As unenthusiastic as they are to go shopping with me at home, my kids get extremely excited about souvenir shopping when we’re traveling.  On vacation, we try to avoid getting things like baseball caps and snow globes bearing the destination’s name and opt instead for something a little more authentic or even—gasp—something useful.  Here are some suggestions for fun souvenirs that have a shelf life beyond the refrigerator door. 


Finding unique hand-made crafts and visiting local toy shops are our top choices, though these aren’t always available, and oftentimes, the only crafts available are those made specifically for the tourist trade. If that’s the case, we opt for the following:


Sports jerseys – If you’re traveling to Barcelona or Manchester, you’ll probably be bombarded with soccer jerseys to bring home for the kids.  If your travels don’t take you there, do spend some time looking for a jersey from your destination’s favorite (though maybe not as famous) sports team and you’ll have an unusual gift your kids will love to wear.  Jacques’ U. of New Mexico football team (the Lobos) t-shirt is still one of his favorite fashion statements.


School supplies—Buying a few school supplies when you’re away on summer vacation is way more fun than the dreaded annual trip to Target.  So pick up unusual notebooks, pencil cases, and erasers.  It’ll remind them of summer all year long.  Europe has especially cute, high-quality school supplies.  We bought a Tintin pencil case in Belgium two years ago that my oldest son still uses to this day.


Alphabet or counting book—These make a great keepsake, whether you’re traveling overseas and they’re in a different language, or domestically.  One of our favorites is Sylvia Long’s “Ten Little Rabbits” from a trip to American Southwest years ago.  


CDs—Whether it’s a song your tweener was humming along to on the car radio on your long drive west, a classical piece you heard in a cathedral in Europe, or a Latin band you saw in concert in Miami, music will always evoke the memory of a trip, even for the youngest listeners.


Musical instruments—In our house, we have at least three times as many musical instruments as we have people and we’re always looking for new ones.  We’ve found some great ones on our travels, from a mouth harp in West Virginia to a rain stick in the Yucatan.