Collecting local memories from your trip with free souvenirs

Priceless Free Souvenirs

by Ron Geelan

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If you are fortunate enough to take a beach vacation during these challenging economic times, you may realize the need to save some money on souvenirs.

My house is filled with decorative reminders of family vacations we have taken through the years. The best part about these keepsakes is that none of them cost me a cent, and they significantly reduced some of my interior decorating costs.

The downstairs bathroom, which features a beach theme, is the best example of the free souvenirs. Sand dollars from the beaches of San Juan rest atop the toilet basin. Photographs that we took of lighthouses along the Maine coastline adorn the walls. But the centerpiece is a large, clear glass bowl positioned between the sand dollars. It is filled with bright purple, pink, red, orange and white seashells collected from the beautiful beaches of Sanibel Island off the gulf coast of Florida.

This bowl full of seashells is more aesthetically pleasing than anything I have ever seen in a souvenir store, and there is the added sentimental value that comes with having collected the shells as a family. I relive walking along the beach collecting the shells with my young daughter every time I see the bowl.

I picked up the frames for the lighthouse pictures and the glass bowl for the shells at the local dollar store, so the total cost to decorate the bathroom with the souvenirs came to about five dollars.

My son has started a tradition of bringing home coconuts he finds while exploring the beaches. He cleans them up and labels them with a permanent marker to indicate when and from where each was acquired. On the rare occasion when his room is clean, I catch a glimpse of the one on his dresser labeled "Vero Beach 2007" and I recall another wonderful family vacation.

So enjoy your vacation. Whether you go to the beach or some other location, skip the pricey "official" souvenirs for free souvenirs and bring home some local items that will remind you of your trip. You'll be glad you did.

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