Souvenir Ideas For Your Family Vacations

In a culture currently obsessed with Marie Kondo and her extreme decluttering lifestyle, you might find it odd that I’m giving advice on souvenir ideas. In other words, more meaningless stuff for you to purchase and then purge.

But, stay tuned! It’s quite the opposite.

First of all, let’s back up for a second. Marie Kondo wrote a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. It’s kind of a big deal. Netflix just started streaming a show based on the best-seller. And people are talking!

The KonMari Method uses organizational principals of categorizing to declutter. Any items that don’t bring an overwhelming sense of joy to the owner are dispensed of, thus decluttering the house. I’m a fan and could get on board tomorrow!

My husband, on the other hand, is a certified hoarder.

And unfortunately, my daughter is following in his footsteps. Which means that it is about near impossible to purge anything around here without someone complaining or repurposing the unused item!

Which is why…I have to be extraordinary intentional with each and every item I agree to purchase. (Cause we ain’t gettin’ rid of it!)

Travel is one area where I see parents splurge on junk that they typically wouldn’t purchase in day to day life. Souvenir shop owners aren’t messing around. They know how to bait the kids and reel in parents. In fact, at many destinations families are actually forced THROUGH the gift shop to exit!

Talk about high pressure marketing!

With as much as we travel (and keeping in mind that we will likely own the items forever), I have to be super selective when it comes to purchasing souvenirs.

Over the years we’ve come up with a few categories of acceptable souvenir ideas. We try to stick exclusively to this list.

  1. 1. Ornaments: This, by far, is my favorite souvenir!  They don’t clutter up our house since they are packed away 10 months out of the year. And we love reminiscing as we decorate our tree! Additionally, they’re usually reasonably priced and they don’t take up much room in a suitcase. Over the years I’ve begun tagging them with the date of our trip. 
  • 2. Clothing: This one is tricky because if not done well it can end up costing you a lot of money. To avoid this, I actually check online AHEAD of the trip. For example, a couple years ago we went to Boston for a game at Fenway. My son loves hats and my daughter actually needed some new t-shirts. So I ordered them attire ahead of the game. They were able to wear them at Fenway- and a ton since! Obviously you don’t want to invest in anything that’s just for one time wear. 
  1. 3. Home Decor: I can honestly say that home decor is just NOT my thing. In fact, I’m notorious for seeing something at Hobby Lobby that I love, bringing it home and then not knowing what to do with it in my house. But, if I’m traveling and see something that I can picture in a specific spot in my house- I usually buy it. It’s so much more meaningful to see the item in my house and think of travel memories, rather than my Target shopping cart!
  2. 4. Useful: This category is a bit non-specific so you’ll just have to apply it as you souvenir shop. However, I will purchase items that I foresee us using. For example, we purchased a wooden cheese board at Magnolia Market in Waco. We use it every time we have company over (incidentally, I’m the only person who knows where it’s from…but it still makes me smile!) Similarly, I might let my kids purchase a pencil or art item. While typically a bit overpriced, I know they will actually use the item. 
  1. 5. Book: I am a sucker for books! If there’s any category in my house that I’m guilty of hoarding- it’s my overstuffed book shelves. But, they bring me so much joy that I think Marie Kondo herself would struggle to convince me to purge them! I almost always pick up books related to destinations that we’ve visited. My kids LOVE reading books about places we’ve been.
  2. 6. Free: I’m going to cringe saying this because I don’t always wholeheartedly love doing this, but we collect any free souvenirs we can. Often National Parks and Museums will offer free brochures. Additionally the maps from parks or zoos, ticket stubs and even special food wrappers make great scrapbook material. And I consider scrapbooks the ultimate souvenir!

What other souvenirs does your family collect when you travel?

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You might also enjoy reading:

Renting A Car For Travel: The Pros, Cons And Worst Case Scenario 

When The Best Travel Moments Aren’t The Ones You Plan

My Kids Favorite Travel Product of All Time

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