Vintage Travel Posters

View and Download Vintage Travel Posters

Looking for your next armchair travel experience? How about touring the world and going back in time with online vintage travel posters?

Browsing through online travel posters takes one to times when the internet and social media had nearly no influence on travel planning. Instead, resorts, hotels, airlines, railroads and destinations leaned heavily on bold and decorative posters to present their offers and help people plan their journeys.

So, if you are ready for your next virtual travel adventure, check out our recommendations of online travel-poster collections. Hint: These free online experiences take you through impressive collections of art.

Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum

More than 1,300 airline posters dating from the early 1920s to the present are accessible on the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum website. But the posters from the 1940s are the favorites of Robert van der Linden, the museum’s curator of air transportation.

The 1940s was when air travel became increasingly affordable, he says, and “when posters began to advertise travel destinations and not just the airline.”

A good example is a series of Air France posters promoting vacation travel. “In my opinion, the best one from our collection shows a stunning aerial view of the Arc de Triomphe at night with the lighted avenues of Paris radiating from it,” says van der Linden. “It is a none-too-subtle reminder that the French capital is the City of Lights.”

SFO Museum

“A good travel poster evokes a sense of romanticism, adventure, and wanderlust and is likely a classic example of its era’s design sensibilities,” says Megan Callan, assistant director, museum affairs at the SFO Museum located at San Francisco International Airport.

More than 1,200 travel posters promoting global air travel are in the SFO Museum’s collection, with many accessible online, but Callan has a soft spot for the San Francisco–themed travel posters.

“I’m a 12-year transplant to the city, and I love living here,” says Callan. “And these posters remind me of how much I love San Francisco and all of its many visual icons.”

Boston Public Library

A treasure trove of more than 350 travel posters that mostly date back to the golden age of travel (1920s to the 1940s) are in the print collection of the Boston Public Library. The posters are grouped in an easy-to-scroll file on Flickr.

In particular, don’t miss this charming poster promoting train travel in the wonderland of the Pacific Northwest. Check out the one that urges tourists to “Travel Round the Globe But First See Ireland,” and the poster advertising “Sweden That’s the Place.”      

Among the images promoting travel to the USSR, Switzerland, India, Chicago, Cleveland, Hong Kong, Japan and other destinations, the collection also includes healthy-travel tips, including a reminder from Australia’s Victorian Railways to “Put Pep in Your Step” by eating more fruit.

Library of Congress, WPA Travel Posters

The Library of Congress has hundreds of travel posters in its collection, although restrictions limit viewing some online posters to only thumbnail images.

But, as a bonus, many of the travel posters in this collection are free to download and use. Check out these selections from the collection categorized by mode of travel (land, sea, air and London Underground) as well as posters featuring cartographic and seasonal images.

The Library of Congress also has the largest collection of the now-iconic travel and tourism posters promoting national parks and other U.S. destinations made by artists hired by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) from 1936 to 1943.

Space Tourism Posters

While you dream about where to travel, don’t rule out a trip to space.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory offers a series of specially commissioned retro WPA-style posters promoting space tourism. Destinations include planets, including Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Earth (“Your Oasis in Space”), exoplanets (planets orbiting other stars) and The Grand Tour, the route the Voyager 2 spacecraft took on its visit to all four outer planets. 

All of the space tourism images are free to download as a poster-sized image.

–Written by Harriet Baskas

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