My Favorite Vacation Souvenir Idea

Do you struggle with vacation souvenir ideas?

I used to. Back from my early travel days, I couldn’t decide on one vacation souvenir idea and as a result, I have a variety of things to remember my earliest trips by.

I have some magnets. I have t-shirts. Random chachkies. I also have Christmas ornaments.

Over the years, I finally settled on Christmas ornaments. They are now my preferred vacation souvenir idea for several reasons:

  • They are also usually small and easy to pack for the trip home.
  • They’re fairly easy to find and can usually be found in an airport if necessary.
  • Most of the year, they are put away and do not clutter up my home.
  • They make putting my Christmas tree up really fun because pulling them out of the boxes is like walking down memory lane of my travels.

Most of the ornaments I have make me smile. Some make me laugh. Others remind me of travel mishaps or things I’d like to forget.

Regardless, they are all a memory and my favorite part of putting up my Christmas tree.

Since my tree is up, I thought I would share many of the ornaments from my travels that I have collected over the years.

Vacation Souvenir Ideas
Hawaii 2018 🙂
The newest ornament on my tree. I picked this one up in Denver last weekend. It was too cute to pass up.
Vacation Souvenir Ideas
I picked this ornament up in San Fran when I went with an aunt and cousins to Napa in November 2018.
Arizona Cactus Christmas Ornament
This ornament captured my eye when I visited my friends Rene, Marion, Garrett and Bri in Arizona in April 2019. I also crossed the Diamondbacks baseball stadium, Chase Field, off my list during this trip.
Belize Christmas Ornament
My friend Jess and I had a great time scuba diving in Belize, It is where she earned her open water certification.
Boston Christmas Ornament
Who else loves Boston? I haven’t been to Boston in several years but would love to go back and visit soon!
Cayman Islands Christmas Ornament
I earned my scuba diving open water certification in the Cayman Islands. Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman is one of the best beaches I have been to.
Chicago Theater
This is a replica of the marquee for the Chicago Theater on State Street. I see it daily when I get on and off the train for work.
Chicago Bean
A replica of the Chicago Bean (and my reflection). I got this one at the Christkindl Market held in the Chicago loop each year.
Croatia and Philadelphia Christmas Ornaments
Two for one in this photo. 🙂 Dubrovnik Croatia and Philadelphia.
Vacation Souvenir Ideas
I got this one during my first trip to Hawaii in 2013. Hawaii is my favorite place to visit.
Iowa Christmas Ornament
Home Sweet Home. Part of my heart will always belong to Iowa.
Las Vegas Christmas Ornament
Even the places I don’t like get honored on my tree. This ornament is an example.
Vacation Souvenir Ideas
Another two for one. Maine and Niagara Falls. We went to both of these places during our baseball trip in 2016. That was one of my favorite vacations.
Mexico Christmas Ornament
Cozumel, Mexico. I didn’t like diving there. The currents were too strong and it was hard for me to relax when being dragged along by it.
Vacation Souvenir Ideas
This is one of my favorite ornaments. It is the Night Watchman from Rothenburg, Germany. We did his tour of the city when we visited. I highly recommend it if you find yourself in Rothernburg.
I visited North Dakota with my friend Crystal last summer. She bought this for me in the airport because I forgot to buy one,. What a fun weekend and a great friend!
I visited Multnomah Falls in Oregon with my good friend Liz.
Eiffel Tower, Paris.
Key chain being used as an ornament here. The Eiffel Tower, Paris.
Rome Christmas Ornament
I bought this one in Rome.
Santorini Christmas Ornament
Santorini, Greece. The home of a famous sunset and massive, overwhelming crowds.
Sydney Harbor Bridge
I bought this one after climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge with Megan and Claire. Another really fun trip!
Vacation Souvenir Ideas
Texas. I love lots of people there but I did not love living there.
The Netherlands
The Netherlands
Venice, Italy
I like this one too from Venice, Italy.
Vermont. My 50th US State visited.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park. I visited the park with my mom, sister, nephew and niece.
This is a licitar. Licitars colorfully decorated biscuits made of sweet honey dough. They are part of Croatia and Slovenia’s cultural heritage and are a traditional symbol of the Croatian capital Zagreb. They are used as an ornamental gift, often given at celebrations of love such as weddings and St, Valentine’s Day.
I got this one in Alaska. I saw several moose while I was there. They were definitely one of the highlights (along with seeing the peak of Denali).
My friend Jackie and I escaped the Chicago winter and headed to Paradise Island in the Bahamas a few years ago. The beach was nice there too.
Vacation Souvenir Ideas
This isn’t technically a travel ornament. I picked it up at a store in Chicago. But it makes a nice addition to my tree.

Do you have a go-to souvenir idea for your travels? If so, I’d love to hear it. Tell me about it is in the comments below.

Want to read more? Check out my tips for women traveling solo here.

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Vacation Souvenir Idea

The Pros and Cons of Using a Travel Agent

Sydney Opera House

You have decided to go on a trip. Now you need to plan it. And what is the best way to do that – plan on your own or through a travel agent? Booking through a travel agent may seem like the easiest option but there are pros and cons to using a travel agent to book a trip.

My Experience

One of the “firsts” for me when I traveled to Australia in 2017 was using a travel agent to book most of the trip versus researching and booking everything on my own. I debated how to book the trip because I knew a friend, who travels more than me, used a travel agent when she and her husband traveled to Fiji, Australia and New Zealand a couple of years ago. Since they travel more than me, I figured I should look into a travel agency and maybe give it a try.

The travel agency they used and recommended specializes in trips to Australia and New Zealand. They are based in New York City. My particular agent was Australian but lived in NYC. I reviewed the agency’s website to check out the itineraries they had available before calling them. The itineraries looked similar to what I had in mind if I booked on my own so I went ahead and contacted them. In the end, I moved forward with them and they booked a lot of my trip for me.

The Pros of Using a Travel Agent

Based on my experience, the biggest advantage to using a travel agent is that everything was planned for me, all the way down to the airport and hotel shuttles. I did not have to think about anything. I always book flights and hotels and activities ahead of time when I travel but usually don’t book ground transportation to and from airports or hotels. In this case, I didn’t have to think about how to get to the hotels or airports. It was all done. It was a pretty great load to never have on my shoulders.

Another benefit of using a travel agent is that I was able to bounce ideas off of my agent and ask her lots of questions about various things. She could provide answers quickly which saved me hours of research and reading blogs and travel guides to find answers. My agent was a one stop knowledge base. It was very nice.

The Cons of Using a Travel Agent

There were two main downsides that I found to working this travel agency, although I think they may apply to many, if not all, travel agencies.

The first downside occurred due to all the cancellations I had in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta area. The refunds for the cancellations were put back onto the purchaser’s credit card, which was not mine. Everything was officially booked by the travel agency. When I emailed my agent and asked for a refund, I was told that they do not issue refunds. Instead, I had to submit a claim through my travel insurance company (purchasing travel insurance was another first for me on this trip).

I am still pondering this process. How is this legal? It seems like a total racket to me. What is the incentive for an agency to book excursions that do not get cancelled all the time? They get the money back for cancellations but don’t have to refund their client. What if I didn’t buy travel insurance? And why does a travel insurance company have to cover something that a travel agency will get a refund for? I am sure it warned me in the fine print of the contract I signed that there are no refunds. I am not disputing that I agreed to it. But this practice seems so wrong and unethical to me. If someone has more knowledge about this process or I am misinterpreting the facts, please comment below. I would love to find out more. I really hope I missed a fact pattern somewhere.

The other downside relates to having everything done for me. I felt too uninformed throughout this trip. I didn’t do the in-depth research or book anything myself so I never had a good idea of where I was going or what I was doing next. When someone would ask me specific questions, I would have to refer to my paperwork. It was not a good way for me to do things when traveling solo. I felt vulnerable and less in control, which is important for me to have when I am traveling. I know this was my fault for being too lax in my preparation for the trip. and it is something I can easily correct if I use a travel agent in the future.

Further Thoughts

So would I use a travel agent again? After reviewing the pros and cons of using a travel agent, I guess it depends on the situation and the destination. I am going to a wedding in April 2019 in Mexico and they directed all guests to use a travel agent for booking. As much as it pained me to do it, I contacted the agent and am booking through her, even though I know I could reserve everything quite easily on my own. I do not want to create any problems or drama for the wedding party.

But after that, I am not sure. I definitely prefer to book on my own. Doing the research and booking are my favorite parts of travel. I like my Excel spreadsheets and email confirmations because learn so much when I do it myself. I felt like I missed out with my Australia trip. So I guess I will probably book on my own as much as I possible going forward.

I would love to know about other people’s experiences and thoughts related to travel agents. Do you use a travel agent? If so, why? What are the benefits you see? Do you have any bad experiences? What happened and what was the resolution?

Also, if you are interested in using the travel agent I used to plan my trip to Australia, please message me through the Contact page on my website and I will provide you with the information you need. I don’t have anything negative to say about my agent or the travel agency itself. The cons I mentioned above are personal to me and an industry-wide practice (I think).

To read more about my trip to Australia, click here, here or here.

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Pros and Cons of Using a Travel Agent

Four Benefits of Traveling Solo

Most people I interact with regularly know I travel quite a bit by now. The first thing I often get asked is “Where is your next trip?” This usually followed by “Are you going by yourself?”

I will admit that it took me a while to be comfortable answering “yes” to the second question. I used to feel like people were judging me for traveling alone. After doing it for a while now, I have stopped worrying about it though. I am not sure if they stopped judging or if I just don’t care anymore (probably more the latter).

I like to travel solo. I have lived alone for years so why should traveling solo bother me? Of course, there is a limit to that, at least there has been so far. There are some places I have not found the courage to go to alone. Maybe someday though.

After traveling solo on and off since 2011, I have found that there are advantages to traveling solo. In my opinion, here are four benefits of traveling solo.

Four Benefits of Traveling Solo

Benefit 1

I do not have to worry about anyone else. I can sleep in if I want to. I can plan activities or choose to wing it. I do not have to consider anyone else’s preferences or needs.

Benefit 2

I meet so many more people when I travel solo. Even though I am comfortable being alone, I still need interaction with other people, especially during longer trips. In order to make that happen, I have to have courage to walk up to people and introduce myself and start up a conversation. Sometimes this is easy, especially when I am traveling in areas with lots of solo travelers, such as Australia. Other times, this is difficult, such as in Hawaii, when most people are not solo.

Benefit 3

When there are cancellations or changes, it is easier to get a seat on another plane, train or ferry when there is only one person to re-book. I encountered this benefit on the way home from Hawaii last winter, We were late getting into San Francisco and the next flight to Chicago only had one seat available. Because I was solo, I got it.

Benefit 4

It is a confidence booster. It is satisfying for me to plan a trip and then execute it by myself. I have become pretty good at problem solving and troubleshooting issues on my own when traveling. I can usually make decent decisions even when I am in unfamiliar places with people I do not know. I am proud of that ability.

So those are four of the benefits to traveling that I see. If you travel solo, what are the benefits you see to going solo? What do you enjoy most about it? What had been your favorite solo travel experience? I would love to hear the answer to all of these question in the comments below.

If you are ready to book but are not sure where to start, check out 10 Amazing Destinations for Solo Travelers here.


Alaska – solo 2016
Australia Solo
Australia – solo 2017
Greece – solo 2014
Maui – solo 2013


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