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Ah, the golden age of travel—when flying by jet was a glamorous affair, complete with martinis and elegant airport lounges. Before Instagram influencers and travel bloggers, the industry had something even more captivating: vintage travel posters.

Featuring exotic destinations and stylish travelers, these works of art captured the zeitgeist. So, buckle your seatbelts (and tighten your cummerbunds) as we journey back in time to explore the fascinating lost art of poster prints.

A Lost Art: We Take a Nostalgic Look at Vintage Poster Prints

The Golden Age of Travel Posters

Vintage travel poster

Source: Unsplash, McGill Library

The early to mid 20th century was the heyday of travel posters. These posters were the cutting-edge advertising of their day, enticing people to explore destinations from the Swiss Alps to the beaches of Hawaii.

The posters were often commissioned by railway companies, ocean liners, and later airlines, to glamorize the idea of travel.

The Artistic Elements

If you’ve ever seen a vintage travel poster, you’ll have noticed they’re no ordinary ads. The Art Deco flair, the Mid-Century Modern precision—they’re like the Audrey Hepburn of advertising: timeless and elegant.

Bold colors, sweeping landscapes, and typography to make you swoon. These posters were designed to produce more than just wanderlust in the viewer; they were meant to stir the soul like a perfectly mixed martini.

The Role of Nostalgia

Vintage travel poster

Source: Unsplash, McGill Library

What makes these vintage posters so captivating? It’s more than just the artistry; it’s the nostalgia they evoke.

These posters serve as a time machine, whisking us back to an era when traveling was an event in itself. They remind us of a time when every journey had the allure of an adventure, capturing the essence of a hopeful age.

Contrast that with travel today—sure, it’s more accessible and affordable than ever, but the glamor has been replaced by long security lines and cramped economy seats.

The stylish voyages of yesteryear have given way to a more prosaic (albeit more democratic) travel experience. And while it’s true that we love budget fares, vintage poster prints take us back to an opulent era when travel seemed to justify splashing the cash.

From Ocean Liners to Airlines

Vintage travel poster

Source: Unsplash, McGill Library

Travel posters have always evolved along with the modes of travel they advertised.

Initially, they were commissioned by railway and ocean liner companies, depicting scenic train routes (the famous Orient Express, for example) and leisurely cruises.

As aviation took off—pun intended—the focus shifted to airlines. Let’s be honest, “Fly TWA” has a certain allure to it that “Ride Amtrak” just can’t match.

The Cultural Impact

These posters were more than just attractive designs; they were cultural artifacts. They reflected the societal attitudes of their time, for better or worse.

For instance, posters from the 1930s might showcase the “exotic Orient”, using concepts and imagery that would raise more than a few eyebrows today.

These designs are like time capsules, offering a snapshot of how the world’s leading economies viewed themselves and the rest of the world.

Collecting Vintage Travel Posters

Vintage travel poster

Source: Unsplash, Library of Congress

Those of you itching to turn your living room into a shrine to vintage travel posters, bear in mind that the originals can be expensive, especially if they’re in good condition.

But don’t fret if you’re not ready to splurge on vintage items; the beauty of our digital age is that mass-produced copies of these famous prints are readily available too.

These replicas offer an accessible and affordable way to bring a touch of old-school glamour into your home, without breaking the bank.

You can find these replicas in online marketplaces, specialized art stores, and even some large retail chains that offer home decor. Whether you opt for an original or a high-quality copy, you can easily capture the nostalgic essence of travel’s golden age.

The Modern Take: DIY Vintage-Inspired Poster Prints

Vintage travel poster

Source: Unsplash, Timo Stern

Much of today’s travel advertising – the contemporary equivalent of classic travel posters – appears on social media rather than in public spaces.

And while modern advertising may lack vintage charm, it makes up for it with high-resolution imagery and engagement options. These days you can even turn your own travel photos into retro-styled poster prints. Here’s how.

All you need is a flair for design, a high-res photo, access to an online photo editing tool like Canva, BeFunky, or Pxlr, and a dash of creativity. 

Start by selecting a photo that encapsulates your travel experience. It should have a strong focal point and vibrant colors that catch the eye. Once you’ve chosen your photo, open it in a free online editing tool. Canva offers pre-made templates for posters, while Pixlr allows for more detailed editing.

To give your photo that vintage feel, you can apply filters that mimic the look of old film or add a sepia tone. But remember, moderation is key: overdoing the filters can make the image look artificially aged.

Incorporating wording into your design will give it that authentic poster feel. Choose fonts that complete the aesthetic: ‘Bebas Neue’ offers a modern twist, while ‘Playbill’ provides a more traditional look. Keep the wording concise to grab the viewer’s attention.

Before finalizing your design, take a step back and review it. Make sure the elements are balanced and the text is legible. Once you’re satisfied, save the design in a high-resolution format suitable for printing.

You can either print it yourself or use an online printing service to turn it into a poster. We recommend going with – a reliable provider that can print your photo on a range of formals, including classical poster prints or retro canvas wall hangings.

Are You Ready for Your Next Creative Adventure?

Vintage travel poster

Source: Unsplash, Jonatan Hernandez

The allure of vintage travel posters is more than just aesthetic; it’s a window into a world long past but not forgotten. Vintage posters remind us of a time when travel was an aspirational experience in itself.

So the next time you’re scrolling through your travel photos, consider turning one into a poster print. Who knows, it might just become a vintage masterpiece for future generations to admire!

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 100+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.


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