I Need This and This and This…

July 12, 2010

Everyone loves souvenirs. 

About halfway through our recent vacation, my wife and I realized that our mad packing skills left little room for all the amazing useless junk that we still needed to pick up.  How else would we memorialize our trip, but through random souvenir trinkets with the name of the place we visited stamped on them?

As it turned out, we visited a beach, so we did pick up a bunch of shells.  Shells are a perfect souvenir and are great for transforming any ordinary bathroom into an enchanting island getaway.  I just glued ordinary seashells all over my sink, bathtub and toilet, sprinkled some sand on the floor, and got a Glade Island Escape(tm) air freshener, and every trip to the bathroom feels like I’m peeing in the ocean again!  How romantic.

We visited a lot of gift shops along the way too.  I had forgotten (somehow) how much Americans like to fill their homes with souvenirs.  And I had forgotten just how much souvenirs represent that irrepressible entrepreneurial spirit of selling people stuff they don’t really need.  Here’s my top five ways to clutter your home after a vacation.

The “I drank beer” souvenir

I really like those TV ads that tell you to go visit different U.S. states.  They always show a lot of really exciting things you can do in Wyoming or Idaho…really…really interesting things.  And no matter what state it is, even if it’s one that grows potatoes, virtually every commercial highlights a romantic looking winery, or failing that, a really nice looking liquor store.  Ever since that movie, Sideways came out, everyone thinks drinking wine rules.  So all these states are desperate to let us know that we can, in fact, see beautiful sights, go on exciting adventures, and get plastered and not remember any of it. 

The places where people actually go on vacations though really up the ante.  They don’t just tell you that drinking is in fact available, but they want you to remember the fact that you drank Budweiser in their tourist trap.  Every place wants to be a party place, so commemorate your vacation by highlighting the boozing you did.  Anything that you can cram a slogan onto, it will be something about drinking.  How many towns do you think call themselves a “little drinking town with a fishing problem?”  Turns out, a lot.

Snow globes

The fact that these products still exist blows my mind.  The whole reason people visit places in the summer is because we don’t care what any place looks like with snow all over it.  We know what snow looks like.  If you’re wondering what your vacation spot looks like in winter, just picture white everywhere, and you complaining about it.

Spoons, thimbles, and shot glasses

I understand the idea of having a little collection to represent all the places you’ve visited.  But why would you buy a collection of baby spoons?  Babies can’t appreciate them.  And who still uses thimbles?  If you hadn’t noticed, people buy their clothes from stores now, pre-assembled, usually.  I guess you could use a souvenir shot glass to recreate that time you got drunk at Six Flags.  Sure, you could go to every state to collect a souvenir spoon.  Or you could go to one gift shop and realize they sell spoons for all fifty states right there.  Then, next time your nerd-friend is boasting endlessly about his amazing original edition Batman comics, you just bust out your pocketful of amazing collector’s edition baby-spoons and ask which one he’d like to use to eat it.


No one has ever driven several hundred miles on vacation, arrived to their destination, and then said, “I can’t keep track of all these blasted car keys!  They’re falling all over the place, and they won’t stay in my swim trunk pockets!  If only there was some sort of device that would keep them together in one convenient place!  Some kind of ‘ring’ or ‘chain’ that might bind them together.  If only there was a nearby gift shop which had such a product, preferably attached to a very large piece of colorful novelty plastic that won’t fit in my pants pocket without making me look terribly awkward.”

Animal presents

Like the noble Native Americans who wouldn’t waste any part of the buffalo they had hunted, modern American tourists will waste their money on virtually any souvenir that reminds them of animals.  People love stuffed animals, especially if they are wearing festive T-shirts.  Of course, some people opt to buy real dead animals to remember their trip by.  Not just rabbit’s feet, but frog purses, fish hats, Burmese tiger pants, or this…

Lucky balls sold seperately.

…Or you could buy a souvenir that the animal actually made for you.  Everyone likes pandas, right?  Well, it turns out that pandas make lousy souvenir sweatshop workers, so you won’t be buying any panda-made presents any time soon.  But pandas do make some special gifts that you just might like.  They’re made of bamboo and looks a lot like panda poop…because they are panda poop…shaped into picture frames.  That’s a really crappy souvenir.

Do you get souvenirs, or just pictures and postcards?  What’s your favorite souvenir?  If you missed it, be sure to check out Saturday’s surprise post to get your free Church of No People souvenirs!

26 responses to I Need This and This and This…

  1. Chuckling my way through this post when what should appear but WHUT? “Lucky Pouch”? No way.

    We do say it takes all kinds.

  2. I like to travel – and well, I still have a cracked, gold rimmed shot glass from the first time I barfed drinking – “Welcome to Vermont.” And the “Get recycled in the Virgin Islands” t-shirt… something magical about that thought even after 30 years.

    I do like my “Save the Ales” t-shirt with a beer mug on it. I wear that one to church when my “What Wouldn’t Jesus Do” one is in the laundry.

    I was on vacation last week and bought my 6-year-old a giant 5″ round Buffalo nickel. She was thinking that she’d get a lot of toys for the thing!

    We have a glass curio cabinet in the dining room with our tourist treasures. A hand carved elephant from South Africa, a hand painted miniature black lacquer, folding screen from Vietnam, a porcelain statue of lute player from Barcelona, hand made fish from Vienna, carved tropical birds from Brazil, hand painted cats from the Paris, crystal cubes from Florida, New York and Chicago, shells from Pawley’s Island, SC, a cast cannon from Fort Ticonderoga – but my favorite is a cast statue of the Empire State building that I bought my mother in NY City in 1968 – she’s gone now.

  3. Not a fan of souvenirs. My wife takes a lot of pictures and that’s usually the extent of it. We did get the kids a few things when they went to Hershey, PA but the grandparents bought them.

  4. I like the t-shirt picture. Annapolis is known as the quaint little drinking town with a sailing problem.

  5. First of all, I hope you did not glue any shells to the toilet seat. If you did, you’ll find out why that was a bad idea.
    Souvenir spoons…meh, at least they don’t take up a lot of space.
    I made the mistake of buying souvenirs for EVERYONE on my honeymoon with Bob in Hawaii. Years later, I saw half the stuff at least in the Oriental Trading Company catalog. It has me thinking now that if I REALLY regret not getting some souvenir, I can always look for it online later. Most likely, I’ll never give it a second thought.

    • Helen, I was thinking the same thing about the toilet seat! Ha!

      Matt, I don’t like conspicuous souvenir things as much as getting something that’s interesting and either useful or cool-looking. I’ve bought some of the junk, but I nearly always regret it afterward. :)

    • Oh Helen, gluing things to toilet seats is never a bad idea! 😉

  6. I am a magnet girl. They are relatively inexpensive, very easy to pack, and look so darned kitschy on my fridge.

    I would, however, have to have the Lucky Pouch. It’s definitely going on the Down Under shopping list.

    • We would do refrigerator magnets, too, sometimes. However, the current refrigerator is stainless steel and magnets won’t stick. So what do I do with all the magnets that I now have?

      • Why would they even make a fridge that’s magnet-proof?! That defeats the whole purpose. I doubt I’d even care if my food was cold or not if I couldn’t cover my fridge with magnets. Makes you wonder where people put all their magnets and kids’ artwork back in the 1800s. :)

  7. Like Violet, I too am a magnet girl. Now I have a refrigerator that doubles as a scrapbook.

  8. I’m all about coffee mugs. Something useful and a reminder. Anything else I get is for the kids… they like the souvenir type stuff. And a postcard.

  9. I use to collect mugs, but got over that. For the first 15 years here we moved on an average of every 18 months. One learns to de-junk. Too much to move! I am amazed, however, how much junk we would accumulate in a year and 1/2. Anyway, now I don’t care about stuff, I enjoy tasting my way across country! I love to experience the local foods and what they are known for. I live in the “Garlic Capitol of the World”. Guess what we sell?? Everything you mentioned and more all with this cute little garlic guy on it. It has been said (can’t remember who, Roy Rodgers I think) “Gilroy is the only place where you can marinate a steak just by hanging it on the line.” Our Garlic Festival is only a couple weeks away, and you can smell the garlic all over! I love it.

    • I LOVE garlic. We live in the midwest and one year we happened to be in the area during the garlic festival. My DH said we couldn’t go to the festival because due to the festival, there would be too many people there. Nah, I’m not bitter or anything….. I think that was about 20 yrs ago…..it’s nothing……..really………..

      • Sorry, JLynn, you missed the festival. If you ever do get to go, try to go on a Friday. That is when most of the locals go. It is crazy on Sat. and Sun. My husband and I worked at it for years, selling balloon. The cool ones parents pay crazy prices for. Our friends owned the balloons company, and during those years they were they ONLY balloon company. We paid for each years vacation from the money we made. Then I worked a number of years donating hours to our churches booth. All fun, but I’m over it. You can get our garlic just about anywhere. Christopher Ranch is one of our big companies. You probably have it in your local market.

        • OK, getting to Gilroy for the garlic festival has now been added to my bucket list. I actually grow my own garlic now. It is SO easy to do. It’s about the only thing I can manage to grow successfully.

  10. I never go on vacation as either (1) I’m working or going to school or (2) If I have the summer off, I refuse to spend the money on a vacation. German frugality and all that…

  11. I don’t waste my time buing souvenirs but I don’t mind checking out all the local wines wherever I visit.

    My town is full of brew pubs and we have a goose problem. But we wacked a bunch of the geese and now we can just go back to enjoying the brew pubs.

    You think I’m joking?

  12. I let my daughter get a t-shirt when we went to Disney last year. Nothing says ” I was at splash mountain while you suckas were at school” like a sweet t-shirt to remind everyone who the cool parents are.

  13. I usually like buying a Christmas ornament. Putting up the Christmas tree involves lots of memories anyway. Why not add vacation memories. T-Shirts are also pretty practical. My husband and I were once stuck in the Philadelphia airport for an extra seven hours due to rain issues and bought a t-shirt at the airport with a picture of Ben Franklin and one of his alleged quotes: “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” It combines history, alcohol and questionable theology–a perfect combination. This year, my husband and I practiced the “Jr. Ranger” pledge in regards to souveniers: “Leave only footprints, take only memories–and pictures.” Of course, we let our children buy two things to bring home with them.

  14. Matt,
    I am of course a fan of coffee mugs that dawn the city of places I visit or speak in. But you haven’t seen anything! Just wait my young brother. I have 6 kids that all want to bring home trinkets and memorabilia every time we go on vacation. Hermit crabs, shovels, colored sand, kites, prizes from the board walk, salt water taffy, Davey Crockett hats, and more.

    Just wait my friend till your lugging around nick-nacks for the entire family. It’s not all bad though, I am a fan of the colored sand!

  15. I do remember as a kid being facinated at the Stucky’s gift shop by any previously living thing that was encased in a lucite paperweight. I’m not sure why since I hated most of those with a passion when they were running around live… perhaps it was my own young verion of revenge. Two that I had that come immediately to mind were a scorpian and a giant horse fly… take that bitey stingey things!!!!

  16. A few years back, when my children were little, I started collecting state plates. Not from vacation, from garage sales, which is exactly where many of those types of things end up. The nice thing about them is that they always have some important facts on the plates, so they learned about states by eating their lunch on them…

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