So you’re finally going on that vacation you’ve been eagerly counting down to. Your tickets are booked, your suitcase all packed, and you’ve already picked out the perfect outfits.
There’s just one thing – a really important one — left to consider: How are you going to document it all for the world to see? Because pics on Instagram or it didn’t happen, right?
Your phone’s gonna be your prime memory-making device (so make sure it’s always charged up). But if you want to truly become the envy of all your office-chained friends, you’re gonna need to step your vacation-documenting game up. Here’s the best gear do to it.
Any phone released in the last few years is going to have a pretty solid camera. Newer phones like the Galaxy S20 and OnePlus 7 Pro have three cameras (main, telephoto, and ultra-wide) built right in.
These cameras take great photos and videos, but if you attach a mobile lens to it, like Moment’s best-in-class glass mobile lenses, you can get even better and more creative shots without having to bring a DSLR, mirrorless, or point-and-shoot camera.
The “wide 18mm lens” is perfect for fitting more in scene, the “macro lens” for close-up photos, the “tele 58mm lens” for zoomed-in pictures, the “superfish lens” for a fisheye-style look, and the “anamorphic lens” for cinematic-esque video.
You’ll need a lens case — Moment sells them for iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, Google Pixel, and OnePlus phones — but once you’ve got it, popping lenses on your phone is super easy.
Need proof Moment’s lenses are super versatile for vacation photos? Check out these photos I took while in Japan, all entirely shot on iPhone with Moment lenses.
You can find other brands of smartphone lenses by companies like Sandmarc and Olloclip, but we’ve found them to be inferior to Moment lenses primarily due to poorer mounting systems or worse image quality.
This one’s a no-brainer. Action cameras are great for documenting vacations since they’re small, mountable to almost anything, and have a really wide field of view to capture everything. They’re also rugged and waterproof, which means you can take them in the water (pool or sea) and not worry about them getting wrecked.
We recommend GoPro’s Hero 7 Black or DJI’s Osmo Action. These are the two best action cameras you can buy right now. [Editor’s note: since this story was written, the GoPro Hero 8 has been released, and we’ve given it great reviews, too. It also has the features below, upgraded in some cases.]
If you’re looking to create content for your social media like Instagram or Snapchat, GoPro’s the way to go. The Hero 7 Black’s got a fun “TimeWarp” feature that creates super smooth hyperlapses. The best part is TimeWarp also works in portrait orientation so it’s perfect for Insta/Snap stories and the GoPro app makes it easy to share the videos.
The Hero 7 Black also has the ability to live stream if you’re into sharing your trip in real time.
If you’re planning to vlog your trip, get DJI’s Osmo Action. The front-facing display is excellent for framing your video and the RockSteady stabilization will help make your footage look less wobbly.
No matter if you’re using your phone or a camera, you may want to capture your vacation from different angles and heights — we encourage you to do this — and the best way to do it is with a Joby GorillaPod.
This bendy tripod has three legs that can twist around tree branches, grip onto rocks or fences or poles, or just plain stand up on a flat surface.
Don’t cheap out on a knockoff, though. The joints on them aren’t as strong and as a result could damage your attached phone or camera should they fail or break.
Also: GorillaPods are great as selfie sticks or vlogging sticks. If they’re good enough for the vlogging king Casey Neistat, they’re probably good enough for you.
For super-steady video, get a mobile gimbal like DJI’s Osmo Mobile. You put your phone inside of the grip and — boom — you can run and jump and pan as much as you want and your video will still come out smooth instead of bumpy. Like the GorillaPod, stay away from clones; the stabilization isn’t as good, the phone mounts are flimsier, and the battery life usually sucks.
Another option that we like is the DJI Osmo Pocket, a tiny little camera with screen and 3-axis stabilization.
If you’re not planning to bring an action camera (or maybe would rather not spend money on one), but still want to shoot photos and videos underwater, consider getting a Lifeproof Frē case.
Available for tons of phones, including iPhones, Samsung, and some Pixel and LG phones, the Frē cases provide a level of waterproofing beyond the limited water resistance your phone itself might have.
With an Frē waterproof case on, you can take your phone swimming or scuba diving and capture the everything that’s happening underwater.
Frē cases are also tough enough to withstand extremely cold and hot temperatures. So you can also take them into hot climates like deserts and the jungle.
Anyone can shoot from the hip and take photos from their own first-person perspective. But if you really want to impress everyone, you need to go high, really high.
Grab a drone — the DJI Mavic Air’s great for vacations because it’s so compact (and foldable), it’s fast, and it’s really easy to use — and fly it up high to get a fresh new perspective from the air. Your friends will be blown away at the dronies you share.
The Mavic Air’s not as cheap as DJI’s Spark or as advanced as the Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom, but in our tests, it’s the best value, balancing size and features. It also comes with gesture-based hand controls, which should make documenting your trip feel less like work and more like fun.
Just make sure the place you’re vacationing in lets you fly drones overhead. And remember: be safe, don’t be disruptive, and bring spare batteries (you’ll need them!).
Too cheap to spring for a drone? Not to worry, GoPro’s El Grande, a 38-inch extendable monopod, is a solid way to fake drone shots. Nobody needs to know that you didn’t have a drone during your vacation. They just need to think you did.
Carrying a phone, action camera, mobile gimbal stabilizer, and drone might be a bit much for some travelers.
If you just want a versatile travel camera that can handle most weather conditions, check out the Olympus Tough TG-6. The Tough series point-and-shoot cameras are designed to get knocked around in all climates. It’s waterproof and you can attach a bunch of different accessories, such as a fisheye and telephoto lens converter, to enhance its capabilities.
Image quality is rock solid and video recording tops out at 4K resolution at 30 fps. The camera also records 120 fps slow motion video.
7. Get all the likes
Once you’ve captured your beautiful and hopefully fun-filled trip, you need to share your content. Simply tossing it up on Instagram or Twitter isn’t going to help you rake in the likes and favorites and retweets.
You gotta get your photos and videos and awesome time-lapses in front of people or what’s the point of even spending all the time to document it all?
Both hashtag services make it easy to find the best ones to use and copy into, say, an Instagram caption.