When traveling with children, wandering through the souvenir stands can be a minefield of temptations. Having a plan before you go can simplify the decisions. It is too easy to get into a generous vacation mood, and say yes to things which you can’t afford, or can’t fit into the travel bag. It is frustrating for kids to see so many interesting souvenirs and be told no all the time.
Here are some guidelines which will help your child come back from vacation with a treasured memento rather than a momentary indulgence.
Talk about things it would be fun to have from the trip before you leave.
While planning your trip, you should already be talking about what your child would like to bring home. If your child loves trains, then something related to trains would be a natural choice. This could be a small model of a train, a book about trains, a train sign with the name of the place, or a T-shirt with a train on it.
If you have someone who loves science, a magnifying glass, a rock collection, or a science kit will give hours of entertainment at home. If you are going somewhere like the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. or the Field Museum in Chicago, your science lover will be overwhelmed with fabulous stuff. If you go to a history site or museum, they will have toys and games of the era.
If you child is taking music lessons, or enjoys music, there are lots of choices. If you are visiting Mexico, or Olvera Street in Los Angeles, you’ll find some decorative drums, castanets, or wind instruments. Most of the colonial history sites in Virginia, such as Colonial Williamsburg, will have penny whistles and drums, as well as mob caps, feather pens.
Clothes are sensible souvenirs.
Stores and souvenir stands are full of T-shirts for good reason. They are inexpensive to buy, they are useful immediately as vacation clothing, they’ll be fun to wear to school or at play back home, and best of all, they will wear out. T-shirts are a practical souvenir and may be promised to the kids as extras that they don’t have to pay for with their own money. After all, kids need clothes, so shirts or jackets can be picked up along the way as part of the clothing budget.
A cap or sunhat is another practical item which makes an easy positive answer. Kids need to keep the sun off their heads, so a special hat or cap from their trip is useful, and lets them brag a little when they get home. In Australia, where the sun is so strong, all kids have to wear hats. School rules say, no hat, no recess, so a hat is just the right souvenir from Oz. An extra pair of sunglasses might be useful, and if they aren’t worn for a long time, and your child doesn’t have eye problems, a pair of silly souvenir glasses may be fun.
Give your child spending money.
Decide how much you are willing to give and provide your child a set sum of spending money. If your child has some money saved from gifts or earnings, that can be added. My parents usually gave my kids a twenty dollar bill for spending money when they said goodbye before a trip. That was added as over and above what the kids had been promised. Once the amount has been set, be sure to discuss the guidelines. This is the money for spending on something to bring home to remember the trip, so it will be your child’s decision as to whether they should buy a toy or a game. If you are going to several places, talk about the fact that the spending money needs to last the entire trip, so they need to think ahead about what they would like to have.
If possible, allow your child to make their own decisions about what to buy. It isn’t their spending money if you are the one making the choices. It is probably best for a parent to keep the money for young children who may lose it, but put it in an envelope or separate wallet so they see how much is left each time you give them what they need. An added plus is the math needed to keep track of their money, or to change their dollars into local currency.
By getting your child involved in the process of buying their own souvenirs, they will pay more attention to what is around them and learn more about the country or place they are visiting. When they get home with that plastic gondola from Venice that they carried carefully through three countries and two airports, they will have a treasured reminder of the place they visited.
Source: Personal Experience.