Collecting Vacation Memories


Summer traveling is in full swing, which mean vacations or day trips. While on vacation, we tend to purchase that memorable t-shirts that will be outgrown in a few months or silly souvenirs that will end up being donated or trashed.  How about bringing  home  special mementos from your adventures that your family will cherish for years to come and SAVE MONEY!


My kids love to collect treasures from the beach, nature trails, or from a cool restaurant or place we visit. My pockets and purse seem to be the catch-all for these “treasures”. I even remember smelling something odd in my purse after a trip, only to find a snail shell that had a decaying dweller inside.

Ten years ago, while reading a home decorating magazine, I noticed mantles lined with bottles of sea glass and sand. A light bulb moment! MEMORY BOTTLES.

bagsNow when we travel (even a day trip) I make sure to have small zip-lock bags around.  On vacations, I label a bag for each person. Throughout the trip as they collect items, they go into the bags. When we get home the kids decide which items they want for their personal bottle and which can go into a family bottle.

Finding the Right Bottle/Jar

bottles-3Glass bottles are everywhere! You just have to look at your recycle bin a little differently. I have used jelly jars, baby food jars, tomato sauce jars, mason jars, apothecary jars perfume bottles and the list can go on.  I examine the shape, once the label is removed, and the mouth of the jar to decide what will look best and fit hat trip’s collection.


I also love looking for old weathered bottles at antique and flea markets with some incredible shapes and character.  I choose the smaller ones with a cork top for the sand collections.

On a trip to Paris, I kept a pear juice bottle because I thought it was cool.  When we visited the beaches in Normandy and walked the on the shore of the D-Day invasion, I had the perfect bottle for that precious sand.

Consider the large clear glass Christmas ornaments – which are always available in the craft stores.  These orbs make a wonderful displayed in a cluster on a coffee table in a decorative bowl or basket.

IKEA has inexpensive spice jars that I have used for my children’s jars.

 Collection Ideas

  • Sand – I usually will scoop up a cup or two of  sand from the beach or river shore.  It is amazing how no two beaches are the same.  I have also used the collected sand in earth science lessons – looking at it under a microscope to see what the different elements are composed in the sand.  The best is the green sand we have from Hawaii.
  • Pebbles – The kids love to find usually shaped or colored pebbles.
  • Shells – Of course!
  • Sea glass – It is so much fun looking for these treasures.  Silly to think we are collecting tumbled trash.
  • Nature items – While on a hikes we find acorns, seed pods, weathered sticks in interesting forms, broken small bird egg shell, etc.
  • Soda Bottle Tops – We have stopped at some really fun restaurants over the years and enjoy trying different bottled soda pops. So we keep the bottle tops.
  • Wine Corks – My husband and I taken a trip to Sanoma, CA and collected the wine cork.
  • Flatten Penny – You know what I am taking about.  Those machines at tourist spots, where you pay 25 cents to flatten a penny which is embossed with the sites logo or mascot.  The bottles are a perfect place to store them.


tags-850The tag can be whatever you want it to be.  Sometimes, I just use the label maker with location and date.  To journal, you need a large enough piece to write the memories from that trip.  I pulled out my scrapbook paper scraps and get creative.  I also love the fantastic Manila price tags you can find at office supply stores.


If the mouth of the bottle is wide enough, insert a photo of the trip into the jar.  Then fill the jar with the treasures.


My mother has a collection of sand from their travels displayed on an upper shelf with a beach print behind.  Our bottles are displayed on book shelf in our family room.

sand collection display
Egg2Cake blogger has a great idea for displaying her 93 bottles of sand & dirt she has collected over the last 15 years from around the world. {SOURCE}

Pinterest has some great ideas!


I recently found a soda bottle crate,  that when it is turned on its side becomes the perfect display area.  It can be hung on the wall or propped on a shelf.

So as you travel, by pass the souvenir shops (saving you money) and collect little personal mementos as a reminder of the memories made during your family adventures.


  1. Hi Tracy,
    This is the BEST idea I have seen to preserve vacation trinkets! I have mine inside a curio and of course got all mixed up. Now I can preserve them by trip, the bottles and jars look great, and I am already thinking of all the creative ways to display them. Thank you so much! By the way I read your profile. We should hang out every morning, coffee and antiquing! what else is better!
    Take care, Rose


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