Souvenirs are a completely subjective topic. There's no right or wrong way of collecting your travel memories. It's how you can remember a place, person or event for years to come. Though sometimes souvenirs can get a bit expensive, especially if travelling often. How does a free souvenir option sound?
When I came back from my 12 months in Cambodia, I had 2 suitcases only filled with souvenirs. Clothes, books, ornaments, accessories.... you name it, I had brought it back with me. Many of these things were gifts for loved ones, but much of it, I now know I never needed to lug home.
Now, whenever I travel, I refrain myself a little bit more and more from 'buying' souvenirs. And I haven't missed out on anything! I still keep track of my adventures and have ways to reminisce. All without spending a single penny. So here are 15+ ideas of free souvenirs you can collect on your next journey!
Keep Track Of Your Travel Memories With Free Souvenirs
Found most restaurants and cafes, this free souvenir practically weighs nothing. If printed with a symbol, logo or name, it can be a great momento of that incredible cultural shock on a plate!
These are so much fun to collect! Usually because there's a story attached that involves some level of alcohol, good times and good people. Coasters can be found at basically any restaurant, cafe, bar, hotel or club. Super light and colourful!
Collecting maps is something you'll probably do anyway without this intention in mind. Marking special places, hotels, train stops, restaurants... eventually you end up with an entire story mapped out that you can keep! Complete with names, distances, addresses and hand written magic! Free maps are usually available at every hotel, airport and tourism information point.
Admission Tickets / Receipts
Instead of buying a programme or over-priced t-shirt from that outstanding event you attended, simply keep the ticket! Sometimes this can be tricky with online tickets or printable QR Codes, but sometimes you just get lucky and end up with a fancy piece of history. Collect tickets from flights, live performances, festivals, train rides, theme parks, national parks, ferry rides...
Receipts are very similar to admission tickets, though usually a bit more specific. Restaurant meals especially can have a lot of significance. Keeping a receipt of a meal you had, can remind you of the moment, flavours, atmosphere, the staff and establishment decor.
It's technically not 100% 'free', but hear me out...
You get to the end of your trip, usually the night before and go 'ugh!' Why is my purse so heavy! You proceed to empty it out, flooding the bench top with dozens of tiny coins and notes that have made there way to the bottom, expecting to never see the light of day again. We all do it! Certain currencies can be hard to negotiate, especially when given so much tiny change, it goes into the 'too hard' pile and you just keep breaking larger notes. But now what? What do you do now that you're on your way to the airport, probably never to use this currency again? There are some great ways to get rid of it - tipping servicemen/women in the hotel/taxi/airport, Donating to charity (charity bins in hotel concierge and airport lounges), Buying a super over-priced snack for the flight home... or you can keep them as souvenirs!
I ended up with mountains of tiny notes from Cambodia and brought one of each home. The feel, smell and colours of a currency can jump you right back to a street or city. Loose coins and notes look great framed or in a scrapbook! I personally have a large old wooden box, that was passed onto me when my father died. He collected loose change in his travels and placed them in this box. I now continue the tradition and have over 30 currencies! I love bringing it out every now and then and flicking through the different colours, shapes and sizes!
This is a super obvious one, but one that we can all utilise more! Take photos of everything and anything! I've taken photos of some super random things, that to an outsider would probably be deleted. But for me, I can flick back though and reminisce about a beautiful wall I saw, a colour on something or a particular scene that made me feel something.
A few great things to take photos of are people, places, food, maps, transport, animals, plants and buildings. A great trick for keeping souvenir cost down is to simply take photos of souvenirs instead of buying them! Curtis and I had our eyes on a few incredible astronomical clocks in Amsterdam. They were magnificent! But also very heavy and expensive. There was no way we could have purchased them or gotten them back home. So I took a few snaps instead and put it in my 'when I'm super rich' dream folder.
Social Media / Free Blog Site
Take advantage of such incredible free resources at your fingertips! Facebook is great for keeping memories - forever! Make a status a day or create a photo album of your trip. This way you can organise and not lose anything you've experienced! It's all automatically listed in chronological order with names, dates and places. Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter are all great ways to keep your memories together and organised.
Creating a free website, to blog all your adventures on, is another great way to catalogue your memories. There's many ways to set up a free website, using sites such as Weebly or Wix. This is also a great way to share with friends and family, who may not be on social media. This online method of journaling is a great way to save money and resources by not buying a journal and pens.
Keep your old Passports. Use the pages in a scrapbook or simply collect them as they are. Passports are a mini time capsule. Each stamp represents a time and place. I enjoy flicking through mine, reminiscing on how incredible each trip was, or how excited I was to get a stamp back home.
This is a good habit to get into anyway. While travelling, I've found the easiest way to communicate with transport is via showing them a business card of a restaurant or hotel that I'd like to go to. It's the first thing I pick up when arriving at my hotel. It's the first thing I look for if a particular establishment stands out to me. They are free, small and light. Usually with bright, bold designs, making them great for scrapbooking!
Firstly, please do not go around collecting bits of nature, without thought, to make your scrapbook pretty. Think about what you are collecting. Is it a limited natural resource? Is it something that nature needs more than you? Are you taking something that should be left untouched? Is it illegal to take that object? If you have pondered the right questions and have established it is ok to take a free souvenir from your destination, then only take something small.
We collected a handful of pebbles from the shores of Nice, France. We knew these weren't going to be missed (as the entire coastline is made of these pebbles) and it wasn't illegal to bring back into Australia.
Always check that there is nothing living inside shells before taking them. These are sea creatures homes after all.
Travel Pamphlets / Guides
These guides are usually handed out at tourism information spots or by tour companies themselves. Great for business details, maps and ideas on what to do in a destination. These are usually bright, colourful and very informative. A great way to remember a lot about a destination.
Letters / Notes
Anything hand written has a certain magic added to it. If you make notes on your trip, collect them. Get strangers to write down directions instead of just google mapping everything. These are authentic and a sample of that moment, and person, in time.
Instead of buying food products to bring home, which in Australia is extremely difficult, get the recipe of your favourite dish! This way you can recreate the flavours in your own home, without lugging back half a Moroccan spice market. Food is so quintessential to many cultures, that you can relive everything from a country, simply by eating a dish. Ask chefs, locals and restaurant staff to pass on their favourite recipes. If they can hand-write them, then this is even greater!
Instead of buying a CD or purchasing from iTunes, can you record a piece of music you're hearing?
I've sat in restaurants, Taxi's, airports and simply bathed in the sounds I was hearing. Sometimes, I have recorded a video just purely for its sound. The background noise can make a memory richer. The people around you, utensils clinking, cars in the background, announcements over PA systems... all making a perfectly unique soundtrack to your adventure.
Free book swaps can be found all over the world! If you enjoy reading, but don't want to spend the money on a new book from your destination, find somewhere you can swap your old book for a new one. You'll find this is a very common thing in Hostels. Somewhere in the common area will be a book shelf just waiting for you to explore it. These swaps are more exciting because of the real human connections you get. People tend to make notes in books, a little time capsule of a person's train of thought. This free activity can be a great activity while travelling. Also a great way to explain how you came to won a book, once home.
Any Other Odd Bits & Bobs You Find
There's so many things that will catch your eye, now that you're looking. For example, on our trip to Europe last year, we had Dutch Pancakes in Amsterdam. A little toothpick Amsterdam flag was stuck into the top of my pancake. I cleaned it off and have kept it for my Europe scrapbook. Light, small, colourful, memory-jerking and FREE!
What unique trinket have you collected on your travels? Let me know what caught your eye!
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