Souvenirs are generally cheaply made and overpriced. Most of the time, I recommend avoiding gift shops, but every now and again there are times when you see something that would be a perfect gift for someone special.
Today, we made a rather long drive (1hr 20mins - one way) to the other side of Houston so that we could visit the Houston Space Center. The one thing that I always think of when I hear "Houston" is the Apollo XIII mission. More specifically the line, "Houston, we have a problem."
After a tour of the Mission Control Center, the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility, and the Saturn V, we walked through the gift shop to find a souvenir for my grandpa.
My grandpa is in his 80's and loves astronomy. I wish he could have been there with us today. He frequently tells me new facts he learns about space. "The sun's core is 13.6 million Kelvin." "The Big Dipper is not a constellation, it is an asterism."
It took us a little while to find something small that wasn't terribly expensive, but really we knew he would just be excited we got him something no matter what it was.
We bought him a NASA uniform patch, a post card of NASA's original 7 astronauts, and some stickers. It is a simple gift, but he is going to love it.
Do you ever buy souvenirs and for whom?
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I collect mugs from various places I have been.
We always try to thank the people that help us make our vacations possible by giving them souvenirs. The neighbor who lets our dogs out, the friend who takes in our packages if we get any, the person who waters our garden so our vegetables don't die......it is our way of saying thank you.
I normally get souvenir's for whoever is watching our dogs and my nieces and nephew. For the kids we look for exactly the kind of souvenir you bought for your Grandpa for the couple that normally watches our dog I look for a food souvenir - when we went to my Grandmother's in the San Francisco Bay Area for example we brought them back some salami and sourdough bread - I like to find something regional - a local bar-b-que sauce, specialty candy, etc... and bring that back.
I collect spoons (I counted the other day - I'm up to 180+!) so often people bring me back a spoon - or I get them from family members who took vacations at Christmas or for my birthday, it's the perfect, inexpensive yet still meaningful gift for me! I have a sister who collects key chains so I buy those for her and save them for Christmas to put in her stocking.
Some of my favorite souvenirs to give and get are 1) a calendar of the local area - If I have been to the place, it is GREAT to remember some of the local scenes throughout the year. If I haven't it is nice to see the places my friends have gone and be able to enjoy the idea of the location! :)
2) Cookbooks - I love to find a cookbook that has local flavor recipes - it is fun to try out new dishes and usually these come with local stories or photos.
3) Magnets - everyone could always use some refresher magnets! :) They are inexpensive and fun!
4) Christmas Ornaments - I LOVE that our tree has an ornament from EVERY place I have been to with my husband, and some places my family & friends have gone - it's just a fun way to bring back memories of trips we've taken when we decorate the tree each year!
When I'm not in Arizona (which is most of the last 10 years of my life) my grandma writes me a postcard every Monday and mails it to wherever I am. So now, when I travel (especially when I was living in Europe), I buy postcards of the various places I've been. Then I give them to my grandma and she writes my weekly notes on them. That way she doesn't have to go out and buy postcards and I have a letter from her on a reminder of my own travels. I think it's a great plan. :-)