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My Top 10 Ideas For Travel Souvenirs

OK, I’ll admit to having quite a few T-shirts from our family travel jaunts, and my kids have a bunch as well (we’re not even going to get into the souvenir baseball cap collection.) But let’s face it, the budget and the already-stuffed suitcase can’t take too many clothing items, so what else is there for the little darlings to blow their vacation allowance on?

Here’s a proposed list to help stretch the shopping dinero:

** Floatie Pens (when tilted, objects move in the transparent barrel:) Delightfully tacky and inexpensive, these souvenir ink pens are found in some pretty unlikely places. We’ve got everything from Norwegian trolls to one from Jerusalem with floating bread and wine in front of the Last Supper. Classic.

** Key chains: You can find them everywhere, and older kids need one for their housekey anyway. I lost my favorite one from the Netherlands….little painted wooden shoes. Guess I’ll have to go back! The metal one from the Eiffel Tower brings smiles.

** Postcards: Not just blank cards; add to the adventure by taking your kids to the local post office, finding the most interesting stamps and mailing them home to yourself, their school buddies and grandparents. Scribble out some of the key addresses on some paper and carry the list with you so you don’t have to lug an address book.

** Recordings of Local Music: After everyone has checked out the cathedrals, look for sacred holiday music featuring the soaring acoustics of Notre Dame or Westminster Abbey. There are recordings of gamelan and tingklik concerts in Bali, indigenous Mayan music heard in Guatemala or perhaps some zheng music from Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong. There are plenty of local musicians in Hawaii who have CDs out; pick one up after the luau.

** Posters (get a tube to transport them home): Look for unique graphics that commemorate local places or festivals from your trip. We ended up with a great poster from a Japanese summer street festival in Tokyo; they were handing them out for free. Another fun thing to look for — movie posters in the local language. We have some in Japanese for Harry Potter.

** Hardware Stores: You may not know what it says but it sure looks cool; investigate hardware or home supply stores for business or household signs in the local language. No Smoking becomes Rökning Förbjuden in Swedish. I have “Please Always Keep Clean” in Thai hanging in my kitchen (not that I actually follow through on a whole lot of cleaning….)

** Drugstores: Find the most appealing colors and packaging on inexpensive everyday items like toothpaste, soap and shampoo. Ability to actually read the ingredients a plus but not required. When in doubt, another country’s version of a recognized name like Crest or Head & Shoulders will do.

** Kitchen Stuff: Refrigerator magnets, printed dish/kitchen towels, mugs and bottle openers don’t cost much and are fun, colorful travel reminders to liven up mundane chores like drying the dishes and looking in the fridge at soda options.

** Stationary store: Friends and family will enjoy hearing from you, especially when those missives have an international flavor/flavour. Thank you note-cards, gift tags, change of address announcements (“Nieuwe Woning” in Dutch) and Christmas/winter holiday cards in another language will un-blah your family’s correspondence. There’s nothing like hunting for stunning Florentine writing paper while you’re actually in Florence. Remember, lots of grandparents want an actual written thank-you note when they send gifts; email doesn’t cut it. May as well get the kids some neat writing papers to liven up those tasks.

** Subway/Metro Memorabilia: Any large city with public transportation will have these items. Bring home a system map to frame (unless the kids are sentimentally attached to their grungy crumpled one.) London’s Covent Garden has a Transport Museum gift shop; cheap thrills include a color-coded felt tip pen set (the Piccadilly Line pen is dark blue, etc.)

And here’s a tip if you are still awash in T-shirts; there are companies that will make quilts out of old T-shirts, or you can make one yourself if you’re handy.

Finally, thanks to Darren Rowse at ProBlogger for the chance to participate in his latest group blogging project….Lists!

Note: This is a 22 September 2006 re-creation of a 17 August 2006 posting that was lost in a BootsnAll server crash. I used a Google cache version, but the original comments were unfortunately lost.

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