Summer vacation is often a time to splurge, but it doesn’t have to be a time of splurges you’ll regret. If you want to avoid coming home with a suitcase full of t-shirts you’ll never wear or seashell creatures that don’t fit your décor, consider these ten ideas for inexpensive souvenirs:
1. Bring along a camera, sketchbook, or journal to document your trip: Flip through the images or read your journal entries whenever you want a reminder of the great time you had.
2. Collect brochures from all the places you visit: If you stay in one area for more than a few days, buy a local road map. Keep these papers in a file or use them as decorations for a scrapbook.
3. Buy postcards mail them to yourself with notes about what you did each day so that when you get home you have a record of the trip complete with postmarks. Keep them as a collection or frame them and hang them on the wall.
4. Collect show materials: If you see any shows, keep the tickets and the playbill. As with postcards, they can be collected or framed. They also work well in scrapbooks.
5. Collect stamps: For U.S. travelers who like to visit national parks, buy a passport at one of the parks and have it stamped every time you visit another one. The parks’ cancellation stamps look much like postmarks, and online communities have formed for those who collect them.
6. Buy a pen or pencil with the name of the tourist attraction on it: Later, when you grab it to add instant coffee to your grocery shopping list, you can remember your time away from the daily grind.
7. Beachcomb: When you visit the beach, get up early to go beachcombing. You’ll find some beautiful shells in their natural habitat, and you can always make them into a shell critter when you get home if you find you really wanted one after all.
8. Make Candles: One year, my husband and I collected shells and a small amount of sand on our trip to Myrtle Beach. At home, we bought supplies to make gel candles out of them. It was an easy craft, which we made into gifts for our family, and each candle cost about ¼ what a gel candle in the souvenir shops cost!
9. Look for pressed penny machines: For $0.51 in most places, you can create a small (easy to store) memento of your trip. These machines are in all kinds of places – I’ve even seen them at rest stops on the turnpike.
10. Buy something you were already planning to purchase at home If you need a new can opener, get it on the road. The next time you open a can of baked beans, you can pretend you are camping out under the stars with the cowboys you met in Wyoming. If you have kids, take a day or part of a day to go school shopping. If a friend asks your daughter where she got that great top, it sounds better to say, “Paris” than “Old Navy” (even if it came from an Old Navy in Paris, Texas).
If you are strong on self-control and short on sentimentality, the best way to save money on souvenirs is not to buy any at all. Enjoy the trip and bring home memories only. Wherever you go this summer, may you have a great time and come home with money still in the bank!
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