Everyone loves a souvenir. Especially kids. How many of you are immediately bombarded as soon as a gift shop is within view? "Mom can I get a shirt?" "Mom can I get stuffed animal?" "Mom can I get a commemorative plate?" As you get up to the checkout counter with your you t-shirt, stuffed iguana, and signed and numbered special edition plate from the Sticks and Twine Museum you gasp at your total. It adds up quick. Now how many stuffed iguana's do your kids really need? Not to say that I don't think souvenirs are great but sometimes they cost us a fortune and then are tossed into a closet for the remainder of the millenium. Souvenirs can be great reminders of the places we have visited but if you do alot of visiting you will go broke trying to keep up that t-shirt collection. I have a couple alternatives that are inexpensive, great collectibles, and don't take up alot of space.
The first is the pressed penny. We have all seen the machines before. For two quarters and a penny you can turn your plain old penny into a souvenir!
Sure its kind of campy but just think- you spend 51 cents and you get a souvenir for your children that they can collect and help them keep record of the places they have visited. I started getting souvenir pennies for my kids when they were infants. If I see a machine I get one for each child and put them in those handy dandy pressed penny books that you can get at many locations that sell pressed pennies. I think it will be fun for them to go through their pennies and see all the places they have been. Another bonus- if I have no desire to go back to the Sticks and Twine Museum I can show them their penny and prove to them they have already been! If children know they are going to get a pressed penny as a souvenir than it is something to look forward to, do themselves (as soon as they are big enough to turn the wheel, and hopefully keeps them from bugging you too much about getting something else.
Another great souvenir that I recently stumbled upon is the National Park Passport Book. You can buy this book at almost every visitor run by the National Park Service.
What's so great about it? Well you can get your book stamped for free with the official stamp for the National Park with the date you visited it. It can be your official record of every place you visit that is affiliated with the National Park Service. In addition to the official date stamp, most places have an official stamp or two that represents its park, monument, etc. I think these are fantastic memory books and it is so exciting to get a new stamp cancellation when you visit a new place. The books are inexpensive (around $7.00) if you consider you buy one once and then have a lifetime to fill it. I have become obsessed with getting my kids stamped for all the places they have been and have even contacted parks that we visited
before I knew abut the books so I could have them stamp a piece of paper which I glued into their book. I know, a tad obsessed and crazy but I really think they are the coolest things since The Fonz. If you can't wait until you get to a visitor center to get your passport book you can also buy them online at this website
Another thing I like to do is get a patch from all the National and State Parks we hike and sew it to my backpack. I have seen old people with pins or patches covering their backpacks and it is so neat to see all the places they have been. I want to be the old woman people stop to ask how Redwoods were or what it was like at the top of Haleakala.
Finally one of the cool things I have had friends do is collect dirt or sand from the places they have been and put it in clear little jars for display on a shelf in their house. It is very interesting and beautiful to see the different types of sand, gravel, or dirt from all around the world. You can also collect a little bit of water from streams at the base of waterfalls and have your own little piece of Niagara in your den. I have yet to start collecting sand (mostly because I can never to remember to bring a little baggy with me or get some little jars at the store) but I do want to start. I really think the displays I have seen are absolutely beautiful.
I hope these ideas were helpful and that maybe you will start your own collection representing your adventures!