Make a Travel Tree for Christmas

When my husband and I were newlyweds, we started collecting magnets from our travel destinations. It didn’t take long for our refrigerator to become a cluttered mess. We needed a new plan. Then on one of our trips we noticed Christmas ornaments for sale alongside the other souvenirs.  Since then, Christmas ornaments have become our souvenir of choice. They don’t take up much space in our luggage and since we take them out of storage only once a year, we cherish them and the memories they evoke as we hang them on the tree. Our collection has grown considerably over the years and now we have three children who enjoy participating in this tradition too. They love to help pick out the ornaments on our travels as well as hang them on the tree at Christmastime. Last year we concluded that we had enough ornaments to create a dedicated tree for our travel ornaments.

 Make a Travel Tree 2

Well, actually, we made two Travel Trees. We already had two small trees to flank the front door and decided to turn them into our Travel Trees.

Travel Trees flank front door

Someday we may have enough ornaments to fill a full-size tree, but I don’t think it will add much to the experience. It was fun to talk about our vacation memories as we decorated our trees.

This cute Hershey’s Kiss ornament came from Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey, PA.

Hershey's ornament

Our trip to Hershey’s Chocolate World was entirely unplanned.  We were on our way to Gettysburg and it started pouring rain. I wasn’t feeling very excited about touring a battlefield in the rain, and I saw a sign that said Hershey was the next exit, so we made a spur-of-the-moment detour. It was a short, but delicious trip. You can read more about it on my blog, Travel 50 States with Kids.

Giant Hershey Kiss

After a few hours, the rain stopped and we made our way to Gettysburg where we purchased an ornament with the entire text of the Gettysburg Address on it.

Gettysburg ornament

We enjoyed both the museum and driving through the battlefield listening to an audio tour. When we got to the cemetery where Abraham Lincoln delivered his address, I got goosebumps.

Lincoln bust at Soldiers' National Cemetery

As much as possible we try to select ornaments that are meaningful. For instance, our first moose sighting was in Grand Teton National Park, so we selected a moose ornament.

Grand Teton Ornament


We seem to be attracted to moose ornaments. We selected a moose ornament in Maine, although, as hard as we tried, we couldn’t spot a moose there.

Maine ornament

But this particular moose is clearly a lobster fisherman and we can relate to that. Our lobster boat cruise in Maine was very memorable.

rubber banding lobster claw - lobster cruise

On our short trip to Idaho, we must have been limited in ornament selection (or just really fond of mooses) because we got another moose ornament there.

Teton Valley Idaho ornament

We didn’t see a moose, but spotted a giant potato. A potato ornament would have been perfect, don’t you think?

Spud Drive-in Potato (640x480)

We are on a mission to visit all 50 states and try to choose activities that reflect the character of each state.  I love it when an ornament reflects the character too. This ornament from North Dakota reminds us of the long drive across North Dakota where we saw fields of sunflowers along with some really fun roadside attractions.

North Dakota ornament

north dakota 3

One ornament is this glass ball filled with shredded money. Can you guess where we got it?

Money Factory ornament

It came from the Money Factory, a.k.a. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, in Washington, D.C.

Photo courtesy Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Photo courtesy Bureau of Engraving and Printing

On that same trip we visited Mount Vernon, Virginia. We found an adorable ornament of Mount Vernon made of gingerbread.

Mount Vernon ornament

It looks pretty close to the real thing, don’t you think?

Mount Vernon

One very appropriate place to purchase Christmas ornament was the North Pole.  North Pole, Alaska, that is.

North Pole Alaska ornament

We visited the Santa Claus house where you can meet Santa and his reindeer year-round and pose by the the giant Santa.

Giant Santa North Pole Alaska

Also in Alaska, we visited the Iditarod Trail Headquarters, where we got to meet some adorable sled dog pups and ride in a wheeled cart pulled by dogs.

Dogsled ride

We were thrilled to find an ornament with a dog inside a sled to remember this experience.

Alaskan sled dog ornament

Most of our trips are during the summer months, but one year we went on a Christmas cruise that left from New Orleans and we had a day to see the city all dressed up for Christmas before we left. So our Christmas tree also has a little Mardi Gras on it.

New Orleans ornament

Christmas on Bourbon Street 2

And that’s just a few of our many ornaments. With all the memories tied to these ornaments, I’m fairly sure that what’s on the tree will continue to become more valuable than what’s under the tree.  I hope this encourages you to create your own family’s Travel Tree.

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About Terri Weeks 20 Articles
Terri Weeks is a family travel writer in the Cincinnati area. Her family is on a mission to visit all 50 states by the time her kids graduate from high school. She blogs about family travel in the US at and is the author of the e-book How to Visit All 50 States in 12 Trips. Terri is also a local travel guru in Cincinnati and is co-author of Adventures Around Cincinnati: A Parent's Guide to Unique and Memorable Places to Explore with your Kids. She’s a member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association.