Don’t leave it to chance. You may think your photos don’t need to be backed up because you are only away for a week or have a huge capacity memory card, but don’t leave it to chance. There are now numerous ways to back up your photos and videos while on the move, for free or at a very low cost!

Why? Because if you don’t backup you are leaving yourself open to a host of potential problems. What if you run out of space? What if your GoPro gets stolen? What if your card becalmed corrupt, or wiped when going through an airport scanner? All of these things have happened to me, or friends of mine while travelling, so please learn from our mistakes!

Physical Backups

The first thing I would recommend doing is making physical backups of your holiday snaps. If you are planning on bringing a laptop or tablet with you, bring a USB cable (your charger will likely double up as a data cable) or buy an SD card reader and back them up onto your hard drive. Please bare in mind that keeping your backup in the same place as your original is rather nonsensical, the number of people I have met who were lulled into a false sense of security by having backups and then losing or having their bag stolen with both the original photos and the backups is crazy!

Instead, mail backups home. Memory cards are relatively low cost these days, and you can always find them readily available in every country. Make a duplicate copy of your photos and mail them back home to friends or family. When you have confirmation that the SD cards have made it home safely, and the data is intact, wipe the original cards you have on you and use these again for more photos. Whilst this is a more expensive option, it can take a huge weight off your mind. Also bare in mind that mail delivery times from some countries can be a few weeks so this is only really useful for those travelling for long periods of time. You could also look at couriering cards instead of the regular mail as this will only take a few days and is a lot more secure. UPS ships internationally but at a cost of around $30-50 depending where you are mailing from, as opposed to a local post office which is likely to be $1-10.

Cloud Backups

Technological developments have meant you can now backup your photos while travelling in real time! Depending on what you are using to take your photos with, you may even be able to do it directly from your device.  A host of great applications have begun popping up, many of which have Android and Apple apps to go with them, meaning if you are using your phone or tablet to take photos, chances are you can back them up automatically from within the app every time you connect to WiFi.  If you are using a GoPro or digital camera, you can always transfer your memory stick to your phone or tablet (if it has a memory card slot), and again let the app on your device do the automatic syncing, or use a memory card reader to transfer them to a computer at a hotel or Internet cafe and then upload using their website. Keep in mind that picture qualities have increased dramatically over the last few years, and as a result, so have the file sizes!  Internet speeds in some countries may not have caught up quickly enough to compensate for this increase in file sizes, so if you don’t want to be sat in front of a computer for hours, waiting for pictures to upload 3kbs a second, it may be worth thinking about trying one of the physical options above.  That said, this isn’t so much of an issue if you are just using your phone as you can generally just let it do its thing overnight while sleep (assuming you have a connection in your room).

So what apps should you use to back up?  I currently use 3, which does mean it takes 3 times as long to upload every night, but they all have apps and it back up in the background whenever I connect to WiFi so isn’t something that bothers me.

The two big players in tablets and phones have built in cloud services.  Apple uses its Apple iCloud, which has 5GB of free storage upon signup, and offers plans from $0.99 / £0.79 a month to upgrade this to 50GB, all the way up to $9.99 / £6.99 a month for 1TB of storage!

Google has a native app Google Photos which comes pre installed on most Android devices it can also be downloaded onto other devices including Apple. Likewise, all Google accounts come with 15GB of free storage which can be upgraded for similar prices ($9.99 / £6.99 a month for 1TB of storage), up to as much as 30TB!  However, Google also allows the option to upload unlimited photos at high quality (capped at 16MP for photos and 1080p HD for videos), which for most people should be more than sufficient if all plan to do is share photos on social media or print photos as small canvases or prints, but will mean a loss of quality for those using large DSLRs.  Another great feature has (for those not worried about privacy concerns) is that the cloud will read your geotag data on photos uploaded and automatically create slideshows, GIFs and edit photos you take with artistic effects (it will still keep your original photos, but gives you the option to review these additional photos it takes.

Dropbox offers 2GB free storage (and sometimes bonus storage if you set it up using a new device).  Alternatively, DropBox Pro gives 1TB of space for $99 a year (or $9.99 a month).  Dropbox allows you to automatically sync files on multiple devices meaning you can turn on your PC back home and have all your files sync automatically into the same folders you organised them into.  As well as photos, Dropbox allows you to and save all types of files, meaning you can use it as an external hard drive to back up not just your photos, but also your photoshop edits and PDF documents (such as passport scans, CVs andtravel insurance details) and they then become accessible from anywhere in the world.  Both the app and online web app are easy to use, but fact that there is only a single plan available means you’re either stuck with a small free storage or need to pay $99 for a huge storage space – there’s no middle ground!

Microsoft has native software installed on PCs running Windows 7 or later called OneDrive. Similar to Dropbox, files sync as folders across all devices, and you can upload multiple file types.  OneDrive plans cost $1.99 / £1.99 a month for 50GB or $6.99 / £5.99 a month for 1TB of space.  The apps are easy to use and the software will often automatically attempt,to add tags to photos based on content of the pictures to make it easier to organise.

Flickr (by Yahoo), by far my favourite, not least of all because their free plan offers a staggering 1TB!  In my experience their image unloading apps seems to be one of the fastest and all photos are uploaded at the original resolution.  The only negative, is when it comes to downloading the photos onto your Mac or PC when you get back home.  There is software. It it’s only available to pro subscribers ($50 a year), so the alternative is using their website and choosing individual files to download, or to select all and wait forever as the entire backup downloads.

As I say I currently use 3 (Google Photos because it’s already on my phone, Dropbox because I also use it for my document backups, and Flickr, because who can resist free storage at original quality).  So there we have it, no excuses not to back up your photos – and if something does happen to your photos whilst you’re away, and you haven’t backed them up – don’t say I didn’t warn you!