What makes the best family vacation souvenirs? Unique Christmas ornaments! Unlike toys that will break or tchotchkes that will gather dust on a shelf, ornaments offer a family travelogue of memories every year when you decorate the Christmas tree.
Unique Christmas ornaments
In some houses, Christmas decorations look like a interior designer did the work. Everything from the tree topper to the holiday ornaments to the Christmas lights are draped perfectly around the tree and the Christmas stockings are hung along the mantle.
At my house, Christmas is less stellar home decor and more “remember when” holiday cheer. That’s because our tree ornaments are keepsakes from our family vacations.
Here’s why hanging your travel souvenirs on your tree adds an extra layer to holiday joy.
My first Christmas tree was covered in perfectly round glass ball ornaments. They were part of an ornament set I got on sale for half-price in the after-Christmas sale a year earlier.
Each subsequent year saw fewer of the glass ornaments and more of the unique Christmas ornaments from our family travels.
What counts as an ornament?
Some of our travel souvenir ornaments aren’t really ornaments at all. Rather, they are symbols of the trip we picked up along the way. We turned them into bobbles that could be hung from a tree branch or tucked into the limbs, much the same way some families hide a pickle in the tree. My favorite of these: a cork coaster I picked up in Wales. All it took was a small hole drilled into the cork to insert the hook.
Collectibles as ornaments
Some families have holiday-oriented collections. For one friend, that means nutcrackers. For another, it’s whimsical animal ornaments. And there are families that go retro or choose Old World Christmas ornaments.
Whether your holiday collectibles are all about Santa or snowflakes, Disney princesses or Marvel superheroes, you can use the collection to create a Christmas tree that is uniquely yours. Expand the collection on your family travels and get a two-for: a Christmas tree festooned with travel memories and your collectible passion.
Getting a cohesive look to your tree
My tree is an eclectic collection of all sorts of different ornaments. There’s the Greek Evasone (President’s Guard) that my husband and I picked up on our honeymoon. And the crazy Dymaxion House we marveled at during a visit to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
But I know there are people who like a more uniform look to their holiday decor. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a tree filled with family vacation memories! Most destinations offer a round glass Christmas ornament bearing the destination’s name.
DIY Christmas ornaments
I’m not crafty and I’m in awe of people who are. If that is you, consider making unique Christmas ornaments that reflect your travels and your family’s personality. You can cross-stitch the name of the destination, create an ornament featuring a photo shot on vacation, or pick up a pinecone or another bit of nature on your travels and paint it with the name and date of the trip.
Document the memories
I don’t always buy ornaments that have the name of the destination written on the front. And they rarely include the date. When I get home with those, I take a Sharpie and write the name and year on the back.
I learned this the hard way. While I remember the year we picked up the Greek Evazone (hello, honeymoon!) I don’t remember exactly which year we first visited the Henry Ford Museum and picked up that Dymaxion House model. But I will know that I visited the Galapagos Islands in 2019. I wrote the date on the bottom of the blue footed booby carving I bought while I was there.
Decorating the tree
Each year when you decorate the Christmas tree, plan to take a little extra time. When you pull out each ornament, ask the kids what they remember as the best part of the trip. Just note that it is likely to lead to a desire for more family vacations!