Does your family purchase souvenirs when you travel? Are they carefully curated, or are they a random selection of whatever catches your eye? Our Inquisitive TravelingMom found her family grabbing all manner of souvenirs, some useful and some… not so much. The more impulsive the purchase, the more likely that souvenir would end up on a shelf somewhere or in the donation bag. Until she hit on the solution that helped her family narrow their focus but revisit their memories every year – collecting Christmas ornaments as souvenirs.
I finally succumbed this year. I bought an artificial tree. But it’s not my main tree – it’s our “side piece.” Our main Christmas tree is a real tree and we will have a real tree until I become too feeble and incapacitated to fight my husband’s desire for a fake tree.
No, the artificial tree is for our travel souvenir ornaments. With three kids who each get a new ornament every year, our main tree was getting pretty loaded down. The travel ornaments were getting lost in all that.
Collecting Christmas Ornaments as Souvenirs
I don’t remember when we started picking up a Christmas ornament on every vacation. Regardless, I’m grateful for the idea. Instead of a bunch of random (and sometimes tacky) items cluttering up our home, a Christmas ornament is a souvenir with purpose. There is no discussion of “where are we going to put this?” because it is guaranteed a home with all our other ornaments. We’ve only been collecting for a couple of years, but it’s fun when we pull those ornaments out of the box. My kids start blurting out “remember whens” and we relive the memories of that trip as a family.
Curated or Kitschy?
To avoid disagreement, you should probably decide ahead of time the kind of ornaments for which you are looking. I’ve seen Christmas trees that look they belong in a magazine. Everything is coordinated and all the ornaments are similarly themed, shaped and sized. That is NOT my tree. Anything goes on our tree and I love it that way. It fits my personality and I think the kids like the variety of our ornaments.
Some of the places we visited were kitschy and whimsical, like Gatorland Orlando. A traditional ornament would not reflect the fun memories we had. However, if a thoughtfully coordinated tree is important to you, keep in mind that you may not be able to find what you want at every destination. I’ve found that most places, though, all have some form of ball-shaped ornament. If that won’t do, consider getting an ornament from an online photo service. Choose your favorite vacation photo and have it made into an ornament.
The Ubiquitous Travel Souvenir
I haven’t been to a place yet that hasn’t offered some kind of Christmas ornament for purchase. Even in the middle of summer at a beach destination, Christmas ornaments featuring that location’s landmarks are a staple. Attraction gift shops carry these items year-round.
If you do find yourself somewhere with a decided lack of Christmas cheer, you can always make your own! You can purchase clear glass ball ornaments that are perfect for filling with your own mementos. It can be sand or shells from a beach, pebbles from a mountain trail or stream, or any small items that are representative of your trip. You can also decoupage an ornament with papers that have your destination’s name on them and pictures of your travels.
Make It Personal
We often try to get as personal as possible about our ornaments. When on the Georgia coast’s Jekyll Island we could have gotten any one of a number of ornaments related to the island. We chose an ornament depicting our lodgings that week – the historic Jekyll Island Club Hotel. The resort had offered us such a memorable stay and was so beautiful that we knew that was the memory we wanted to look back on.
Likewise, our trip to Asheville was fun but the absolute highlight was seeing the Biltmore House at Christmastime. Our ornament was just as beautiful as the home! Sometimes our ornaments depict trip favorites. My middle son hadn’t been to Walt Disney World since he was 4. I took him when he was 12 and he fell in love with Space Mountain. I knew that no generic “Walt Disney World” ornament would do.
Remember The Staycation, Too
Lately, my kids have started pointing out ornaments at local attractions we visit. At first, I voted them down. We live here! Why would we need an ornament from here? However, I changed my mind. I appreciated the way that my kids were excited about our collection and wanted to add to it. I also liked that they saw what was special about the memories we make on a regular basis. So, we’re starting to add ornaments from those places that we’ve been a million times because, clearly, those places are special to us as well.
This coming year, start a new travel tradition. Let the kids help pick out the ornament from each of your travel destinations and fun outings. It’s a great way to get memories off the computer, out of a photo book and into your hands every year.