When it comes to preserving vacation memories, most travelers want memorable, easy-to-transport, and affordable souvenirs. Here are eight options that meet those requirements.
“Did you bring me anything?”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked through the door to these first words from my children. While I like remembering places visited — whether it’s been by myself on a business trip or with the kids on family travel — it’s not practical to purchase a souvenir for each child, every trip.
Here are eight affordable souvenirs to help make travel memories last:
1 – Christmas Tree Ornaments
This idea goes back an entire generation in our family. My Mom started collecting souvenirs that she’d fashion into Christmas tree ornaments when I was growing up. Back then (a million years ago when the years started with a 1) travel-inspired Christmas ornaments weren’t really a thing. My Mom had the vision to create them herself. She fashioned a cable car from San Francisco into a hanging ornament and turned a starfish from Florida into the tree topper. These affordable souvenirs allowed us to remember a lifetime of travel memories every Christmas.
Related Article: Taking Down Christmas, A Travel Tale
2 – Stickers
In a plastic treasure box in the basement, I have a collection of stickers from each country we visited when we lived in Europe. They are so old that they may not stick to anything if the protective paper is removed, but they inspired my daughter, Charlotte. For several years, she has collected bumper stickers as affordable souvenirs from our travels to decorate her car, Lafayette.
Pro Tip: Be thoughtful about where you apply the stickers you collect from your travels. When Charlotte’s car was rear-ended (and subsequently totaled) during a thunderstorm she lost her collection when Lafayette was towed away. Going forward, she’s going to keep her stickers on her hard-side suitcase instead!
3 – Coffee Mugs
It may sound silly, but I love standing in front of my coffee cup cabinet each morning and selecting the perfect mug for my morning cup of joe. If it’s foggy out, I pick my Netherlands mug. When I’m missing my sister, I pick my Phoenix cup. Over the years, we’ve amassed quite a collection of coffee cups, especially once the kids started traveling independently and adding to the stack.
Sometimes, we purchase the You Are Here mug from the local Starbucks. But, if their design doesn’t fully capture our experience in that city, we keep looking. After all, I’d rather have this Cookie Monster mug from my time in Mountain View and my visit to the Google campus than a generic San Francisco or California mug from the nearest Starbucks.
(Click the arrows to scroll through the images and get the full impact of this awesome mug!)
This morning's coffee is brought to you by Google, Cookie Monster, and the letter "C" — because it is so Crazy Cold that Classes were Canceled for the Children. Crap! (Swipe to see how awesome this cup is!) ❄️ ☕ ❄️ ☕ ❄️ ☕ ❄️ #cookiemonster #coffee #coffeemug #google #googlestore #googlemerch #googlemerchandise #googlemerchandisestore #mountainview #sesamestreet
4 – Magnets
A German friend who spent the year in the US as an au pair collected refrigerator magnets from her travels throughout the country. To her, the magnets were more than a way to preserve memories, they were a novelty. Like many Europeans, her family kitchen had only a half-size refrigerator. And no magnets.
Related Article: Travel Bloggers Reveal the Best Souvenirs They’ve Ever Bought
5 – Postcards
Some travelers believe postcards are as outdated as a phone booth. After all, it does seem that most of the images on postcards were taken in the 1980s. But they are an affordable, easy-to-carry way to remember the places you visit. They are especially fantastic when touring sites that don’t allow photographs inside like the Winchester Mystery House or Biltmore Estate.
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6 – Lapel Pins/Buttons
Lapel pins and buttons also make affordable souvenirs. Charlotte started her collection a few years ago when she was fortunate to spend the summer in Europe with family friends.
7 – Keychains
When my three oldest kids turned into teenagers and lost interest in souvenirs brought home from my business trips, Louise didn’t. A few years ago, I started a keychain collection for her. If she’s traveling with me, we make sure to pick one out together. But if I’m traveling alone, I always try to bring her one back that symbolizes the city, state, or country I’m visiting. When I’m traveling to a destination that she already has a keychain for, she clips it to her backpack the days I’m gone.
8 – Food
While the food is usually gobbled up right away, it’s the memory of it that lasts. Whether it’s macarons from Paris or a Derby pie from Kentucky, food is always a big hit. For the places I visit regularly, I know exactly what food items the kids are hoping I’ll bring back for them. When I’m in San Francisco, it’s Ghirardelli chocolate. When I’m in Salt Lake City, it’s salt water taffy. Local food items are usually readily available in grocery stores, convenience marts, and airport shops without spending very much.
What about you?
What affordable souvenirs do you like to collect to preserve memories from your travels? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.