Choose experiences, not things: 6 tips on how to remember your adventures on the cheap

I’m poor most of the time, being an English language assistant in France does not pay that great. However, it does pay enough for me to take advantage of my vacation time by traveling as much as I can, if I remain on a budget. Many people, especially friends and family back home, wonder how I’m able to travel as much as I do with my measly little income. One of the ways that I achieve this is by choosing to pay for experiences, rather than things, meaning that the souvenirs that I choose to keep while traveling cost me little to nothing because I spend most of my money experiencing things rather than buying things. Here are ways in which you can personally save money on remembering your awesome adventures while traveling.

1. Keep a travel journal! 

So maybe you aren’t really the writing type. Maybe the thought of writing makes you cringe, bringing back memories of school essays. I totally get that, but hear me out. You don’t have to be a writer, a good writer no less, to keep a travel journal. Though the initial expense of a journal can cost you anywhere between $8 – $20, I can confidently say that it is well worth it and will save you money in the long run. Keeping a journal while you are traveling, to write down your thoughts about the things you’ve seen, done, and experienced, the awkward situations you encountered while trying to communicate with someone who speaks a different language, memories of you getting lost in an unknown city, how impressed you were by the local cuisine or architecture, is the best way, in my opinion, to preserve the experiences that you have. You don’t need a small key chain or plastic miniature to remind you of the experience you had while visiting the Eiffel Tower. Write about your experience instead! Even doodle in your journal as well, even if you aren’t very good at drawing, to capture how things appear to you (or just for funzies, really). A travel journal is for you, for your thoughts and experiences. If you are really shy about the idea, no one even has to see what you write about. Plus, writing is a great way to really process what you’ve experienced.

2. Make it a point to collect maps in all the cities that you’ve visited! 

Collecting maps is one way in which I preserve the memories that I’ve made. Most city maps are FREE or cheap if you go to the visitor center and ask for one. Not only are they great for navigating your way around the city while you’re exploring, especially for saving yourself from using too much of your phone data, but they are also great for two other things: circling all of the monuments, buildings, landmarks, museums, restaurants, etc. that you’ve visited as well as for seeing what all else there is to see in the city that you didn’t know about before. After you use it, you can then put it in a picture frame or only cut out the part of the city that you spent most of your time in and preserve it in a scrapbook, in your travel journal, or a shadow box! That way you can always look back at it and remember the different parts of the city that you saw!

3. Keep ticket stubs and restaurant receipts! 

Now most people throw away their ticket stubs or their restaurant receipts, seeing them as having no value after the experience. I say, keep them! Keep them to remember your experience there. If you choose to pay to see a museum, a monument, an art show, an old building, etc., then you’ve already paid enough and shouldn’t buy extra souvenirs to remember the occasion. Just keep that little piece of paper that was FREE with your entrance. There’s no need to spend extra money for a book that you might possibly never read or a plastic trinket that will just collect dust on your bookshelf anyways. With restaurants, you have to eat, right? So, might as well keep the receipt to remember the experience you had trying Paella in Barcelona for the first time! You can put these in your travel journal or keep them to put in a scrapbook or a shadow box later. Plus, these little pieces of paper save lots of space, which is especially important if you are only traveling with one backpack.

4. Take pictures! 

Most people these days have either a camera or a smart phone. It is 2016 after all, right? Well, you are going to probably take pictures anyways, might as well be intentional with your pictures. Instead of taking snapshots of every little thing, take pictures of things that really surprise you or shock you, of places where you had a fantastic meal, a building where you learned about the history of the city you’ve been in, architecture that is different than anything you’ve ever seen before, with people that you’ve met along the way on your travels. You’re probably going to take pictures and put them on your Instagram or your Facebook anyways, might as well use them to remember your travels. Then, later, you can choose a few of the more important ones to print and put either in your travel journal, a scrapbook, or a shadow box.

BUT, If you must spend some money….

5. Spend money on useful things!

For example, when I was in Sevilla, Spain, my boots were rubbing my heels raw, so I decided to invest in a new pair of flats. Not only did I need these flats to make the rest of my travels more comfortable, but I now have a pair of shoes that say ”Made in Spain” on the bottom. Now, every time I wear them, I’ll remember my travels in Sevilla. (Plus, the yearly sales were going on, so I got them for only 10€.)

Another example, I was quite chilly in Madrid, Spain, so I went to a souvenir shop and bought a 5€ blanket scarf. Not only do I have constant scarf envy (I’ll admit, I have an obsession), but it also helped to keep me warm. So from now on, for only 5€, I can keep myself warm in future cold or chilly weather and simultaneously remember my adventures in Madrid!

Spend your money on things that you will use often, and it’s even better if you don’t spend too much money on them to begin with.

6. Lastly, if you must absolutely buy at least a couple of true souvenirs, go for the postcard!

The postcard is a classic. Firstly, most postcards are super cheap, the max that I’ve seen being about 1€ to 1.50€. So, they are a great way to remember specific places that you really enjoyed because they are professionally taken photos. This is especially great if you aren’t the greatest picture taker or don’t have a very good camera/phone. In addition to that, you can use them to write to someone you love about your travels, that way you can always remember the time you had when you go to visit that person. OR, you can do what I do and just keep them for yourself. OR, even better, buy two from the same city so that you can send one to someone you love AND keep one for yourself. They are usually less than 1€ after all.


These are just some of the ways that I remember my travels on the cheap. This is one of the ways that I achieve traveling on a small budget. I choose to pay for experiences rather than for things.

To all my fellow travelers out there, what are some ways that you preserve memories from travels on the cheap? I’d love to hear your thoughts! 


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