Fun idea for reducing vacation mementos

Have you ever gone on vacation and felt obligated to bring something home? Perhaps you were thinking about someone who didn’t travel with you? Or, maybe you feel guilty for missing a little league game because of a business trip? How can you avoid cluttering up your home when you travel frequently?

Instead of bringing lots of trinkets home with you, take something with you and photograph it at the different locations you visit. Credit for this idea goes to AT&T’s Sweet Pea commercial. In the commercial, the dad takes his daughter’s stuffed animal and sends her pictures of it wherever he goes. Rather than having a box full of junk from Dad’s 30 business trips, she has an online scrapbook of all the places her stuffed animal has traveled with Daddy.

This can work for you even if you’re not leaving someone at home and you want to avoid bringing knick-knacks into your house. Choose an item that goes with you on all of your trips. And, if you don’t travel often, see if friends or family would want to share an item. I have some friends who like to pass around a miniature referee. After returning from a trip, share the pictures of your item at the various destinations you visited. It makes vacation pictures interesting and uncluttered!

44 Comments for “Fun idea for reducing vacation mementos”

  1. posted by Someone on

    It predates the AT&T commercial by a lot.

    There was a famous case years back of someone “liberating” their neighbor’s garden gnome before going on a trip around the world. The garden gnome then sent the neighbor back photographs of himself at various tourist attractions, and notes about his “running away to see the world”, before returning to the yard at the end of the trip. (I think there might have been a book made about the prank, but I can’t find it now.)

  2. posted by Springpeeper on

    This IS a fun idea, perhaps because it is somewhat eccentric?

    Dads, be sure to take good care of those stuffed animals, now. Woe to you if you leave your child’s beloved Teddy behind somewhere!

    Another idea to reduce vacation memento clutter is to purchase one item that can be used as a Christmas tree decoration (providing you do a tree). You designate this item to be The Souvenir and don’t bring anything else home. The advantages are that the item is small and it is in storage with the other decorations most of the year, so it doesn’t become a dust collector. It makes your tree pretty special, too.

  3. posted by anonymous on

    re: the garden gnome post above.

    That was in the movie Amelie (2001).

  4. posted by anonymous on

    According to IMDB’s trivia page for Amelie:

    The traveling gnome was inspired by a rash of similar pranks played in England and France in the 1990s. In 1997, a French court convicted the leader of Front de Libération des Nains de Jardins (Garden Gnome Liberation Front) of stealing over 150 gnomes. The idea was later used in an advertising campaign for an Internet travel agency.

  5. posted by CJ on

    Actually, the Flat Stanley project probably pre-dates the Amelie reference. The project involves schoolchildren sending their paper doll to family and friends around the world, who then take pictures of Flat Stanley with famous landmarks. I know my brother did it in elementary school about ten years ago.

  6. posted by OogieM on

    Flat Stanley has also visited many famous people, presidents, world leaders, even been to the Academy awards, flown on the space shuttle and in a fighter jet and more. He’s come to our place twice to visit and I made a scrapbook of his visits for us. There is a lot more to the Flat Stanley project, check it out. Schools participate in the program and it’s a great way to teach kids geography and more.

  7. posted by Misty Gibbs on

    Kids will *love* this! I know my daughter will! It makes those trips away more fun for adults too 🙂

    Cheers! Misty with My Inspiration Lounge

  8. posted by Tabitha (From Single to Married) on

    That sounds fun. I don’t know if I can stop years of traveling habits (I have a whole box full of take home stuff) but it’s worth a try!

  9. posted by momofthree on

    I remember the stories of the traveling yard ornament, be it a gnome, flamingo, or other such item. The item was returned with a scrapbook to the owner. I found the story to be very laugh inducing.

    Being a small house owner (920 sg. ft.), with a family of 5, we do collect one item to be used as a tree ornament, and if there are T-shirts for a very low price, we get one per person. Kids grow and shirts are handed down to the next or given away to charity when no longer fitting.

    We just did a flat church founder (300 year birthday) this summer so our church collected lots of photos for a display this fall. It’s incredible all the places we all took our “Flat Guy”. Every family got a copy of him, so we didn’t have to share, but when I have the time, I will be scrapbooking him among the pics from our summer.

  10. posted by Peter (a different one) on

    I just wanted to comment on the photo with the article. I love how the pamphlet/brochure notes where the photo was taken. How many times have I looked at a vaction photo and not been to remember where it was taken? More than I’d like to admit.

  11. posted by Scott on

    How does this idea reduce the urge to bring things home any more than taking regular pictures reduces the desire to bring things home? Am I missing something?

  12. posted by auntiemichal on

    The online knitting community enjoys the adventures of the Yarn Harlot (knitting humorist, author, and blogger) who takes her Traveling Sock (one pair per book, made of carefully selected, significant yarn) on book tours, photographing it with her audiences, scenic spots, and sometimes famous people. She writes/speaks often of “showing the sock a good time.” Stephanie (aka Harlot) nearly always has a sock-in-progress with her and we often see those socks held by famous musicians at parties she and her producer husband attend.

    Other knitters have taken up the habit, one even getting Obama to hold her sock-in-progress.

    Granted, this began for reasons other than being uncluttered, but the practice adds meaning to snapshots. Also, knitters tend to bring home “souvenir yarn” to enhance their yarn stashes that might be called clutter by non-knitters.

  13. posted by Zac on

    My wife an I solved this problem by deciding to only buy refrigerator magnets as souvenirs. They are inexpensive, easy to find, and we know right where to put them when we get home.

  14. posted by Melanie on

    I, too, don’t understand how this is different than taking photos in general as a way to reduce souvenir clutter.

    For the past 10 years my travel souvenirs are purposefully small: charms, bookmarks, elongated coins or postcards. All souvenirs from any trip (no matter how long) can be gathered and brought home in one small ziplock bag.

  15. posted by Martha on

    I buy something I will use or enjoy such as a Christmas ornament or artwork or jewelry. Then I get something I love and the memories of the trip at the same time.

  16. posted by sarah lynne on

    my husband and i also get christmas ornaments as souvenirs when we travel. it makes putting up our christmas tree a trip down memory lane every year.

  17. posted by Kim on

    I did this very thing last month went I went to England. I took a Shakespeare finger puppet and took pictures of it everywhere–at least once a day.

    In front of Shakespeare’s birthplace, there I was holding up a Shakespeare finger puppet for a photo. Meanwhile, all around me were tourists laughing at me (and a few snapped shots too!). I felt funny but I enjoyed it. “Little Will” (as I called him) was a fun project for the trip.

    I’m going to post the pics to flickr eventually. I’m still getting caught up from the trip.

    I think it is going to be a fun memento of the trip.

    Kim (just got my Ph.D. and specialize in Shakespeare)

  18. posted by Cynthia on

    This is a fun idea. We used to do this at my previous job. Our group had a “mascot”, sort of, he was a stuffed animal and when ever anyone went on a trip he’d go along and it was great seeing pictures of him all over the world. I don’t know what ever happened to that stuffed animal. I may have to start that up with our family. We don’t travel much, but it would be fun to take him on our family road trips and our outings nearby.

    I used to collect shot glasses and picked one up whenever I traveled. Luckily I stopped, but I still have a box full of shot glasses that I don’t know what to do with.

    But as far as souvenirs, we will usually buy a t-shirt and maybe postcards. Not that we need more t-shirts in our closets, but at least this way they will be worn and won’t just sit and collect dust as some trinkets might.

  19. posted by Kersti on

    I keep it fairly small, I will always buy postcards for close friends and family – and if a household has a small child I address the postcard to them instead of the parents (kids LOVE getting post)

    I also collect those cloth souvenir badges and sew them onto a big blanket at home, it’s generally all I want/need to remember a place and has the added advantage of not taking up any more space at home than the original blanket which I have anyway.

  20. posted by Tracy J on

    Hey! I do that!!!!
    I have a yoda figurine that I got as a kid… he travels very well, and I take pictures of him with interesting surroundings. (By a waterfall in some woods on Vancouver Island, the Amsterdam Airport, Rialto bridge in Venice and a few other noteworthy places too).
    It’s fun, clutterfree entertainment… and also gets some interesting looks from the locals as you are “posing” your trinket!

  21. posted by Shalin on

    Yep, this is pretty much what I do. The only “trinkets” I get while on vacation are hat/lapel pins of the city, attraction, etc.

    But this is a neat idea if you really like a trinket but don’t want it lying around your place after you get back – just take a picture of you with it. 🙂


  22. posted by Amie on

    A few years ago, my friends and I started a “travel duck” tradition when one friend bought a distinctive rubber duck when we were traveling. Now I’ve finally found my own duck that I can bring along on all of my travels as a mascot, to make some of my personal photos unique.

    Even though I often still buy other small souvenirs on certain trips, I always send myself postcards from destinations large and small. Sometimes there is just a quick note about why I’m there, but often I will use them as a travel journal, where I’ll note what I’ve seen and done and felt on my travels. Once they arrive, they get displayed on the refrigerator for a while and then stored in a box. Some day, I’ll have a better system for archiving them.

  23. posted by Meghan on

    We used to do this at my office. A co-worker had one of those Kung-Fu hamster stuffed animals and we would “kidnap” it and email back pictures of it around the world.

  24. posted by Lisa on

    When I bring treats to my family in the US, I invariably end up dragging them around with me to other places first. So I make a game of it. I have a bar of Ritter Sport “departing” the UK, visiting Vancouver and Chicago with me, before finally arriving with the family. Earlier this year some Kinder Hippos were lucky enough to come along to Australia with me, then Minnesota, before traveling to the USA. I’m pretty sure it amuses me more than the family!!

  25. posted by Lisa on

    I only buy useful souvenirs that were on my list of things needed anyway. Things like bamboo kitchen utensils, an apron or lovely cakey things that be devoured the minute we get home. No clutter there!

  26. posted by Sue on

    1. I buy a postcard of the locale and write a journal entry of the adventures, then mail it home.
    2. I buy something I will use anyway–jewelry, a scarf, a unique clothing item by a local artisan, a local cookbook or a local food product. That is then The Souvenir.

  27. posted by Trish M. on

    This is going off on a tangent a bit… In Paris I set aside a day to explore Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Knowing it would be a long excursion I brought along a sandwich. I decided to have lunch with the artists At each famous headstone I would perch my sandwich on top and snap a photo. I’d have a bite with Delacroix, then a bite with Modigliani and so forth. My dwindling sandwich made what might otherwise be dull photos a fun memory for me.

  28. posted by H on

    I absolutely love doing this, so do my friends! Masquerade Boy (a red-haired boy quint doll with a masquerade mask, it’s a looong story) has been with either me or one of my friends across Canada, to Mexico, Australia, and, Scotland and then across Europe on separate trips… and more. I have a picture of him in Luxembourg on my dresser.

  29. posted by Em Dy on

    I’ve been decluttering the past weeks and the hardest items to let go are the travel souvenirs.

    I used to bring home all the pamphlets/travel guides I’d pick up on trips but recently I just tear out the pages I need and put them in my photo album. The reason I did that was more because of the baggage limit rather than clutter.

    I think this is a good idea. Will do it next time I travel.

  30. posted by Sue on

    I mostly taking hiking vacations, and have a little plush otter that comes with me in my pack. I take pictures of the otter on the trail and at the summits or other points of interest. Someday I’m going to make a scrapbook of the otter’s adventures.

    As fun at that is, it doesn’t really help reduce souvenier clutter. I solve that by only buying something useful – either a water bottle from a local bicycle shop or a pint glass from a local brewery. Pint glasses have replaced all but my coffee mugs and juice glasses at home, and I keep one for water at work as well. It’s an every day reminder of fun places I have been.

  31. posted by B on

    Unless you’re a real fan of the item don’t bother with this approach. I sometimes travel with a good friend that always has a small Winnie the Pooh bear with her to be included in photos. After the trip we share our photos, and honestly I usually try to crop out Pooh from any of her pictures that I use because that stuffed animal means nothing to me and just make the pictures look stupid/goofy.

    Another note on Flat Stanley: Clint Eastwood brought his 3rd grade daughter’s Flat Stanley to the 2005 Oscars where he won 2 Oscars for Million Dollar Baby

  32. posted by becoming minimalist on

    we have a running joke in our family about an old family reunion t-shirt that everybody was required to purchase. the contest has become to see who can get photographed in the most famous location wearing the t-shirt. it’s definitely a lot of fun – and helps keep our extended family in touch in between holidays.

  33. posted by Karla (threadbndr) on

    My son’s GF does that. Her childhood stuffy goes EVERYWHERE – she has pictures of it on all her vacations, and her year of study abroad.

    Then she sent it to IRAQ – where my son has photos of “Mr. Bear” driving a HumVee, behind a convoy gun etc. SO CUTE!

    (And Mr. Bear made it safely back stateside – JC’s buddies even had strict instructions about what to do with Mr. Bear in case JC shipped out unexpectedly LOL.)

  34. posted by BonzoGal on

    We have an old action figure of Boss Hogg from the TV series “Dukes of Hazzard.” He gets photographed all over the place.

  35. posted by KellyD on

    I am also a knitter and in the time honored tradition of the new generation of knitters, I take my travelling sock with me and snap a photo whereever I go. Recently in our knitting world someone actually got Obama to hold their travelling sock LOL

  36. posted by Misty on

    My parents have several time shares and we traveled alot when I was a kid- normally 3 vacations a year 🙂 We have some awesome memories and we bought spoons from each place we visited. They were normally very cheap and we had a display shelf for them. It was a great way to remember each place and did not take up much space. My parents still have it and as an adult we still will look at them and remember. Pictures did not work well for us as mom was a photographer and shoemakers children often go without shoes!
    I do like the picture idea and will probably do that with my son as DH and I are more picture people.

  37. posted by Pam on

    I like to bring jewelry home with me. When I wear it I am pleasantly reminded of the vacation. One day this week I was wearing earrings from Hawaii, a bracelet from Turkey and a necklace from Egypt. I used to get a key ring from everyplace I visited, and attached them to lengths of small-linked, gold-toned chain from the hardware store. I put them on the hallway wall and its always fun to glance at them and remember the trips. I did stop that though, when I realized that “one day” someone will be looking at all those key rings, wondering what the heck to do with them!

  38. posted by Jude on

    The Nancy Pearl Librarian Action Figure has been traveling around the world for awhile now. There’s a Flickr group devoted to her travels (I can’t view it because Flickr is blocked at work).

  39. posted by Mickey on

    I realize this post was from last year, but as someone who travelled often for work, I found my solution. As an earring addict, I buy a pair on every trip – small enough to fit in carry on, and although my collection is quite large, I wear them all the time and when I get complimented on them, I have the memory of where and when I bought it. (I also buy a magnet, and have that collection, and only that collection, on my fridge).

  40. posted by Sharon on

    One thing I do for ephemera is to buy a large postcard. Then, when I’m scrapbooking the trip, I will use doublesided foam tape to attach 3 sides of the post card to a page and use it for a pocket to hold other brochures, tickets, etc.

  41. posted by Peg Bracken Fan on

    Instead of trinkets, we try to bring home edible souvenirs. Jam and Cadbury bars from England, vanilla and Kahlua from Mexico and so on. As we dig into our stash–sometimes even weeks or months later–we relive our trip memories.

    This was part of a conscious effort to cut down. As far as other souvenirs, we usually get a Christmas tree ornament and take a lot of pictures.

  42. posted by Aeryn on

    My partner and I have just taken to sending ourselves postcards from the places that we’ve been to by way of souvenirs. It’s turning out to be clutter still, as I keep those postcards organized in a photo album turned postcard collector, and I don’t know what to do with the odd sized ones, so good suggestion, may start adopting a relatively small stuffed toy mascot for ourselves!

  43. posted by Liz on

    My husband and I are, amongst other things, photographers. Last summer’s vacation was a 14-day Northern Europe cruise, which involved having lots of luggage and yet almost no room for souvenirs – and no matter how amazing, they just seem to end up as clutter anyways. So I took to photographing the amazing displays in shops and stores instead… Some of my favourite pictures are of a shelf of nesting dolls in St. Petersburg or pamphlets in a church in Helsinki, and I have all the memories with none of the stuff!

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