BY SUSAN ADCOX
Put me down in a museum or at the zoo with the grandchildren, and I’m in heaven. I’m lukewarm about theme parks, but, hey, I’ll do those, too. All of these places have gift shops, though, and therein lies the rub, or the pinch that I feel in my pocketbook.
Add souvenirs to the cost of admission and food, and the price of an outing can reach the stratosphere. What I hate more than the cost is the irresistible pull that gift shops exert on my grandchildren. They can hardly enjoy watching the meerkats or checking out the giant geodes because their minds are in the gift shop. And their choices are often questionable. One of my granddaughters always wants a stuffed animal. One of my grandsons must always be talked out of something wildly inappropriate or expensive, like astronaut boots or an ant farm.
If you’re a new grandparent, you can establish a no-gift shop policy early on, and the grandchildren will grow to accept it. But if you’ve been free-spending in the past, you don’t have to continue the pattern. For one thing, most of us pick up more grandchildren as we go along, and while it may not cost that much to indulge one or two grandkids, it becomes harder when you have more.
If you’re not quite ready to nix souvenirs altogether, here are some other ideas for minimizing the damage to your bank account:
- Pre-purchase inexpensive “souvenirs.” Hide them in the car for the trip home.
- Go “window shopping.” Tell the grandchildren that you’re not buying anything, but that they can add items to a birthday or holiday wish list. Then use your cell phone to snap photos of the desired items.
- Give the grandchildren disposable cameras for recording their visit. Later help them create their own souvenir flipbooks.
- Get the grandchildren interested in collecting something inexpensive, such as postcards, stickers, pencils or refrigerator magnets. For theme parks, buy autograph books and collect the signatures of the characters.
Most grandparents have a hard time saying no to the grandchildren. If you try to get around the gift shop but don’t quite manage it, don’t stress about it. That ant farm that you couldn’t say no to? You can always keep it on the back porch.
Click on links below for more ideas & resources: Tips for Visiting Theme Parks With Grandchildren
Museum Visits With Grandchildren http://grandparents.about.com/od/hintsforawayfromhom1/a/museums.htm
Plan Ahead for Trips to the Zoo
Susan Adcox is the Grandparents Expert on About.com and the author of Stories From My Grandparent: A Heirloom Journal for Your Grandchild. A former teacher, she has seven grandchildren.