Saving Memories -- and Money

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"Can I have a plastic snow globe?" Grace asks, holding up yet another tacky souvenir in one of the shops along Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco.

"No honey," I reply and remind her that we can't take it on the plane (no liquids or gels through security). I go on to veto more purchases -- an "Alcatraz Triathlon" T-shirt, shot glasses, and an "earthquake in a can," until I finally give in and let her deplete her savings to buy a stuffed seal wearing an "I heart SF" T-shirt.

With family all over the country, we travel a lot and Grace, 6, loves the idea of souvenir shopping. She falls prey to every tourist trap she steps in and by the time she slides into home she's traded all her hard-earned money for a few overpriced plush animals and plastic, logo-emblazoned tchotchkes.

A few hours after the seal purchase, buyer's remorse sets in when she sees something she really wants -- a magic set in a toy store.

"Honey, you already spent your money. But the good news is you can work for some more, save it up, and get the magic set next time," I console.

"But I needed a souvenir," she says referring to the stuffed seal.

That's when it dawns on me that, Grace, a collector by nature, feels compelled to commemorate. But it's time that I teach her that memories are not about stuff -- they're about experiences.

"Okay, I have an idea," I say as she wistfully follows me out of the toy shop. I give her a little plastic shopping bag and tell her that I want her to collect things to symbolize all the special things we do in the city that day -- but without spending any money. I give her a tip to go back into the magic shop and ask for a business card which she excitedly procures and adds to the bag.

Over the course of the afternoon she adds a seagull feather, ticket stubs from the ferry, a fortune from a fortune cookie, and assorted ephemera. That night I reveal the plan to create "San Francisco In a Box" using all her found objects and a shadowbox frame.

When we get home, I use a San Francisco map as the backdrop on which to glue and tape our treasures. Grace rummages through her stuffed animals to find the "I heart SF" seal.

"Now, he won't miss his home so much," she laughs as she places him next to our homemade homage to the City by the Bay.

How do you and your family save your travel memories? Click the comments link below to share ideas.

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Saving Memories -- and Money

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