But with a few travel tips and some ideas for family activities, we can curb our spending, eliminate extra luggage weight – a matter of convenience as well as cost, especially when flying – and create opportunities for group projects that will commemorate the trip in a much more meaningful way than a hastily chosen tchotchke ever will.
On any trip, business cards – as well as postcards, brochures, hotel key cards, and anything else that’s not too flimsy like a flyer or a napkin – are simple things to collect in a purse or wallet, and therefore have the makings of a family (or personal) challenge to collect as many of these items as possible while on vacation. Later, a few pieces can be chosen to create a something new for the home that will remind everyone of their favorite vacation moments.
Many travelers already like to hunt for similar keepsakes from every place they visit to add to a growing collection, be it t-shirts or teapots. These kinds of travel collections are a fantastic way to commemorate vacations and make for great conversation, whether it’s the family reliving a favorite memory, or friends wanting to know the story behind each object.
The trick is to find an object that will add to a home’s look and feel, won’t break the bank or add clutter, and won’t turn the entire trip into a breathless search for pewter spoons or pressed pennies. Luckily, our travel habits tend to mirror our design aesthetics at home: campers are nature lovers, world travelers have global style, and a house with children can always do with a bit more whimsy, so finding these treasures is rarely a chore.
Before and Crafters
Refrigerator magnets are probably one of the simplest crafts to consider: adhesive magnets are sold pre-cut to business card size, as well as in sheets or on a roll like Scotch tape, if you’ve collected some odd-sized things. Over time, the front of the fridge becomes a sort of time capsule of trips gone by.
Similarly, art lovers can choose postcards with offbeat imagery or colors that reflect their home’s décor, and mat and frame them just as they would a print. The look is surprisingly sophisticated. To go bigger with this idea, a collection of postcards can be decoupaged to an antique desk or trunk to create a one-of-a-kind coffee table.
Sets of chopsticks from Asian restaurants are one example of simple collectibles for food lovers. They can be displayed in a vase filled about ¼-full with marbles or polished stones, or in a more involved home goods project, such as a lampshade, oil diffuser, or serving tray.
Prefer the great outdoors? Grab leaves or flowers petals and save them in a sandwich bag pressed between the pages of a book. Once home, put the plants in between two sheets of waxed paper, cover with a hand towel, and iron on a low setting to melt the wax. Tada! Instant wall art, or an interesting addition to a scrapbook. Plus… never underestimate the power of a pine cone. From ornaments to wreaths and door hangers to gift-wrap accents, gathering a bushel or so could provide holiday gifts for even the longest list of friends and family.
The sea is another place plentiful with natures’ gifts: fill clear glass ornaments with sand, shells, or sea glass and add ribbon and a bow for a simple hand-made keepsake. A scoop of sand or a handful of shells from a trip to the coast can also be placed in a glass jar and added to a growing set of tiny terrariums from various places, or add layers of sand to one large glass container. Over time, you may notice that the different shades of sand and shells create a color palette you can play around with in other parts of the house, such as in furniture or paint colors.
International travelers might save a local soda, beer, or wine bottle and use it as a one-stem flower vase on a table or mantel. Hand-painting the bottle, or several bottles in a row, and filling them with a string of lights adds another layer of drama. In the same vein, coasters from restaurants and bars can be both useful and decorative. Mark the date of the trip on the back with a Sharpie and store them in vintage cracker or tea tins, long Italian bread baskets, or British toast racks for instant cocktail conversation.
It’s particularly easy to add a little travel-inspired quirkiness to your bathroom with a hotel soap and shampoo collection kept in a pretty basket or displayed on a shelf. And believe it or not, there’s even a more involved DIY project for hotel soap, which can be gathered and mixed with inexpensive glycerin to create a hand soap or body wash with the scent of vacation. You might even choose to scan a photo, postcard, or portion of a map from your trip and print it on adhesive paper to create a custom label for your liquid soap.
In fact, map crafts are one of the best ways to get around the gift shops; pick them up everywhere you visit and later, they can be transformed into any number of items. Create your own drink coasters with ceramic tiles and decoupage glue, or use an X-acto knife to cut the maps to fit wooden letters that spell out the destination (D-I-S-N-E-Y!) or perhaps a child’s name.
As I look around my own home, these kinds of items are everywhere, worked in to various nooks and increasingly complementary to its style, as I get better at identifying the little bits and baubles that will fit in. A framed postcard of New Orleans hangs next to a small blackboard with French lettering, a tin that once held candies from Avignon is nestled on a corner shelf shaped like a violin, and a business card from a South Beach restaurant holds court over the upper half of the refrigerator, affixed to the next trip’s itinerary and waiting to be joined by the next small memory I’ve made entirely on my own.