Souvenirs reflect many things about your visit. They can reflect you and your family and friends’ ages, interests, and tastes in clothing, personal collections, and traditions. They can reflect the overall budget for that trip, the popular attractions and events for that specific place and time, and the style and trends of the year. Over time, they might even reveal to you something about your personality. For people who travel to a Disney destination every few years, or maybe even just once in a lifetime, a lot of energy, thought, and saving is put into their plans for a souvenir allowance. Therefore, it only makes sense to document that aspect of your vacation, too.
In this article, I will discuss ways to document your souvenirs while you are actually on your vacation. A second article will offer solutions to document souvenirs once you are home. This will be particularly helpful if you have recently returned from a trip.
Below are some suggestions that can help you plan your memory-keeping strategy prior to your next visit. These tips can also help you sift through photos from previous trips if you have since decided to document the items you bought on that trip. In fact, you can apply these same ideas to non-Disney vacations. But let’s be honest, the Disney trips are notorious for their souvenir haul!
While on your vacation, keep these tips in mind as they relate to your shopping and souvenir purchases:
- This might be the most obvious and easiest way to record your souvenirs while you are still on vacation: take photos wearing/using/playing with the souvenir. Particularly true for the kids and the young at heart, this applies to all those t-shirts, toys, plush friends, nighttime light up gadgets, and the ever-popular Disney Parks Balloons. Oh yeah, and those things called mouse ears.
- Take a photo using your souvenir as part of the scene. Michael Hughes is a photographer who has an amazing collection of photos featuring souvenirs on location, and his famous series of photographs can be seen in a Flicker photostream. As a Disney fan, I loved this one of Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland Paris. What a unique idea!
- Similarly, you can take a photo of your souvenir in a related themed setting. If you buy something in Cars Land, then take a picture of it while you are still there. Steph’s Minnie Me is a great example of using the Disney park environment to get photos of smaller, inanimate objects. It might feel silly doing it, but you might end up with a cute photo! The photo offers a visual connection between your souvenir and where you were when you bought it.
- Don't forget to capture food-related souvenirs before – and during – consumption! I adored this sweet pumpkin mug when it appeared in my Instagram feed during the fall. Sadly, the park was all out of these mugs when I visited near the end of October. But I remember how nice it looked in the photo. This could easily be done while you are in the parks with souvenir drink cups and popcorn buckets, and if you are in the resorts with the refillable mugs.
- Take a photo of the personalization process of souvenirs, or any artwork that is made on location, when possible. This would include caricatures, silhouette art, face painting, and even hair wraps (this can be found in some of the resorts). I am so glad I took this shot of the vintage freehand machine stitching for my older children’s first mouse ears. I don’t think this type of machine is used anymore in the parks, but I remember vividly how skillfully this cast member stitched their names. Another art directly tied to souvenirs includes the calligraphy used to personalize holiday ornaments (I know they are located in the Disney's Days of Christmas in Downtown Disney – WDW), and you can watch the calligraphers doing their craft in their workspace inside the gift shop.
- Were you overwhelmed with the sheer size of World of Disney when you first visited one? Are you still? It is like the mothership of Disney shopping! I took a photo of one of the entrances when we were on vacation years ago. Photograph your souvenir in front of the gift shop where it was purchased, especially if it is a favorite shopping spot or has a unique façade.
- Use a souvenir as a conversation starter for character interactions. My daughter had a Disney charm bracelet that my mom had bought her while they were shopping in Downtown Disney. Although we didn’t plan it, the bracelet turned out to be a conversation piece with Mulan. We have a couple of cute photos of that interaction. If you have jewelry, an accessory, or clothing that features a character, use it to your advantage when you meet them. It could make for some fun photos and a memorable meeting.
- If you are collecting pressed pennies, trading pins, or Vinylmations, be sure to take photos of both the process and your loot. (I will share more about photographing these types of collections when you are home in the second article of this series, so stay tuned!)
- Just like personalizing a set of mouse ears, the making of souvenir artwork, or the trading and buying of pins, don't be afraid to snap a few action photos of your souvenir shopping experience. Take a picture of Grandma with her arms loaded with gifts for the grandkids. Get some shots of the kids checking out all of the pirate merchandise after exiting The Pirates of the Caribbean ride – between the swords, hooks, pistols, head gear, and ball-and-chain, it's almost a given that they will anyway! Photograph the expressions of Mom and/or Dad looking at the receipt after the shopping has concluded. That could make for a telling photo! Because Disney has so many unique shopping experiences, you are sure to have some great photo opportunities, like when my oldest son made his own dual light saber. It was during the height of his first Star Wars phase, so this was certainly a magical moment for him!
- Get a picture of that souvenir that won’t make it home! And get a little goofy. I tend to be the parent that allows for bonus treats while on vacation, so although it drives us nuts to spend money on pure sugar, I knew that for my kids, buying tubes of flavored sugar would be a real treat while we were on a non-park Disney vacation a couple of years ago. We took this picture to show their dad what they bought with their spending money.
- Snap a picture of any gift cards, rewards cards, the currency you are using, the shopping bags, the gang in front of a shop with their purchases, the souvenirs waiting in your room when you return to the resort, etc. Along with these photo prompts – and as many Disney memory-keepers would attest – save your receipts, used gift cards, special packaging, clothing tags, etc. while you are on the trip, and you can sift through it all when you get home and keep what you want. Keep in your hotel room a large ziploc or expandable envelope handy to hold these items during your trip. Especially for a scrapbooker and those who use pocket-style scrapping, these items make great pocket fillers and embellishments.
- Create a souvenir wish list with your camera. It might provide the inspiration needed to save for the next visit. Or take a photo of something special that catches your eye or imagination, but which you might not actually purchase. I would bet that many a Disney vacationer has a photo of themselves or their family members wearing the sombreros found inside the Mexico Pavilion in EPCOT, yet they never actually buy them. (Don't worry, I won't tell!) But by taking that picture, they had a “visual souvenir” to take home.
No matter your budget or the number of items you buy on your trip, souvenirs are directly connected to your Disney vacation and are worthy of capturing on camera while you are still there. Hopefully some of these tips will inspire you to document your souvenirs while you are making special memories with your family and friends. The result will be photos to commemorate your family's souvenirs from your vacation in your scrapbooks and albums. If you have any tips or tricks for documenting your souvenirs while on vacation, feel free to share them in the comments below. And have fun souvenir shopping!