Storing Travel Photos, Let Us Count The Ways

In the olden days of storing travel photos when hard drive memory filled up, travelers turned to a variety of external storage devices to manage the shots they had take along the way. Zip Drives, Memory Sticks, DVDs and other forms of storage have all had their day. Today, a variety of storage devices, cloud storage like Google Drive and even social media oriented storage options offer more choices than ever. But which is right for you? Let’s take a look at the options available right now.

External Hard Drives
External hard drives came down in price and up in storage – going from over $500 for a few
Gigabytes (GB) down to about $100 for a Terabyte (TB) of storage – and still offer an affordable option. iPhone users can turn to Apple’s Time Capsule with continuous backup of their Macs and 2 or 3TB of storage. Western Digital, among other manufacturers, offers up to 16TB of storage. Nice to know: lots of space for storing travel photos, but not convenient to take on the road.

Flash Drives
Moving and sharing photos became easier too with flash drives like
Kingston’s 16GB model for around $20, which works for many travelers who might later move that 16GB of photos to another source when travel is complete. Eco-friendly flash drives, too, have been popular with business, replacing brochures and packets of printed information.

Cloud Storage
Remote cloud storing travel photos from a variety of sources is where we are right now and using one or more services offers some distinct advantages.

First, if our hardware device is lost or stolen, all our digital photos are not. Safe and secure in the cloud, we can access them from anywhere in the world. Most travelers can store a huge number of photos for free from a variety of sources like Google Drive, a file and synchronization service that rolled out last April.

Google Drive gives users 5GB of storage free, with more available for a fee – 25GB runs $2.49 a month by subscription and storage can be up to 2TB in size. Google Drive is also now the home of GoogleDocs, a suite of productivity applications offering sharing and collaboration of documents, spreadsheets and presentations too.

But is cloud storage of travel photos safe?

The short answer: yes.

“Photos are safer when stored on line,” says Suzanne Kantra from Techlicious in a USA Today article, adding “files are encrypted on most major cloud storage sites” and “unless you are a celebrity, your family photos are only valuable to you,” concluding that “most of our photos aren’t worth a hacker’s time and effort.”

Other cloud-oriented services like Flickr offer a great deal of storage for free then charge a fee for premium accounts with more storage. But using a variety of sources can eliminate the fees and provide some redundancy for critical shots, which can be stored on multiple sites for the most severe skeptics.

Social Clouds
Many travelers choose to shoot and upload on the go to social sites like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest that share their journey as it unfolds.
HipGeo is a convenient journaling app that enables travelers to keep track of what they saw and where they saw it. Users then share their travels and use what other people share to enhance their own travel experiences.

In a new release, HipGeo instantly transforms all those elements into virtual journals that can then be automatically shared a variety of ways. A new one, ThisLife, allows users to store 1000 photos and uses geotagging to create a timeline of all photos uploaded, making finding them easier. ThisLife wants to be the permanent home for all our photos

Regardless of what device or cloud storage service we use, there are a bunch to choose from so look for one that seems like it will be good in the future too. I used Webshots for years but compared to other options today, I find it clumsy and difficult to use. At the time it was one of the few choices available, but today there are so many to choose from that picking the right one for your needs is critical.

Facebook, for example, is limited to tagging, likes and comments. If users want to order prints or search for photos, they are out of luck. Probably of more importance, what happens when Facebook is not their primary place to go. Let’s not forget MySpace right? Thinking that way, a service that is totally photo-focused like Flickr, Snapfish or Picassa might be the best choice.

Each individual traveler’s photo storage decision might depend on the volume of photos we are talking about too. For most non-professional photographers, just regular people who travel, a good free cloud-based service will probably be just fine. For mega-users, premium cloud storage sites like SmugMug, PhotoShelter or ZenFolio might be better.

Today there are so many options to choose from when storing travel photos that travelers can surely find one that will work for them now and in the future. Check CNET’s “Google Drive is not for everyone, so try these alternatives or a variety of articles from our friends at Engadget about photo storing for more information.

[Flickr photo by Gilderic Photography]

Moving? Put Your Things In Storage First And Hit The Road

How can you afford to travel for more than a week or two? If you’re planning to move, use the occasion to put your things in storage and hit the road. If you want to travel for a month or more, it’s hard to pay a mortgage or rent plus travel expenses, unless you’ve got plenty of cash to burn. But if you have no rent or mortgage payments, you might actually be able to travel for less than you ordinarily spend living at home.

I’ve done the storage/travel combo four times over the last 15 years and have found it to be the most economical way to travel for a few months at a time. My wife and I both work from home so we have the ability to work from remote locations, as long as we have Internet access, so we’ve taken advantage of this freedom when we were planning to move anyway.When I was in the Foreign Service, we were also without our belongings in between posts, usually for a few months at a time, so I have plenty of experience traveling while my belongings are on a container ship or in storage.

No matter how carefully you pack, you’ll miss some of your stuff. But I’ve always found dumping all my things for a few months very liberating. You realize how much you have that you do not need and moving helps you pare down all your junk. And when you get your worldly possessions back, you’ll have a new appreciation for your favorite things. Here are a few tips for putting your things in storage and hitting the road.

Negotiate Free Storage with a Moving Company. Meet with moving companies that also offer storage, tell them your plans and try to negotiate a few months of free storage. Two years ago, United Van Lines offered us three months of free storage in order to secure our move business, and just a few months ago, we got two months of free storage from Allied Van Lines. After our two months are up, we’ll be paying $248 per month to store about 7,500 pounds, which is probably a typical weight figure for a family of four.

If you’re only doing a local move and have a much lower weight, it’ll be tougher to negotiate free storage, but if you’re a family doing an interstate move, you can almost certainly get at least a month for free.

Organize Your Belongings Very Carefully Before the Move. You’ll need to pack very carefully, keeping in mind what the weather will be like at your destination and also when you return. It’s usually complicated and expensive to extract things from storage, but mark the boxes you think you might need access to while in storage “high priority” and ask the moving company to place those boxes near the front of your storage unit, in case you need to get into them.

If at all possible, pack a suitcase or two of important items and leave them with a friend or neighbor, especially if you won’t move right into a new home or apartment when you return from your travels. Resist the urge to take loads of clothing with you on your trip. If you have to buy some new clothes on the road, so be it.

Pick The Right Destination. Whether you plan a domestic or international trip, do some research on sites like FlipKey, VRBO, HomeAway, Wimdu, AirBnb, and 9 Flats to get an idea for what it costs to rent apartments in your destination. Unless you have a huge budget, you can’t stay in hotels every night for months on end. And even if you did want to spend the money, you’d get tired of eating out every night.

Unless you’re traveling to a very popular destination during the high season, I recommend that you book a hotel first and do your longer term apartment search on the ground, in person, to make sure you get something you like.

We’ve spent most of this recent trip in Italy and Greece, and so far, we’ve found the Greek isles to be significantly cheaper than Italy. In Greece, we’ve found good quality apartments with Wi-Fi in Kos, Patmos and Samos ranging from the equivalent of $62-$68 per night (see videos of apartments below). Italy is about 20-25 percent more expensive, and in major cities like Rome or Florence, it’s probably more like 50 percent more expensive.

Given the fact that we were paying nearly $100 per night to live in our home in the pricey suburbs of Washington, D.C., Greece seems like a pretty good bargain to us, even factoring in the monthly storage costs, especially since we have daily maid service and a buffet breakfast included with our apartment.

Dealing with your mail and bills. Being officially homeless is a complicated affair, as you’ll need some sort of address for a variety of purposes. Pick a close relative or very good friend and ask them to receive your mail, or have the post office hold it for you, if no one can help.

Set up auto-bill pay for as many of your bills as you can, and if you do have a friend or family member willing to help, give them some checks and deposit slips so they can help you manage your financial affairs while out of town. This is especially important if you’ll be outside the U.S.

Skype. Skype is a terrific lifeline if you’ll be out of the country. We looked into buying mobile phones while overseas or using our U.S. mobile phones, but decided to save the money by discontinuing our U.S. service and just using Skype. For about $6 per month, you can get your own Skype line that includes voice mail and a U.S. telephone number.

Coming Home. As soon as you have your plans in order, let your moving company know when and where to send your things. This is especially important if you want to move at the end or beginning of the month in the summertime. It might seem complex, but keeping your things in storage in between moves isn’t actually much more work than moving straight from point A to point B, and the money you save on your rent or mortgage can help you see the world.

(Photos and videos by Dave Seminara)

Currency collections. Tips for how to keep them souvenir worthy

Perhaps you have leftover bills from trips to other countries tucked away in a drawer. Perhaps, your souvenir bills are in an envelope or a plastic baggie. Maybe some of the bills are so dirty and worn, they’re a bit scary to touch. Or maybe you have quite the collection in an archival box, shoebox-sized like Ron Wise.

According to this article published in the Seattle Times, Wise has more than 10,000 bills and knows which ones are his favorites and how to keep the collection looking pristine.

The value of a currency lies partly within the shape its in. That wrinkled, sad looking dong I kept from Vietnam has sentimental value, but isn’t a collector’s item, for example.

A collector wants bills that are pristine and crisp, not crumpled or torn. To get such bills, before you leave a country buy currency at an airport money exchange. You’ll pay more, but you’ll have a better looking item. (So, that’s how I could have rupees that look more like those in the photo!)

Another suggestion for acquiring crisp, clean bills is to buy currency by using an ATM machine with a credit or debit card. Once you get your lovely bills, Wise suggests putting them between pages of a hardcover book or in an envelope placed in a magazine that you don’t fold until you get them home.

Once home, store the bills in archive quality plastic holders or an archival box, and keep the collection in a low humidity. Humidity can cause damage.

If you frame the currency, hang the frame out of direct sunlight and consider using glass that prevents UV rays from damaging the bills.

If you want to find out about other people’s currency collection and share your own, head to Wise’s website World Paper Money Homepage.

Still, there is something a bit precious about my sad-sack dong and rupees. I can only guess how far they’ve traveled.

Daily deal – Western Digital 320GB external drive for $115

My daily deal for today is the Western Digital “My Passport Essential” portable hard drive. With a whopping 320GB of storage, you’ll have enough space to make full backups of your laptop, and room to carry along most of your music and video collection.

This external drive does not require a power supply, as it can run off the power delivered by the USB port on your laptop. 320GB is enough for almost 80,000 MP3 files, or around 50 compressed movies.

By carrying an external drive, you can also create a safe place to store sensitive documents, especially if you add an encryption program like Truecrypt to the drive.

The Western Digital 320GB My Passport Essential is currently on sale at for just $114.99, with free 3-day shipping. The only downside to this deal, is that the price only applies to the RED drive.

If 320GB is a little too much for you, then you can opt for a 160GB version for $79.99, or this 250GB version for $99.99.

$69 portable hard drive enclosure adds keypad password protection

Keeping strangers away from your data has suddenly become a hot topic, but whether the US Government is after your information, or just your everyday thief, it always makes sense to protect your files.

Hong Kong based Brando, has introduced a portable hard drive enclosure with a password keypad. Without knowing the access code, strangers won’t even be able to access the hardware. If you want to take paranoid to a new level, you can use double protection by encrypting the data stored on the drive.

This enclosure does not include a hard disk, so you’ll have to invest some more in a 2.5″ hard drive, which will cost you upwards of $65, plus you’ll have to install it yourself.

In the coming months, I’m sure we will see more of these products pop up. The combination of the US government admitting that they can (and will) seize suspicious equipment and the general fear of the Chinese government during the Olympics is driving paranoia to a new level. Of course, some of that paranoia is justified.

When it comes to securing your data, the only 100% safe method is to leave important files at home, don’t carry anything you wouldn’t want to share with a stranger, and never ever login to any kind of site unless you are 100% sure the connection you are using is secure. Of course, the first sign for any customs official that you might be hiding something, is a hard drive enclosure with a password keypad, so you really can’t ever win.