Souvenir shopping is a part of traveling but you might not always know what to to buy. Part of what you buy while on vacation may depend on different things. If you are traveling without your kids you might be on the look out for something the kids will like. If you travel frequently you might not really want to bring much back at all but are looking to find that one special item that will remind you of just this trip. You might have a collection and there is that one particular thing you like to buy from everywhere you go.
#1 Collections - if you collect something in particular from each place you visit that can make your shopping a little easier since you already know what you are looking for. If you haven't started a collection yet but you want some ideas my suggestion would be to choose something small. Magnets from each city can be a good one since they are not too expensive and do not take up much space. Other things people tend to collect are mugs, pins, shot glasses, decals, snowglobes, ornaments, and key chains. These tend to be cheap souvenirs which can help if you don't want to spend much but on the other hand cheap also could be bad since usually it also means it most likely wasn't made in the place you visited.
#2 Authentic souvenirs - if you want to buy something that has more meaning to it you will want to find something that is made in the place you are visiting and maybe is something that area is really known for. If you do a quick google search you can find out what authentic souvenir to shop for wherever you visit. For example, when we visit the Netherlands we always bring back some cheese that is fresh off the farm. Wooden shoes might also be a fun authentic souvenir from Holland but if you are really looking for authentic it is best to find a shop where you can watch them being made, or at least just double check them to make sure they don't have a made in china sticker. Visiting a fair or outdoor market in the town square is usually a good place to find local items.
Alaska has set up the Made in Alaska program which makes it easy for you to know you are buying an item that is authentic and made right in Alaska.
#3 Clothing - My husband loves to buy a tee-shirt and hat for almost everywhere we visit. These can be a nice reminder of places you have been and is also more useful than some of the other things you might find in the tourist shops. You might also want to shop for clothing specific to that area, for example a wool sweater from Norway or kilt in Scotland. Clothing might also end up being a souvenir out of necessity like when you forget to pack something or when the weather isn't what you were expecting and you need something like a jacket.
#4 - Food and Drink items - this one kind of goes along with the authentic souvenirs since if you are buying food items they are most likely food that is associated with where you are visiting. I like to try chocolate just about anywhere we go even if that city or country might not be known for chocolate. Food can be a fun souvenir to share with friends and family when you return but just remember it is not exactly the longest lasting souvenir. Also it is important to make sure that any food or drink item you might be choosing to bring back it allowed back into your country as some things might be banned.
#5 - Photos/Postcards - photos are a great reminder of where you went and what you saw. If you are not the best photographer or you are visiting somewhere that is hard to really capture then postcards are great alternative to taking the photos yourself. Since I travel a lot I don't usually bring anything back for anyone but I do always try to send at least one postcard back to family. My dad collects stamps so the postcard is like 2 souvenirs in one for him.
No matter what type souvenir you choose it will be a nice reminder from your trip.
I have been specializing in Disney vacations now for 18 years. There is a lot that goes into planning a Disney vacation and I really like to help in any way since I know it is a big expense for most families. The cost is one of the biggest factors and over the years I have learned a few ways to help with that. I know you have all probably seen many articles about how to save money while you are in Disney like eating breakfast in the room or bringing your own snacks into the parks. I have 3 easy tips to save money before you leave home and they don't require you to cut back on anything you want to do in order to save.
The #1 tip I have is to use a travel agent that specializes in Disney. I know I am very bias on this one but I am not just saying you should use me (even though I do think you should) but using any travel agent that knows Disney can help you save money up-front because we know all the offers and stay on top of that for you and will apply any savings possible for you. If you call Disney and book with them they will happily take your money but they are not going to call you a few months later and say hey guess what we are now offering a discount and we applied it for you. A good Disney travel agent will do that! A good Disney travel agent will also be honest and help you figure what you really do need and what you would be wasting money on.
#2 - Choose a credit card with nice perks. You might need to start this tip well before planning your vacation to give you enough time to rack up some rewards but they can be well worth it. If you choose a good reward credit card you can rack some rewards that can help you take money off your vacation cost. A good airline one might make it so you can fly free. Disney also has a card that gives you rewards and you can use those rewards to pay towards your vacation or save them to use while on vacation. A Disney Visa also gives you no interest on Disney vacation package reservations for 6 months so that could also save you some money and give you more time to pay.
#3 - Disney Gift cards. This is sort of linked with #2 in that you can save money buying Disney gift cards if you have certain credit cards, such as a Target Visa. You can save 5% when you use your Target Visa to buy Disney gift cards at Target so that can add up. Warehouse stores like BJs and Sam's also offer discounts on Disney gift cards. I have had many clients send me multiple gift cards to make payments on their vacations. I even had one once that paid her whole Disney Cruise using gift cards (that 5% on over $5000 does add up). Going back to #1 a good Disney agent will be happy to take as many gift cards as you need to use for making payments.
I know there are many other ways you can do things to save on Disney vacations but I think these 3 are the easiest to get what you really want and save a little too.
You might be asking - what does Shoulder Season mean? Most travel destinations will have a Peak Season and an Off Season but there will also be a bit of in between time which is the Shoulder Season. Most popular travel destinations will have some sort of shoulder season. In some places where year round travel is pretty popular, like here in Central Florida for example, we don't have much of an off season or shoulder season.
Cruising in Alaska has such a short Season in total that it offer a great example of Shoulder Season. Cruise ships can only sail Alaska in May - September (maybe very late April and into very early October but not much). The Peak Season is Mid-June through Mid-August so that leaves May and September as the Shoulder Season. The rest of the year is totally Off Season since the ships cannot even go there if they wanted to. There is some good and bad to choosing shoulder season anywhere.
There are 2 good reasons to cruise Alaska during Shoulder Season -
#1 - Lower Prices - since it isn't the most popular time the rates are lower to try and entice more visitors.
#2 - Smaller Crowds - Most people either only want to or can only travel during the dates of the Peak Season so there are more crowds at that time leaving smaller crowds in the Shoulder Season.
There are also 2 not so good reason to choose Shoulder Season -
#1 - Not everything will be open or available. For example Denali National Park won't open until Mid June so if you want to go there you need to pretty much stick to Peak Season. Another thing to consider is snow melting over summer will cause some excursions to not be offered in September.
#2 - There won't be as much wildlife. If you are really going to Alaska for the wildlife the best times for that is going to be Peak Season when the Salmon are running and the Bears are out of hibernation.
You might think that weather would be a reason to choose peak season but in Alaska the weather can be all over the map at anytime of the cruise season. You should be prepared for rain anytime you cruise Alaska. It is possible that May and September will be colder than June - August but it might not be. There is a slight chance you could catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights during shoulder season but you shouldn't plan your trip around that since it isn't very likely.
I have cruised Alaska twice - once in May and just this year the end of August so my dates have been shoulder season. The photo I posted above shows one of the big differences in May and August since you see a lot less snow in the August photo. As pretty as the snow was in May we almost didn't get close to the glacier because there were still a lot of big ice chunks and frozen water in that area. I enjoyed both times of year and I think the smaller crowds of shoulder season were nice too but I would still like to try peak season too.
Alaska really is an amazing wilderness and one that everyone should have on their must see list. An Alaska cruise is not your typical cruise though. There are certain things that are worth the splurge when it comes to an Alaska Cruise.
#1 Your room - This is one of those times when splurging for a balcony is really worth it. There will be a lot to see outside and it is nice to be able to watch some of it from the comfort of your room.
#2 The excursions. On some cruises you can get away with just exploring town or finding a beach to relax on but in Alaska the excursions are really worth the splurge. There are many that can be a bit pricey so it is good to budget for those in advance. I have done a few that were big splurges and they were all worth every penny. On this visit I went big with the Helicopter to a glacier to go dog sledding. It was truly amazing! There were only a total of 4 adults on our excursion so it felt very private and we got a lot of time on the glacier with the dogs. This is something you really cannot do anywhere else so it one of those once in a lifetime moments you won't soon forget. The other big splurge we did last time in Alaska was a flight-seeing ride on a float-plane. Alaska is really best seen by air and you can only get to some places via a plane. Our float-plane flew around some fjords and even landed on a lake so we could pop out of plane for a bit. Again there were only 4 people total in our plane so it was pretty much a private excursion. If you are into fishing then Alaska is one of those places you must book a fishing excursion. You can even have the chef back onboard cook up your catch for your for dinner! You can also ship your big catch home if you prefer.
#3 Private viewing areas. Find out if you ship offers any private areas that you can reserve for your time in Glacier Bay or whichever glacier you might visit on your cruise. The top decks can get very crowded on the glacier day so if you ship offers a private area you can reserve a spot it is worth the cost. For our cruise Princess offers the Sanctuary up on the top deck in the very aft of the ship. This area is available to reserve anytime during the cruise for a small fee but on glacier day it really it a great place to be. The lounge chairs are super comfy with extra blankets and attentive service. You do get to actually reserve a specific chair so you can come and go and not worry about losing your spot. For our cruise they served pastries, lunch, and tea during our time in Glacier Bay. They would also bring hot chocolate, coffee and tea or water anytime you needed more. With the limited number of guests in the Sanctuary it was very easy to get all the perfect photos you wanted while viewing the glaciers.
#4 The right wardrobe. Packing for Alaska can be tricky as you really do need a little bit of everything since you just never know what kind of weather you might get. Generally in summer you can pretty much count on rain though. Having the right gear can really help make sure you get the most out of your vacation. Depending on where you live you might not get a lot of regular use out of some of these things but they are worth the splurge to have for Alaska. Number one would be a nice pair of waterproof hiking type shoes. It is no fun to be walking around in wet shoes with cold feet. Another item that you might not normally purchase would be some water resistant clothing. I bought a pair of water resistant hiking pants from Columbia that worked out really well for the wet days. A good rain jacket is also much easier than carrying an umbrella. One tip though when it comes to certain excursions be sure to note if they will provide some gear. We did a few excursions that did give us boots or other outerwear to keep us protected on the excursion so that was a nice bonus.
#5 Camera - Alaska has a lot of wildlife to catch a glimpse of and if you want to really capture that image your cell phone camera just isn't going to cut it. This is one of those trips when having a nicer camera is worth it. Binoculars also come in handy so they are worth picking up a pair before your cruise.
#6 - The spa. With all the excursions and outdoor activities to choose from in Alaska a spa treatment might be just the splurge you need to recover and also warm up. Some ship spas will also offer a thermal spa and I cannot think of anywhere better to warm up than a heated lounge chair inside the relaxing atmosphere of the spa. Some ships will have the thermal spa set up where you can even have an amazing view of the outside while lounging. You might be able to get just a day passes but many times only length of cruise passes are offered. There are even some ships that have specific stateroom categories that will come with spa access included with the room.
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