25+ years ago, one of my husband’s older siblings brought his parents a pair of coffee cups back from a vacation. The rest of the family thought that seemed like a great idea and started doing the same.
The mugs my husband and I brought back from our Hawaii honeymoon were shaped like dolphins. The next year we added cable car mugs from San Francisco.
My mother-in-law put up a shelf in her kitchen for the mugs. And then another shelf. And another.
But there are nine kids in my husband’s family, so you can see where this was going.
In fact, here’s a recent picture of our brood on my in-laws 60th anniversary.
Imagine if every adult in that picture brought my in-laws just one mug from one trip.
Goodbye kitchen, hello mug museum.
At some point my mother-in-law gently hinted that she had enough coffee mugs, thanks, and that ended the tradition.
That’s kind of the problem with souvenirs.
You’re on a fabulous trip and you vow to always remember the wonderful time you’re having. You decide to buy something to take back that will remind you. So you lug home a shot glass or a pair of Mickey Mouse ears or a paperweight. And after a few years – and a few more trips — you have a house full of shot glasses and Mickey Mouse ears and paperweights.
But about ten years ago I stumbled upon something that – for us – has turned out to be the perfect travel souvenir: towels.
Towels meet all of my “ideal souvenir” requirements:
- They’re affordable.
- They’re readily available at most vacation spots.
- They’re really, really easily to pack (Easier than, say, a set of dishes.)
- We actually use them.
That last part is my favorite because towels aren’t knick knacks that I have to display or dust or decide to get rid of when they’ve ceased being memory-makers and started being clutter.
It started with beach towels. If the kids were on trips with us they picked out their own. If they weren’t, we brought them back to them as gifts.
After a while, though, we had plenty of beach towels. Even with a competitive swimmer/lifeguard in the house, we had enough. And the kids had outgrown the tradition anyway.
So I switched to something even more affordable and even easier to pack: dish towels.
The first one was a Washington DC dish towel that I bought at the Newseum gift shop. It has embroidery on it and came with it’s own fabric case and some kind of commemorative card.
For a long time I kept the towel in its case. I mean, if it came with a case, then surely it should be carefully stored away for…some reason or other.
After a while I took the great big step of hanging it up, but not using it. I’m a slow learner.
Now it’s in the drawer with the rest of my dish towels and I use it all the time. It even has a couple of small stains on it, like regularly used dish towels do.
I have a Boston dish towel now too. And later this summer I’m looking forward to finding one in San Francisco. I get a lot of enjoyment out of these souvenirs that get used every day.
So there’s my souvenir story.
Centsational Girl is having a souvenir link party, so you can hop over there and see what other people’s favorite souvenirs are. This post is also part of The William Morris Project and Frugal Friday.
But I’d like to hear from you: Do you buy souvenirs on vacation? What do you like to bring back?