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Tag Archives: air travel

“G” is for Gifts and Souvenirs

I’m blogging A to Z in April! No, really. Check back daily, because you’re an optimist! And I am NOT so far behind that I won’t catch up.

“What did you bring me?” It follows on the heels of “Welcome Home!” more often than you’d think. But it’s not a sign of your loved ones’ greed; it’s simply their way of travelling the world vicariously through you. They want to know that the postcard message “wish you were here” was sincere – that you thought of your mother, kids, neighbours, etc, while you were away. And really, you did, right? At least once, for half a second?

Gifts from your travels are a way to share your discoveries and adventures with those around you. No matter where I’ve gotten to, it’s second nature to want to bring something home for the kids -and sometimes my mom, etc. I don’t spend a lot, but I do enjoy searching for things that they’ll like/use/appreciate. Even if it’s just a “My mom went to the Andes, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” kind of thing. It doesn’t even have to be something place specific – I’ll often see something cute or different that you could probably get just about anywhere but I haven’t seen before. My last travel gift was actually an IKEA purchase (we don’t have an IKEA at home) I hauled home a tabletop greenhouse from Ottawa for my urban farmer husband so that he could start his herbs inside in February.

I think of gifts as the things I bring other people, and souvenirs as the things I buy for myself to commemorate my trip. Again, sometimes it’s just a keychain, but I do keep my eyes open for something different. The ceramic pig in my living room came from a darling little store called The Back Door in Kimberley B.C.  I loved that store, visiting several times during my visit out west, and the memory it provides always brings a smile to my face. And you should have seen the look on airport security’s face when they realized I had a “pig” in my carry-on.

The best, most different souvenir I have is technically contraband from the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. The year was 1985, and I was standing in line for It’s a Small World. The decorative ball atop the queue stanchion came off in my hand – so I put it in my camera bag. Yep, I’ve got a ball of lead from WDW. Can you imagine bringing that through security these days?

I encourage my kids to souvenir shop too, and offer them tips -don’t buy what you can buy at home, try for something a little different. They’ve gotten into the habit of bringing things home as gifts- I have a lovely scarf from Paris, and some funky jewellery from Cuba. Of course, as airline regulations change, and baggage charges climb, the gifts change a little. It’s always a good idea to think first – ok, you want to buy it, but do you want to carry it?

What are your favourite gifts and souvenirs from the places you’ve been?

Check the date!

How time flies! It seems like only yesterday that news of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative was first announced, and then implemented. This, of course, required Canadians, many of whom had enjoyed travelling in and through the US for years, to now produce a passport upon entry to “the States” by land, sea and air. In fact, it was almost five years ago that discussion of this initiative first started, and almost three years ago (June 2009) when the policy came into effect.

For families like mine – where most of our travel took place in Canada and the US – this meant you needed a passport for the first time ever. Even if you were just making a quick run across the border for groceries. Or to pick up someone at the airport. Or to visit a friend. And also for families like mine, who weren’t prepared to shell out the cost of passports for everyone all at once, (they’re about $85 apiece!) you probably started getting your family’s passports one at a time, nice and early in advance of the deadline.

If this was your process, it’s time to start checking your dates – Canadian passports are typically valid for five years (three years for children under 3). Depending on when your family started acquiring their passports, the expiry dates may be approaching soon.

I know my passport isn’t exactly top-of-mind for me: it stays in a safe place 95% of the time. If you’re a passport holder who doesn’t travel outside of Canada often, it’s probably not top-of-mind for you either. You know you have it, and that’s enough -enough to safely envision that spur-of-the-moment cruise in the Carribean with a Detroit departure. But that expiry date can sneak up on you! And while simply having a valid passport may be enough for entry into the US, many countries you may ultimately travel to could require a certain length of remaining validity, like three or six months.

It’s time to check your expiry date, and figure out a system for keeping track of it. Maybe writing it down on your yearly calendar is the answer – a simple “renew passport” notation could be the answer. Or check it today, and then make checking the date part of your birthday routine every year.

After all, it would be a real downer to decide to jet off to Europe this summer and then discover you’d have to postpone your trip.

For more information about Canadian passport validity and renewal, visit Passport Canada.