What’s your usual vacation memento? Some of the most popular destinations in the world sell more t-shirts, keychains, and magnets than anything else — even, in these days of digital photos, than photo albums.

But t-shirts fade, keychains get lost, and magnets… well, you’re only staring at your fridge so often, right? If you’re looking for a more long-lasting, evocative memento of your vacation, we have some ideas for you. We’ve turned to Pinterest to find some of the most unique and easy DIY projects you can embark on to protect and display your favorite vacation memories.

Seashell art:

Seashells are always a favorite takeaway from a beach vacation, especially if you have small children. Beachcombing days lead to jars full of shells to drag home — maybe even some nice unbroken ones, if you’re lucky. There are many, many creative ways to display your shells besides just thunking that jar down on your side-table. This pretty DIY beach frame doesn’t require much more than a hot-glue gun, a picture frame, and some nice shells:

 

Vacation memory jars:

If you do have space for a shell-jar, though, consider these appealing options. Creating a vacation memory jar with a small layer of sand and a few pretty shells, capped off with a tight-sealing lid (look for small jars at The Container Store or Target), is a small simple way to make a beautiful memento. These jars from Kiwi Crate incorporate a little extra feeling to the design with yarn around the lid. Here’s a nice how-to on making a memory jar:

Think beyond beach vacations and you can create memory jars from diverse environments such as the American Southwest (interesting rocks, distinctively-colored sand) or a national forest (smooth creek-bed stones, decorative moss, acorns). Keep the design simple with a hand-written label on the jar’s side, or slip in a photo and small scrapbooking elements like a vintage luggage tag to make a distinctive conversation piece.

If you’re the sort of person who instinctively picks up small natural souvenirs on your journeys, you could soon have a shelf of interesting jars that tell your travel story.

Shadowboxes:

A shadowbox can be used to display just about anything. From your beach vacation, it’s easy to use a backdrop of one of your favorite photos and decorate the foreground with a handful of beach sand, some good shells, and maybe a couple of fun design elements, like a mini sand-pail or beach chair.

For urban vacations or multi-part adventures, a shadowbox can display those tangible elements of your trip, like the ticket stubs you can’t bear to throw away or the event programs you’ll save forever. Visit your local craft store for the tools you need, or preserve your memories the professional way with conservation framing from a company like Chicago’s Foursided.

Here’s a great tutorial on a very basic shadowbox, perfect if you’re just getting started on DIY projects.

Memory boxes:

What if you’re the sort of person who saves everything — everything — and there’s just no way your walls could ever handle another shadowbox of all your brochures, maps, stubs, leftover transit cards, postcards, and everything else you’ve picked up on your travels? These travel keepsake kits from Martha Stewart are a perfect way to create a safe place to deposit your tangible memories — and encourage a satisfying afternoon spent rummaging and reliving your adventures.

The things you bring home, often because you can’t bring yourself to throw them away, might turn out to be the most treasured memories of your vacation. Not the t-shirt, not the keychain, not even the magnet. Turning those memories into your perfect vacation mementos takes a little more time than just grabbing a souvenir and paying at the cash register, but in the long run, it’s worth it. And who knows — it just might inspire more travel.

Looking for more ideas on creating vacation mementos?

Visit our Pinterest board, where we’re always adding great new ideas!