Souvenir Ideas Worth Stealing

In a previous post I mentioned that I “have a habit of purchasing wearable items during my travels, something I need – a knit cap if the weather is cool, sunglasses, maybe a pair of gloves – nothing fancy and something that I will continue to use when I get back home. I find these make the best souvenirs because every time you put them on you are reminded of a very specific moment of your vacation.”

(As an aside, is it weird to quote myself? It feels weird. But my other option was to paraphrase myself and that felt even weirder. And for those of you thinking it – no, refraining from references to tripe I have written in the past was never seriously considered as an option 🙂 )


After reading this discussion on the TravelBlog forums in which fellow travelers share what types of knick knacks and body art they enjoy picking up on their journeys as reminders of where they have been, I’m considering some new approaches to souvenir collecting. The thread contains a host of creative and clever collection ideas, including:

I found that wherever I travelled there would ALWAYS be discarded playing cards. I started collecting the ones I found in different countries/places in the hope of eventually getting a whole set. I would label where/ when I found them and put them in my travel diary ~redshoes

Sofia collects dolls/puppets from countries she has travelled in though there has been many we did not get. Also for her yearly school picture she wears an outfit bought from a country we travelled in the summer before the school year. ~ThroughMyEyes

I was particularly drawn to a collection concept alluded to by Madisons_Avenue – a postcard book. From the link provided by Madisons_Avenue to her blog where she describes in more detail what a postcard book is:

A postcard book is a collection of postcards from one’s travels, compiled in various ways, such as a ring clip or binder. Whenever you travel anywhere with your kids, even if it’s a quick weekend trip, buy a postcard from the location. Start by writing the date of the trip on the back and follow up with a brief paragraph about the trip’s biggest highlights. Address the postcard with your home address and send it home. After receiving each postcard, attach it to the others in some fashion (I prefer a hole-punch in the corner and a ring clip). … In looking over the postcard, your child will be excited to reminisce about the trip and have stories to tell their friends. More importantly, years later your now-fully-grown baby will have a collection to remind him/her of all of the trips s/he has been on and the greatest memories of them that may now be forgotten.

She obviously has kids in mind for this kind of collectable, but I think it would work equally well for all ages. And I like how collecting postcards is also sort of like collecting an anachronistic artifact; an item that, before the mass consumerization of handheld and digital cameras, served the useful purpose of capturing an image of your trip, and now exists mostly as a charming recollection of how things used to be – not all that long ago.

Speaking of how things used to be, particularly with regard to travel, I stumbled upon this book the other day and thought you might be interested in it as well – Working At Play: A History of Vacations in the United States. I only just ordered it and haven’t read it yet, so this isn’t an endorsement. But a study of how the American vacation has evolved seems to me to be an interesting subject, and the book is written by an academician who evidently works in a theory about American cultural attitudes about the puritanical values of hard work and idleness.

But back to the topic at hand.

What do you collect from your travels, if anything? And have your collecting habits changed over the years?

Read the thread in its entirety: Travel memories and souvenirs

Image: “close up postcards” by patti haskins. CC BY-SA 2.0.



  1. Well, I suppose if not for our mom’s none of us would have ever had any ideas 🙂

    I already told my wife about the postcard book idea and finding/sending postcards is destined to become a part of all of our upcoming trips. Really love the idea.

  2. I collect the hotel card keys- most are branded now- some even specific to the conference at the hotel. Started by accident ~15 years ago (back when they still were coded by holes in the card). Now I don’t even need to sneak them out as many hotels don’t ask nor expect them back.

  3. Oohhh, that’s another good idea. I think I might still have my Freddie Awards-branded key. Never thought of it as a collection starter before. Thanks for the idea Jes.

  4. I have a dangerous collector gene, so I’ve found a small, inexpensive souvenir I can find just about anywhere: pressed pennies.

    I use this site to see if there are any machines whenever I travel.

    Some locations have more than others. I’m heading to Disneyland this weekend. Pressed Penny heaven! For Disney parks, I use:

  5. Thanks for the shoutout reeder! I read about the obsession with solo cups in a hilarious thread on Reddit. I’m with Mikel in that the souvenirs I buy/blog are generally stuff you can use back home– I even buy workout clothes abroad! I dislike tchockes so it’s rare that I’ll pick those up– though they can sometimes work on a desk in your office or in a bookshelf display. Since blogging, I’ve learned that many people collect souvenirs– the most surprising is how many travel bloggers (that pride themselves for their off-the-beaten path travels) love those Starbucks city mugs! I don’t really have a collection myself (though I do hoarde international shopping bags) but I find them fascinating,

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