Cheap Souvenirs to Collect

Cheap Souvenirs to CollectI love travelling and taking home souvenirs to remind me of the places I’ve visited. Vacations can be expensive, so I like getting items that don’t break the bank. Today I am sharing with you 10 of my favorite cheap souvenirs to get when I am travelling. They are all cheap and small, so they don’t take up a lot of room. A couple of them are completely free!


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We have created a part 2 to this post! Check it out here → 7 More Souvenir Ideas When You’re On a Budget


1. Squished Pennies

squished pennies & book

I have been collecting squished pennies for 10+ years now, and I love them! They document some of the places I have traveled over the years. A squished penny is basically a penny that has been flattened and given a raised design. They typically cost 51¢. Sometimes they cost a little more, but they are still very inexpensive.

Many places have them, and it is easy to find out which ones do. Click here to visit Penny Collector’s website where they have listed all of the current locations of squished penny machines. They have them in the US as well as in other countries. Every time I plan a trip, I like to look at this site to see if there are any squished penny machines in the cities I am visiting.

squished pennies

When you visit a city or attraction, they are typically located by a gift shop. Penny Collector’s website tells you where each machine is located. Some places have multiple machines around the area. For example, a zoo might have several machines placed in different locations in the zoo. Each machine usually has at least 4 different designs to choose from. If a place has multiple machines, each machine usually has a theme like marine animals, pandas, African animals, etc. at a zoo.

Some places have collector books that you can purchase for under $10. Usually they have them in gift shops at places that have the penny machines. These are great for holding all of the different pennies you collect. As you can see in the picture, I have two different penny books. I filled up my book from the Columbus Zoo, so when I visited Washington D.C., I made sure to buy another book at one of the Smithsonian museums. Some books come with a special collector penny like the one in the Smithsonian book. Some books also hold more pennies than others. You can also purchase a squished penny book on Amazon.

My best tip for you if you want to start collecting squished pennies is to take quarters and pennies with you on your next trip. Most machines take 2 quarters and one penny. You will want to take the shiniest pennies you have because the designs will show up better.


2. Mini License Plates

mini license plates

My kids have been collecting mini license plates for 10+ years. These are mostly done by state, but you can sometimes get them based off a city. They come in metal and plastic varieties. Some are magnets, but there are also ones that are not magnetic. They like the ones with pictures on them best. The license plates usually come with a name on them, so these are an easier souvenir to collect if you have a common name. They typically cost under $5. They usually find them at places with lots of souvenirs.


3. Napkins


One of the items that I have been collecting for years is napkins. You might not have ever considered napkins to be souvenirs, but they are free when you visit a lot of places like fast food restaurants and airlines. I only collect napkins that say the place’s name on them. Napkins come in different colors and shapes, so it is cool to see the different types of napkins that places offer.

I keep my napkins in a 3-ring binder in clear plastic pages. I usually have 4 napkins per page (2 on one side and 2 on the other side). If I have smaller ones, I can fit more on a page. This collection does not take up a lot of room since you can keep them all in a binder.

It is best to get an extra clean napkin that you won’t use. At places where they only give you one napkin (like maybe an airline), I try to not use it so that I can save it for my collection.


4. Sand

sand bottles

I have been collecting sand for 10+ years. Every time I visit a beach, I put a little bit of sand in a plastic bag. It is important to let the sand air dry so that it will not get moldy when you put it into a container. If you are visiting different beaches on one vacation, make sure to label the different bags.

Sand is a cool thing to collect because it comes in different sizes and colors. Some beaches have coarser sand than others, and there are different colors like white, tan, black, and green.

Before putting it in a container, make sure that it is completely dry. You can just leave it an open bag for several days and it should be okay.

There are different containers that you could put sand in, but I use spice jars. I found old spice racks with jars at garage sales. I set them up on a shelf in our kitchen, but you could use the spice rack they came in if you would like.

You can purchase a lot of different spice jars for not a lot of money on Amazon.

The labels on the bottles are just typed in Microsoft Word, printed, and then attached with sticky tabs. You could also print on to actual labels.

I typically include the beach, the city (if it is different), and the date the beach was visited.

It is FREE to take home a little sand, so this is a great souvenir if you visit lots of beaches.

sand bottle


Related: 6 Nautical Decorating Ideas


5. Floaty Pens

floaty pens

This is another item that I have been collecting for years. Floaty pens are pens that have a section made of glass or plastic that contains liquid and an object that floats from one side to the other when it is tilted. What is cool about floaty pens is that they have images that represent the place that you visited. They are also pretty cheap (usually under $5).

They are a little more difficult to find at souvenir shops compared to other souvenirs, but they are still a cool item to collect.


6. Mugs


You can purchase mugs that have pictures on them from the area you are visiting. For example, you might find a mug that has shells on it if you are near a beach.

Mugs that name the place you are visiting such as Great Smokey Mountains make nice souvenirs, especially if you drink hot beverages.


7. T-Shirts


Cheap t-shirts of places that you visit are usually pretty common and make a souvenir that you can use.

If you are really crafty and have a big collection of t-shirts, try making them into a quilt!


8. Key Chains

Most places we visit have a variety of key chains. Some are generic and could come from any place but some signify the place you are visiting.

Recently we were visiting a beach, and there were key chains of flip-flops, sand dollars, surfboards, etc. All had the location printed on the key chain.


9. Personalized Items

If you have a common name, you can find a lot of personalized items at gift shops that make nice souvenirs.

This could include key chains, mugs, license plates, jewelry, pocket knives, etc.


10. Books

If you are interested in history or facts, a book on the area that you are visiting can make a great souvenir. I have learned a lot from books that I have purchased as souvenirs.

This could also apply to cookbooks from an area. I have cookbooks from New Orleans and other southern places because I like that style of cooking.


What kinds of souvenirs do you collect? Do you collect any of these items?

Comment down below!


Other Travel Related Posts:

How to Save Money at the Zoo

Save Money on Popular Tourist Attractions

4 Ways to Save Money on Your Next Trip to the Museum

Cheap Souvenirs to Collect

8 thoughts on “Cheap Souvenirs to Collect

  1. Since I like to sew and do other needle crafts, I started collecting thimbles from the places I visit and then friends started bringing me thimbles from their travels, too! They don’t take up much room and they are usually under $10, averaging around $5 or $6. I found an old printing press type tray and they each have their own compartment. Looks terrific in my sewing/craft room!

    1. Love that idea! I have one thimble I got in Hawaii, but that’s awesome that you are able to find those when you travel! Plus, it’s always nice to collect something that doesn’t take up much room. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I’m so sorry that you lost all of your collection 🙁 That’s awesome that you collected them though. I have never met anyone else who did.

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