it ideal for colorful travel scenes.

Personalized photo wall maps are a less traditional display option for travel photography. Several Etsy stores offer their own designs. Maps by Angie, Thunder Bunny Labs and PaperRamma are just a few of the online artists that sell maps printed on different substrates. Some offer templates to print photos the customer adds to the layout, while others print images directly on the map.

Thunder Bunny Labs

Thunder Bunny Labs, founded in 2014 by Chris Dasbach, is an Etsy store that offers 24×36-inch maps of the U.S., Canada, Europe as well as other locations. These maps provide customers with an attractive display to exhibit their favorite travel photos. Each map has three layers: 1) a printed background that includes names and outlines of the states, provinces or countries; 2) a white mat board template, cut with outlines of each state, province or country; and 3) an outer border that serves as the top layer, trimmed to reveal the country or continent underneath and printed with adjacent water and land masses.

Thunder Bunny Labs U.S. Travel Map

The company also offers 50 U.S. state photo maps, available in 8×10-, 11×14- or 16×20-inch sizes. Like the larger maps, they have three layers. Two are cut in the shape of the individual state, and there is an uncut backing that is visible if no photo is displayed. Thunder Bunny Labs’ free online Map Maker software is provided for customers to upload and format their travel images. The software enables them to print the photos in the correct size and shape for placement. Moreover, all maps are sold with and without frames.

Whether you choose to partner with other suppliers or print your own photo products, make sure you reach out to your customers and give them as many options as possible to preserve and share their favorite travel memories.