Year-End Photo & Travel Maps

The end of the year provides an opportunity to reflect back on your experiences, travel destinations, and day-to-day happenings. There is no better way to capture memories than through photographs. One of our family traditions is creating individual slideshows that we share at the holidays. Putting together the slideshow is not a menial task. Of course it requires taking photos in the first place, organizing photos across your devices (camera, iPhone, family photos), getting rid of the non-useful ones (hello, iPhone screenshots), and putting them in order to tell a story. I highly suggest going digital with this activity (I use Adobe Lightroom), but creating photo books on a site like Shutterfly is another option. If you are ever feeling like your year was non-eventful, build a slideshow or photo book and you will be amazed at just how much you experienced and accomplished.

A snapshot of my 2018 Slideshow in Adobe Lightroom.

One of the ideas I had this year to elevate my slideshow was to build a visual and digital representation of the great places I visited. I love the idea of creating an annual travel map that I can save and refer back to at any moment. I always think I will remember where I have flown to and where I have stayed, but year over year, it becomes blurry. In the past, I’ve built an airport map on the Great Circle Mapper website. However, this site is limited to airports and is static once created. I wanted to expand my visual to include airports, hotels, cruise destinations, and campgrounds. So this year, I did some research and decided to build out my 2018 Travel Map with the Google ‘My Maps’ feature. If you are interested in doing something similar, below are the steps you can follow.

1. Go to Google Maps on your desktop or laptop computer and login to your account. Once logged in, click the 3-bar button on the top left, and select ‘Your places.’ Important note: while you can view your Maps on your iPhone/Android app, you cannot create a Map. You will need to do the creation step on a PC.


2. Click the ‘Maps’ tab, and then click ‘Create Map'.


3. Rename your map to whatever name you choose. Keep the year in the title for easy searching in the future. The layers feature allows you to add different types of icons to your map and label them accordingly.


4. Start building your layers and creating your locations. You can upload a Excel or CSV file of information or you can simply search for the location in the map search bar. If you search, select the plus sign next to the location to add it to your map. Once selected, you can also rename it. For example, when I added airports, I renamed the airport to be the airport code (i.e., CPH, ORD, etc.) to keep consistency across the map.


5. Continue adding locations to your layers. I used a different layer to denote airports, hotels, cruise locations, and campgrounds. Once you’ve added all your locations within each layer, choose the ‘Uniform style’ option which will ensure all icons placed on the map appear the same. From there, customize the icon and color by clicking the paint icon. Click on ‘Base Map’ at bottom of the screen to customize the color of your overall map.


Here’s a few screenshots of the layers close-up:


My favorite feature is the interactive globe view where all layers are combined. You can spin the world and see all the places you’ve gone. You can easily zoom in or out to see more details. AWESOME! To share the map, you can take screenshots to include in your slideshow or photo book or you can simply share it live on Google.


You can my view Get Out There 2018 Travel Map on my website.

The Google My Maps feature can be used for several different purposes. You can create location-specific travel itineraries where you leverage the layers to be days and include hotels, restaurants, and attractions. You could create one map that is your comprehensive travel map (all countries, cities you’ve ever been). If you use Google Photos, you can add your photos to each location on your map.

Additionally, Google Maps has a feature called ‘Timeline’ where if you allow Google to follow your location by setting Location Settings to ‘Always’ on your iPhone, then it will automatically record the locations you’ve visited. You can easily search by month, year, or day to see your location history. The downside of this approach is Google tracking your every move. However, it is an option to consider!

For 2019, I am going to test out the ‘Timeline’ feature on Google Maps, but also proactively build ‘My Map’ throughout the year, so it will be ready once the year-end comes around. I am also committed to reviewing and organizing my photos on a monthly basis to make the year-end slideshow creation more efficient. Whatever you choose, I hope you take this opportunity to reflect back on your adventures in 2018 and make a plan for how you will capture 2019 memories to come. It’s never too late to start!