It was a dark and stormy afternoon.

That's my intro (so far) for book two of my Great American Road Trip series, Two Lane Gems.

Snoopy. I'm channeling Snoopy.

(Technically, I'm channeling Edward Bulwer-Lytton by way of Snoopy. But I digress.)

I may keep that line. It may be the intro to the book. At this point there's no telling because there's a lot of ground to cover between clichéd opening salvo until The End. And because I am a skilled writer, which means I am better than anyone at finding something to do besides what I'm supposed to be doing, I thought I'd share how I organize photos and videos from an epic road trip.

UT 9 in Zion National Park

I've been on a few epic road trips. The first few happened when I was a wee child and my dad exhibited in art fairs. We traveled from Indiana to Florida, Indiana to Colorado, Indiana to other places I don't remember as well. My brother and I sat in lawn chairs because there was no room in the van for actual seats with all of the paintings in the back. If dad took a corner too fast, my brother and I would cross that imaginary line that exists between siblings on road trips and screech "MOM! He's/She's on my side!" It's amazing we're still alive (and still like each other).

I took photos with a 110mm Vivitar.

I didn't take a lot of pictures.

Fast forward a few decades. In 2007, a friend who was moving to Missoula, Montana, invited me to join him on a 13-day road trip to his new home. He drove a grumpy Jeep Wrangler that only played Phish and Grateful Dead. We explored a convoluted and enchanting route from Chicago to southern Utah and straight up to Idaho before reaching the place where the river runs through it. I took hundreds of photos with my new-fangled digital camera. When I got home, I digitally filed those photos in folders labeled Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, etc.

To this day, when I'm searching for a photo of Crested Butte, Colorado; Ketchum, Idaho; or Grand Island, Nebraska; I have to guess which day it was.


In 2011, I drove Route 66 with my then-boyfriend, now-husband (who coincidentally happened to be from Missoula, Montana). I took more photos. And filed them in folders labeled Day 1, Day 2, Day 3...

Texas Longhorn Cattle at Palo Duro Canyon

This photo is labeled "Day 7 on Route 66"

LA to Chicago sign on a rusted out car on Route 66

And this one? "Day 9 on Route 66." NOT exactly helpful. 

Fortunately, I do learn. When we took our epic EPIC road trip in 2017 for Two Lane Gems, Vol. 1, I knew I needed a better system. I needed to know not only what day was what, I needed to know what day was where.  

That's when I developed what will forever be known as the TLG* System for Organizing Photos & Videos from an Epic Road Trip. Or TLGSOPVERT for short.

*Both my initials AND first letters of Two Lane Gems. Totally unintentional. I swear.

The system is simple:

  • Each day is numbered
  • The activities/destinations for each day increase incrementally by a tenth
  • A short indicator follows the number so you know at-a-glance what those photos reference
  • Overnight stays are the last number of the day with a dash followed by the number for the next day

Clear?

I didn't think so either, and I created the darn thing.

For example, on our road trip for Two Lane Gems, Vol. 2, (which I will begin writing as soon as I publish this how-to. Honest. Scout's honor. What? You don't believe me?), the first folder is 1.1 Drive to Iowa City. The second folder was our first stop, and it's named 1.2 Clinton Street Social Club. We checked into our B&B after that, so that folder is labeled 1.3 - 2 Brown Street Inn

With this system, I can quickly find photos for each stop on each day.

Here's a visual:

Two Lane Gems Folder Structure

Not every stop gets a folder. I don't have a hard-and-fast rule, but if there are only a few photos, they're lumped into a location folder, like Arco, ID, or Iowa City, IA.

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As you browse the screenshot of the folders above, you might notice that Horse Thief Campground is 6.3 - 7 and Mt. Rushmore is 6.4 - 7.1. That's because we checked into Horse Thief Campground and I took photos before we went to Mt. Rushmore for their evening ceremony. The next morning, we checked out of Horse Thief Campground and went back to Mt. Rushmore. I had to consider how I was going to organize those photos, because I didn't want to have two folders for each place.

Yellowstone - Grand Prismatic Springs

I was able to quickly find this photo because it was filed under 9.1 - 11 Yellowstone, which meant we arrived at Yellowstone on day 9 and left on day 11.

It's a fairly simple system. Now that I'm writing my second book with photos organized in this fashion I'm convinced this is the best way, for me, to keep them all straight. I took nearly 9,000 photos and videos on this 35-day journey. These numbered folders make it incredibly easy to find the perfect image to help me tell the tale. A side benefit is that it's also a fun way to see the different places we visited.

If you're a travel writer, hopefully this system will help you quickly access the media you've taken, which will free up valuable time for writing.

And on that note, It was a dark and stormy afternoon...


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You took an amazing trip and took THOUSANDS of photos to capture it all. Now what? Check out this system to organize your travel photos and videos. #typea #organized #travelphotos