Skip to content

50 Vintage Photos That Show What Traveling Used to Look Like

Explore the glamorous age of adventure

Bossa Nova bands playing in Rio in the 1960s. Nature enthusiasts watching the geysers blow at Yellowstone National Park in 1912. Families cruising in a Cadillac on a cross-country road trip in the 1940s. There was something downright magical about traveling in eras past. Not only was it more glamorous—people dressed up in suits, heels, and gloves to go to the airport instead of today's sweatpants and sneakers—but time also moved slower, putting the focus on the journey instead of the destination. Sure, it's never been easier to explore the world than it is today—but that doesn't mean we can't yearn for a little nostalgic jaunt into the past. Browse the album below for vintage travel photos from trips around the globe and across the decades.

Cruise ship sleepover

six women sleep on bunk bets in a vintage cruise ship
Allan Cash Picture Library / Alamy

A group of women pose in their bunks in a sleeping cabin aboard the British India cruise ship, circa 1950s.

So long, farewell

a group of people wave at train passengers
Sueddeutsche Zeitung Photo / Alamy

Friends and family wave goodbye on a train set for Italy during the Wirtschaftwunder, or wave of mass-tourism, following the second world war in Germany, 1958.

A mod airport scene

travelers walk through an airport
Marion S. Trikosko / Library of Congress

Air travel out of New York City was much more mod and minimalist in 1965. Today, this terminal at John F. Kennedy airport has been restored to its former glory and reopened as the glamorous TWA Hotel. Here, guests can sip Shirley Temples in a converted 1958 aircraft or dip in a rooftop infinity pool overlooking the runway.

Camper vans

a woman sits in a camper van with two suitcases
Interfoto / Alamy

A woman smiles with her suitcases from the back of a camper van, circa 1960s.

Jazz age journeys

a group sit on a sundeck of a ship in the 1920s
United Archives GmbH / Alamy

Sea travelers make their way through the Panama Canal in the 1920s.

Tour group

a group of people sit in a bus in the 1970s
U.S. News & World Report magazine photograph collection / Library of Congress

Tourists on a bus tour through Washington, D.C. in February 1974.


a group of people waves at a cruise ship
Classic Picture Library / Alamy

A crowd welcomes passenger ship M/S Stockholm as it arrives in the port of New York on March 1, 1948, from Gothenburg, Sweden.

Getting accustomed

a man and woman watch as a customs officer goes through their suitcases
mauritius images GmbH / Alamy

A passenger watches as a customs officer at Tempelhof Airfield in Berlin, Germany examines her luggage in the 1930s.

Easy riders

two men ride motorcycles
Boyd Norton / Public Domain / US National Archives

Two men ride motorcycles through the mountains in May 1972.

The dining car

a group of friends eat dinner in a train car
Sueddeutsche Zeitung Photo / Alamy

Train passengers enjoy cake and coffee in the dining car on The East German Railway, on a route from Leipzig to Munich.

An animal encounter

three bears lean against a vintage car
chippix / Shutterstock

The tourists in this wood-paneled station wagon got to meet a few furry locals during their trip to Yellowstone National Park.

Analog info gathering

a line of people wait in front of an information booth
Public Domain

Before the internet, a visit to the info desk was a must on any trip. Here, tourists get maps and other information from a park ranger at the Grand Canyon in 1948.

Capitol bus tours

a group of people get off a bus in front of capitol hill
U.S. News & World Report magazine photograph collection / Library of Congress

Tourists take in Capitol Hill and other Washington, D.C. sights by bus in 1974.

Streetcar transportation

a man gets on a streetcar in new york
Library of Congress

Tourists and locals used to get across New York City in pay-as-you-enter streetcars. This shot was taken in 1916. To step in one of these vintage subways yourself, check out the New York Transit Museum in downtown Brooklyn.

The original Airbnb

two women sit inside a home in the 1940s
Edwin Rosskam, Library of Congress

Two women relax at an inn in Truro, Massachusetts during August 1940.

Minimalist camping

a group of campers sit in a canyon
David Hiser / NARA / Wikimedia Commons

Backpackers on a week-long hike through The Maze, a remote and rugged region of Utah's Canyonlands National Park in May 1972. Their minimalist setup is nowhere near today's glamping accommodations, such as Under Canvas.

Souvenir snapshots

a man takes a photo of a girl leaning against a car
Library of Congress

A couple takes a photo to commemorate their road trip through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, circa 1950.

A kid-friendly adventure

two mothers and four kids get out of a vintage car
State Library and Archives of Florida / Wikimedia Commons

Families unpack and prepare for a beach vacation in Tallahassee, Florida in May 1957.

Airport attire

four women walk with suitcases
Everett Collection / Shutterstock

Four women dress in hats, heels, and dresses to board a plane at the airport in the 1940s.

Up close and personal

a man pets a bear
Library of Congress

A well-dressed man pets a bear cub in a national park. (Date unknown)

Hanging around

a man and a woman play with a plane propeller
Everett Collection / Shutterstock

A couple plays with the propeller on an airplane for a photograph in the early 1900s.

National parking

a full parking lot in a national park
Abbey Rowe / Library of Congress

A packed parking lot in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in 1952.

Fancy sledding

two women sled down a snowy hill
Genthe photograph collection / Library of Congress

Two women sled down a steep, snowy slope in Yosemite National Park in 1904.

Brotherly love

two boys pose in front of the grand canyon
Mark Harmel / Alamy

Two young boys standing at the rim of the Grand Canyon in 1960 during a family vacation.

Light packing

a 1940s woman opens a suitcase
Everett Collection / Shutterstock

Luggage has changed substantially since the 1940s and 50s, when people would travel with trunks instead of smart suitcases.

Family picnic

two women and a boy have a picnic in the park
Lyudmila2509 / Shutterstock

A picnic lunch in St. Petersburg, Russia (formerly Leningrad) during a family road trip in 1983.

Girl scouts

three girls set up a tent in the woods
Virginia State Parks / Flickr

The simple tent these Girl Scouts were setting up in the 1950s is a far cry from today's multi-room mansions.

Sidecar couple

two women ride a motorcycle and sidecar
Chippix / Shuttertock

Why travel on the back of a motorcycle, when you can ride shotgun in a sidecar like the woman in this vintage photo?

Presidential travel

Eleanor Roosevelt walks on a tarmac
Lawrence W. Jordan / FDR Presidential Library and Museum / CC By 2.0

Eleanor Roosevelt carries her suitcase at New York City's LaGuardia Airport in 1960.

Bus stop

a greyhound bus stops in arizona
Classic Picture Library / Alamy

A Greyhound bus drives through Arizona in 1959.

Photo opp

a man takes a photo next to ruins
Arthur Rothstein / Library of Congress

A tourist sets up his camera for a photo at Rhyolite, a ghost town in Nevada, in March 1940.

Cargo ship

a car drives on a ferry in the 1960s
Allan Cash Picture Library / Alamy

A Mini Traveller boards a sea ferry in the Scottish highlands in 1968.

Sweeping views

a man and two women pose in front of a european village
Public Domain

Tourists take a photograph during a trip to the medieval town of Wiesensteig, Germany in October 1950.

Ice climb

a group of travelers climb a glacier
Archives New Zealand / CC by-SA 2.0

A group climbs Fox Glacier in New Zealand's Westland Tai Poutini National Park in 1966.


a woman and two men look at a desert in Jordan
Allan Cash Picture Library / Alamy

A woman and her two guides take in the vast expanse of a desert in Jordan during the 1950s.

Family photo

a family of four smiles for a photo
Roman Nerud / Shutterstock

A family of four smiles for the camera on vacation, circa 1970s.

Train travel

a train maitre d' talks to a woman and her dog
Allan Cash Picture Library / Alamy

The maitre d' of the Brighton Belle Pullman train carriage checks in with a passenger and her dog on a platform at London's Victoria Station in the 1950s. You can experience the glamorous train today by booking a trip on the luxurious Belmond British Pullman.

Adventures in Mexico

two women and three men pose for a photo in mexico
Chippix / Shuttertock

Tourists pose with local residents in Tijuana, Mexico in the early 1900s.

Carriage rides

a horse-drawn carriage of tourists drives around washington d.c.
Everett Collection / Shuttertock

Sightseers tour Washington, D.C. by horse and carriage, circa 1942.

Runway views

a group of travelers wait in an airport gate and watch out the windows to the runway
John Vachon / Library of Congress

Passengers awaiting flights in a Washington, D.C. airport terminal in April 1940.


a female backpacker poses in front of a house
Gado Images / Alamy

A backpacker poses on the front lawn of a youth hostel in 1966.

Snow bunny

a female skier poses in snow with her skis on her shoulders
Everett Collection / Shutterstock

A young woman dressed in ski attire poses with her skis for a photo, circa 1940s or 1950s.

Boat tour

a group of people disembark off a boat
Seattle Municipal Archives / CC By 2.0

Tourists board the Skagit tour boat at Ross Lake in Washington state, circa 1970s.

Beach bums

a group of men and women pose on a beach in the 1930s
Public Domain

A group soaks up the sun on Mar del Plata beach in Argentina in 1930.

Grand geyser

a group of onlookers watch a geyser erupt
Library of Congress

The Grand Geyser erupts 200 feet high at Yellowstone National Park in 1912.

Information booth

a group of people approach an information booth
U.S. News & World Report magazine photograph collection / Library of Congress

Visitors ask questions at the information booth during a trip to Washington, D.C. in April 1969.

Bridge views

a woman poses in front of a bridge
Allan Cash Picture Library / Alamy

A traveler poses in Uganda, Africa, in the 1950s with a plaque explaining that the bridge was a re-erected emergency steel bridge, which had originally been built over the River Thames during WWII.

Hollywood Boulevard

a young woman waits on hollywood boulevard with her suitcase
Russell Lee / Library of Congress

A young woman waits on the sidewalk with a suitcase in Hollywood, California, in 1942.


two hikers walk through a canyon
Public Domain / US National Archives

Hikers explore the Grand Canyon in 1972.

In plane sight

four men wait for a plane to land on the tarmac
John Vachon / Library of Congress

Men stand around near the tarmac of a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania airport in April 1940.

Filed Under