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Gift shops are hard to resist when traveling. Even as we strive to avoid bringing too much “stuff” into our house, it’s nearly impossible to bypass a tempting gift shop. During our travels, we may occasionally buy something special that catches our eye and the boys are always growing their stuffed animal collections, but we spend very little on souvenirs overall. We consider our photographs, which I assemble along with our trip reports into photo books when we return home, to be our primary souvenir from a trip.

However, we do enjoy contributing to a set of small, inexpensive items that becomes a collection of places we’ve visited. There are certain items available in most gift shops at any location whether it be a national park, theme park, museum, or other attraction, making them easy to collect. Pencils, patches, magnets, shot glasses, keychains … these small trinkets, branded by location, are a great way to great to satisfy the gift shop temptation without busting the trip budget.

Growing up, my mom collected pencils which she now keeps, unsharpened, in a glass vase on a bookshelf. Collecting pencils from every place we visited during our summer vacations gave us a reason to visit gift shops, but also an excuse to leave without spending too much money!

When I began traveling with my family, I wanted to begin a similar collection and chose magnets with the goal of covering our refrigerator with the places we’ve been.

I also collect postcards which are placed into a postcard album. The boys have albums, too, so they are able to choose one postcard each from every gift shop as well. These are inserted into Project Life Design C page protectors (each accommodating six horizontal 4×6 postcards) which are placed in a 12×12 Project Life album. On the back of each postcard is written the date of the visit and brief highlights from the day, usually just in a few sentence fragments. The full trip report is in the photo book, after all. The postcard albums become a concise collection of all the places we have visited and I love the nostalgia of the postcard designs over time.

And perhaps my cheapest collection of all isn’t from gift shops, but rather the hotels at which we stay. Many people hoard the little lotion and shampoo bottles from hotels, but it’s all about the hotel pens for me! Hotels basically supply the writing instruments that are scattered all around the house and I enjoy having the memories of our travels every time I need to write anything down whether I’m working or just adding to the shopping list.

What trinkets do you collect from gift shops? What populates your trip collections? Please share below!