PRIME TIME WITH KIDS: Remember spring travel with free souvenirs

By Donna Erickson

I’ve been doing a “just for fun” survey about freebie souvenirs that friends collect on trips (legal! … no, not hotel towels). Those of the “backpack through Europe” generation recalled with nostalgia bringing back varieties of sheets of TP! Whether waxy, stiff or sandpapery, each prompted a humorous adventure to tell.

Coasters, theater playbills, golf scorecards, fishing licenses, lift tickets and mini bottles of hotel shampoo are favorites today. Gone are days, it seems, of collecting postcards, matchbooks and paper airplane tickets.

Always on the hunt for the unique, I was committed to find a special something to bring home from my trip to Europe last spring. Happily, it landed unexpectedly in-flight on my KLM tray table. A mini, stylish cardboard snack box illustrated with classic Amsterdam-themed houses contained a tasty Dutch cake and cup of mineral water.

“This is it!” I thought. When home, I put soil in each empty box (I collected a few extras from those seated by me), sprinkled wheat berry seeds on the soil and spritzed with water. Within a few days, spring-green wheat grass sprouted and grew quickly. I inserted tulips (a nod to Holland) in water-filled floral tubes in the grass for spring-y arrangements to place in my windowsill and give to others.

Here’s an idea for kids who want to start collecting freebie souvenirs on your spring break trip or weekend near home. Steer away from mass-produced trinkets, and think “rocks” to begin “rock-a-state!” activities.

Here’s how:

Whether in-state or traveling to another, start a collection of smooth, rounded rocks from each state you visit. Who knows, some day you might have one for all 50!

On a nature walk, look for that perfect smooth rock, about 2-3 inches across — smaller if in Connecticut or Rhode Island! When home, use a map as a reference, and draw the shape of the state with a dark marker on top. Use a thin paintbrush and acrylic paint in a contrasting color to fill in the shape. Let dry.

(If you use white paint, you might add thin blue squiggles going down or across to represent a river, like the mighty Mississippi.)

On the back, print the name of the state and date you found it with a marker.

Keep them in a bowl or jar, and use the growing collection as story starters of trips together. Take them out one by one and enjoy identifying them and telling a memory from your trips. You also might challenge one another to arrange them geographically on a table — like chunky puzzle pieces of a U.S. map.


Donna Erickson’s award-winning series “Donna’s Day” is airing on public television nationwide. To find more of her creative family recipes and activities, visit and link to the NEW Donna’s Day Facebook fan page. Her latest book is “Donna Erickson’s Fabulous Funstuff for Families.”

© 2018 Donna Erickson; Distributed by King Features Syndicate


PRIME TIME WITH KIDS: Remember spring travel with free souvenirs–