Books Make Great Souvenirs!!!

Books Make Great Souvenirs!!!

Every time I go on a trip I always end up with a ton of souvenirs.  Many of them end up tossed in the back of a closet and forgotten, others cram spaces like my fridge doors (they’re covered with magnets), and my kitchen cabinet (one is dedicated to and overflowing with mugs).  Dishtowels, figurines, placemats, and tea pots I’ve bought them all, and then some.  But my favorite souvenirs are the local books I buy along the way.  I love flipping thru picture books and reading stories of the places I’ve been.

For me the best books are books about local ghosts and haunted places.  They’re pretty easy to find, many times books about local ghosts and hauntings are sold at souvenir shops or bookstore.  Grabbing a book or two may seem like a bulky souvenir, but the books serve double duty when I carry it on the plane and read them on the ride home.
Around this time of year I take out one or two and curl up on my coach by myself or with the grandsons and read a story or two. We all enjoy it!
Most of the links on this post are affiliate links, in case you want to purchase one of the books listed!
For those who prefer to see and do instead of reading check out my post of haunted places in the 50 states.
I live in Hawaii so this is not really a souvenir, but it’s one of my favorites because I been to many of the places mentioned in these books, one of them even has a picture of my good friend taken when she was in high school.
Glen Grant was I guess a local “ghost hunter”  his Obake Files tells chilling tales of things that go bump in the night in the state of Hawaii.
Here’s another good book about Hawaii’s supernatural world.  It’s a good read whether or not you plan to visit our sunny state.
Tombstone’s Most Haunted  tells about ghosts and haunted places in my favorite ghost town.  Check out my post about my visit to the Bird Cage Theater!
Another one of my favorite haunted places is New Orleans, from bayou ghosts to voodoo queens they have it here!  I even love novels that are set in this town!  Haunted New Orleans is a great read to learn about the city’s rich history and of course famous hauntings.
From East to West and North to South Haunted Texas by Scott Williams is a guide to all things haunted in the great state of Texas.
One of the most fun places to visit during Halloween is Salem, Massachusetts.  Home of the in famous Salem Witch Trials the town feels eerie specially at night.  Haunted Salem is a must read before and during a visit to the Witch City.
I think this was one of the first books I bought on vacation and started my quest for books about local hauntings in places I visit.
I can’t count how many times we’ve read the stories in this book Ghosts Washington’s Most Famous Ghost Stories.
It’s nice to curl up to this book on a spooky cold night close to Halloween. Haunted Alaska is a book my grandsons love to read.
I read Haunted London every time we decide to vacation in London.
This city has tons of haunted places.
When we go to London we almost always end up taking the train to Paris, so A Journey thru Haunted France is another one of my must read books before I go.  It’s sort of like reading Angels and Demons before I go to Rome or Inferno on my way to Venice or Istanbul!
I loved listening to my “Lolas” (grandmas) telling tales of ghosts and goonies in the Philippines.  I just had to buy this book when I visited the country.  Filipino Ghost Stories has become one of my favorites.
I believe I got this book from one of the gift shops in Edinburgh last time we were there.  Haunted Castles & Houses of Scotland.
I’ll be heading back to Italy, France, Greece, and Turkey in 2 weeks.  I’m looking forward to finding more books!
Tips for Souvenir Shopping in Dubai – Gold, Oud, and more!

Tips for Souvenir Shopping in Dubai – Gold, Oud, and more!

Shopping in Dubai

Are you an “average” tourist?  Is your idea of the perfect souvenirs t-shirts, magnets, mugs, and canvas bags that name the places you visited?
Or worse yet a t-shirt that says ” …went to (place) and all I got was this t-shirts”!

There’s nothing wrong with bringing home all those touristy things, my husband does it all the time.  But I often find that amusing t-shirt or whatever looked funny when you’re buying it, unfortunately it’s not too cute when you get it home or present it to your friends or family.

Many times what you thought was super cool ends up forgotten and unused in the back of the closet.  I know my grandsons’ have outgrown many unworn souvenir t-shirts we’ve gotten for them on our trips.  And I’ve got 2 kitchen cabinets bursting with mugs from everywhere.

On our last visit to Dubai I vowed to curtail my shopping (and my husband’s) to something that we could really use.  It didn’t exactly workout as planned, but we did end up with some really unique or even serviceable souvenirs that we all love and know will use for a long time.

Shopping in Dubai

Gold prices have somewhat dropped making buying a trinket or two a bit more affordable.  So if you want to treat yourself to something sparkly head on over to the Gold Souk in Diera.

In my opinion this is one of the best Gold Souks in the world, rivaled only by the one in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar.  At the souk you’ll find over 400 shops each with a staggering  assortment of gold jewelry from baby earrings to wedding jewelry complete with diadem and tunic.

They sell gold in 18K to 24K, in a variety of colors including white, yellow, rose, and even green.  Jewelry is available with our without precious or semi-precious stones.

You’ll find the prices at the souk among the cheapest anywhere in the world as there is no VAT or other taxes added to the cost.   Additionally gold jewelry in Dubai is sold on gold price plus labor or “making charges”.  Unlike any place else in the world “making charges” aren’t calculated as a percentage of gold prices but usually as a flat rate depending on how intricate the design.

You can be confident in the purity of the gold sold in Dubai as this is strictly regulated by the Dubai Central Laboratories Department.  They have implemented a voluntary quality control and certification program called ‘Bareeq’ that recognizes shops that meet their good practice criteria for selling jewelry.

Here are a few tips for shopping at the Gold Souk:

Shopping in Dubai

1.  Know your gold.  If you are planning on making a significant jewelry purchase in Dubai (or anywhere else for that matter) do your research before you go shopping.  Know the differences in Karat (purity of gold) and colors.
Different colors are achieved by mixing amounts of alloys such as copper, silver, or zinc to the pure gold.  Thus tinted gold will always be less than 24K which is the purest and yellowest form of gold.

2.  Check the price boards that are located around the souk.  Know how much gold is selling for that day.  Prices are per gram and will depend on the karat (purity).  To convert to your home currency be sure you install a currency converter on our smartphone like XE Currency App.

Shopping in Dubai

3.  Visit several stores to compare items, quality, designs, and prices, most stores carry similar designs.  The prevalent designs sold at this souk will be Arab and Indian styles as well as some European styles.  Some shops sell only 18K, while others only the heavier (thus pricier) 22K and 24K.  Still others only sell diamond jewelry. If you’re not interested in one or the other it’s best to move on to a shop that carries what you’re looking for.

4.  Snap a quick picture of something that catches your eye, ask permission first, they usually will allow it.  In most cases jewelers will have multiple locations in and around the Gold Souk so if you saw something in one shop but can’t recall which shop it was chances are if you show the picture to a salesman in any shop and they can go get it for you or tell you where to find it.

5.  Don’t let the price they tell you discourage you, that’s just the starting point!  When you find the item you want to buy haggle for the best price.  All the pieces are tagged with its weight and the salesperson will calculate the price in front of you as gold prices change almost daily, if you ask them to weigh the piece they will happily bring out the scale to weigh it for you.  (Remember the price is calculated by the daily gold price plus the making charge.)

Generally the heavier the item and the more intricate the design the more room there is to haggle. They will tell you that the price on lighter items such as tiny baby studs or simple rings are fixed, but you can still talk your way into a discount even if it’s only $5.  So don’t think you can’t haggle about the price of baby earrings, you can!  We got a small pair of 22K earrings for my baby granddaughter for less than $50, the original price was about $70.

6.  Try to buy multiple items (if you’re interested in more than one piece that is) from the same shop.  Shopkeepers give deeper discounts on a set of earrings, bracelet, and necklace or multiple items like 2 or more pairs of earrings, etc.

7.  Most shops will offer you refreshments; coffee, tea, soda, water, and biscuits.  Feel free to accept or decline, but don’t feel obligated to buy.  And don’t think that just because you accepted a bottled water or a cup of tea you must pay the asking price, you can still haggle!

8.  As you wander the Gold Souk and the streets around it you will be approached by vendors selling bottles and cans of cold water, juice, and soda for 1-2 dirham; if you’re thirsty grab one they’re a bargain at less than $1.

You will also be accosted, very annoying, by touts trying to get you to follow them to their shops in the alleys behind the souk to buy fake designer bags and watches.  Unless you are dying to waste your money on poorly made and terrible looking “Gucci” bags and “Rolex” watches say “no thank you”.  I have to admit after being swamped by several touts in a matter of minutes they got very annoying and I ended up just ignoring them and walking away.

In case, for whatever reason, you are tempted to look at their wares remember this:

1.  Unlike following the touts in Bangkok, you don’t have to be afraid you will get mugged or robbed in the back alleys.  Dubai is very safe, the penalty for crimes, no matter how petty, is very severe (incarceration in a desert prison then deportation, I’ve been told).  So you don’t have to worry for your safety, but you will more than likely be wasting your time and/or end up buying poor quality products.
2.  Buying and bringing home fake designer products is a crime.  If caught at the airport you can be fined $10,000+.  Is that fake Rolex you got for $40 really worth the risk?

Shopping in Dubai

If you want to bring home something unique but don’t want to break the bank by buying that one pound gold and diamond tiara you can have a nameplate made for you.  They whip these out in a matter of hours or at the latest overnight.  They will even deliver it to your hotel.

You can have your name written in either English or Arabic.  Each name plate is attached to an 18″ gold chain.

We purchased a nameplate in 22K for each of our grandchildren, and my grandsons Dion and Devon purchased one for their mom.  We shopped around for them, the prices ranged from $200 to $300+ at different shops.  We then sent in our super haggler aka my husband and walked out paying $150 for each necklace.

Shopping in Dubai

If you want something with bling that isn’t jewelry you can buy one of these bags or a pair of sandals from the shops outside the Gold Souk.
They are hand beaded in India and Pakistan. Very unique and absolutely gorgeous.  You’ll find them in many shops along the road that leads to the Souk.

The sandals start at around $30.  You must try them, the sizes are funky and each style fits differently.  They are super cute and pretty comfy.  However they are not the same quality as the blingy handmade sandals you can buy in Capri or Positano, but they are at least 75% cheaper and will last at thru the summer.

The bags are a bargain starting at about $30 for the evening clutch and $80 for the satchels.  They are bulky and heavy so make sure you can fit one in your luggage if you decide to buy one.

We loved the bags and sandals, actually we just love bling!  We ended up with 3 pairs of sandals (surprisingly we refrained from buying more) and a total of 12 bags.  Again here you must bargain, specially if you are buying multiple items from the same shop.  We ended up paying $25 per pair of sandals, $25 for each clutch, and $68 for each satchel.

Shopping in Dubai

If you’re shopping in and around the Gold Souk in Diera you might find yourself in need of sustenance and rest.  Shopping can be exhausting!  There aren’t many great restaurants near by but there are many snack bars.

There are burger, pizza, and other local fast food joints (you will not find a McDonald’s or such in this area).  The best one I’ve found is this outdoor “cafeteria” that serves shawarma and falafel sandwiches and fresh fruit juices.  It’s pretty good and a bargain at 5 dirham ($1.35) a sandwich.

While in the Diera shopping area around the Gold Souk you will find vendors along the streets selling souvenir t-shirts, mugs, magnets, caps, etc.  If you must have some of those this is a great place to buy them.  Again remember to haggle.  We got adult t-shirts for 10-15 dirham, that’s less than $5 a shirt!  You can also find great buys on suitcases (you will need one after a day in this area!), toys, household goods, hookahs, shoes, and more here.

Shopping in Dubai

If you can’t carry all your purchases, don’t worry!  You can hire a porter.  He’ll follow you around town with all your purchases until you’re ready to load it all up in your car or a taxi.  He’ll even give the kids a ride!

This guy we hired doubled as a nanny to our grandson Devon.  He took very good care of him!  He patiently lifted him on and off the pile of suitcases whenever Devon decided he needed to check out a shop.

There’s no set price for porters, he told my husband to just pay him what my husband felt was fair.  In this case since the poor guy hauled around all our suitcases, bags, souvenirs, and grandson all day in 116 degree heat my husband paid him 100 dirham, that’s about $27.

Shopping in Dubai
Abu Dhabi Confidential

Another popular item in Dubai is Oud.  It’s perfumes, colognes, wood, and incense made from Agarwood essential oil.  It is distilled from the dark resin heartwood that forms in Aquilaria and Gyrinops trees, evergreens native to southeast Asia.  It is reputed to be the rarest and most expensive wood in the world.  In the Middle East it is known as “black gold”.

Prices vary depending on purity, quality, brand, size, and bottles.  You can find small bottles of not very pure oud for as little as $5 in shops around the Gold Souk.  If you’re wanting designer brands such as Tom Ford, Gucci, Versace, and others expect to pay from $100 to more than $500 a bottle.

The oud scent is intense and pungent, I’m not a big fan, but I do love the bottles they come in.  You will find many perfume shops in the malls and will notice the scent as you tour around town.  The locals love the scent and seem to liberally douse themselves in it.  Needless to say I admired the bottles but did not feel compelled to purchase any; however my husband’s friend always comes home with a bottle or two whenever he visits Dubai.

Shopping in Dubai

Satisfy your sweet tooth with a bar of camel milk chocolate from Al Nassma.  You will find them sold in most candy shops around town or at their kiosk on the lower ground level of Dubai Mall.

They sell a variety of chocolate products from bars, to boxes of pralines, to hollow chocolate camels.

My husband picked up a couple of bars to try and grandson Dion got a box of pralines for his mom.

My husband and Dion think they taste just like regular chocolate.  The rest of us weren’t so sure. I think it left a strange after taste, but they tell me it’s just in my mind.

The kiosk in Dubai Mall is cool.  The boys enjoyed riding the camel in front of the kiosk while Dion and my husband shopped for their chocolates.

Since camel’s milk is not that easy to come by this chocolate doesn’t come cheaply.  The bars cost about $12 and a pound of their pralines is just over $100.

Shopping in Dubai

Camel milk chocolate a bit too exotic for you?
Then head over to Patchi down the mall (towards the Dubai Fountain) from Al Nassma’s kiosk.

This Lebanese based chocolate company sells totally yummy chocolates in their boutiques located in most of Dubai’s major malls.

They have your standard milk, dark, and white chocolates as well as chocolate covered nuts and cream filled chocolates.  My favorites are sesame honey and strawberry cheesecake!  You can buy bags of chocolate covered nuts, boxed assortments, or create your own assortment.  They also sell chocolates decorated with flowers and other trinkets packaged on pretty silver trays, in silver boxes, and other containers; great for gift giving or as party favors.

The nicely decorated shops are huge and the staff  friendly.  They have over 50 types of chocolates. The sales associates let us sample all the chocolates we wanted before we made up our minds on what to put in our boxes.  The boys loved it!

We ended up with 3 kilos of chocolates.  The cost to box your own assortment is $90 a kilo; you can buy as little or as much as you want. An 8 ounce bag of chocolate covered nuts cost $24.

Shopping in Dubai

If chocolates aren’t your thing then dates might hit the spot.  The best place to get dates is Bateel. They have locations in most of the major malls in town as well as at the airport.

They sell dates in every shape and form.  They have fresh and filled dates, date drink, vinegar, cookies, and biscuits.

I never leave Dubai without a box or two of their fresh and filled dates and a box of cookies.  Prices start at about $18 a pound for fresh grapes in a simple box.  Prices vary depending on packaging and filling.

Shopping in Dubai

How about some Turkish Delight, Baklava, or other Middle Eastern sweets?  You’ll find many sweets shops in the malls and around town.  One of my favorites is Arabesq Sweets on the lower ground level of the Dubai Mall.

They offer a large variety of sweets from around the Middle East.

Shopping in Dubai

If you’re craving something salty or savory check out the nuts, dried fruit, and mixes at a kiosk in one of the malls or in the souk.

They are sold pre-packaged or by the kilo.  I’m not sure how much it cost, we usually grab a bag and munch on it at we shop.

Shopping in Dubai

The most brilliant souvenir I purchased this trip is this waterproof smartphone pouch.  I got it at the gift shop in Atlantis the Palm just before we entered the water park.  I paid 120 dirham, $32, and used it the whole trip.

This handy dandy pouch fits my iphone 6plus comfortably along with money, credit card, and key card.  You can make and receive calls, take pictures, play games, go online, or whatever else you want to do with your phone while it’s safely in the pouch.  Yes, the touch screen works great!

More than likely when visiting Dubai, specially with kids, you will end up at the beach, at one or more waterpark, at Ski Dubai, and other amusement park.  This pouch keeps all your essentials literally around your neck and ready to use.  No need to worry about damaging your phone with salt water or snow, or loosing it on a roller coaster.  Best of all you can use it even at home.

I’m sure you can buy something similar at other shops around town, I just didn’t bother to look once I got mine.  But I did need a souvenir from Atlantis and this was much more practical and just a bit more costly than a t-shirt.

As you’d expect at most amusement parks souvenirs aren’t cheap.  We went to Atlantis, Ski Dubai, Ferrari World, Yas Waterworld, and the Dubai Aquarium.  I found their souvenirs very over-priced. Kid’s t-shirts started at 95 dirham, $5 for the toddler sizes.  Mugs started out at about $10 – 12 and magnets around $3.  Of course we ended up with various shirts, mugs, magnets, stuffed animals and toys, my husband insisted.

Shopping in Dubai
Snap Happy Ross

Hookahs make nice decor, my kids have them in their homes even though they never use them.  You’ll find them in many shapes and colors in shops around town and in the malls.
Carrefour in the Mall of the Emirates has a few pieces for reasonable prices.  The smoke shop across the hall from Carrefour is pricier but has a better assortment.

Shopping in Dubai

If you must buy “normal” souvenirs the best place to get them is in Diera by the Gold Souk.
But if you don’t have time to get there then hit up one of the Carrefours in town.  I like the one in the Mall of the Emirates, it’s huge.

They have a decent selection of t-shirts, mugs, magnets, statues of the Burj Khalifa and Burj al Arab, ashtrays, and other knick-knacks at very reasonable prices.

Look out for the kids’ Dubai t-shirts, you’ll usually find a rack or two for 5 dirham a piece. That’s less than $1.50!

Carrefour is one of my favorite shops in Dubai. It’s like a Super Walmart on steroids!  They sell just about everything you can think of.

They have a huge grocery department including fresh fruits and veggies, baked goods, meat, seafood, and more.  Check out their row of Pringles!  (I know stupid things amaze me.)  We ran to Carrefour almost everyday of our 2 week vacation in Dubai.  We got diapers, juices, baby food, beach toys, and more.  Yes my grandsons went home with some statues of the Burj as well as a few plush dancing camels from there.

A visit to Dubai isn’t complete without shopping.  Everywhere you go you’ll find something you just have to buy.  It’s hard to resist!

20 Free or Cheaper Souvenirs When Visiting Disneyland and California Adventure Parks!!!

20 Free or Cheaper Souvenirs When Visiting Disneyland and California Adventure Parks!!!

Disney Parks may be the happiest place on earth, they are also very expensive places on earth.  Every year it seems the cost of admission tickets go up as well as prices for meals, drinks, and souvenirs with in the parks.  A trip to a Disney park can cost you hundreds of dollars,  but it doesn’t have to be that way.  There are many ways to make your Disney vacation memorable with out breaking the bank.

Here are a few things you can do at Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure Parks at little or no cost, and a few tips that can save you a ton of money.   Yes you can even get FREE souvenirs!

1.  Buy your Mickey Mouse wear at Target or other discount store, on clearance at the Disney Store, or even online.  It will be way cheaper than buying them at any of the shops in the parks.

2.  Buy princess wear and other Disney costumes at the shops mentioned above.  Have the kids wear them to the parks.  They’ll love all the extra attention they will get.  Makes for great photos too!

3.  Buy mouse ears from Party City they carry different ones.  Prices start at $3.99.  Beats paying $15.95+ at the park!

4.  Ride the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters in Tomorrowland.  Your picture is taken sometime during the ride.  You can stop by the kiosk after the ride to have the link to your photo emailed to you.  It’s FREE!!!

5.  Stop by City Hall at the entrance of Disneyland park or at guest services in either park and ask for your Celebration button.  They give out FREE buttons for First Visit, Birthday, Anniversary, and other occasions.



6.  Say hello to the street sweepers.  They not only keep the parks clean but they spread cheer too.  They carry around Disney buttons and will give you one if you ask nicely.

7.  Say hello to cast members along Route 66 in The California Adventure Park,  they have Cars themed buttons to give away.




8.  If you’re into Trading Pins buy a starter set from the Disney Store and trade up as you wander thru the parks.  Cast members usually have many of the more costly pins on them, you can trade  your starter pins with them for FREE.  Trading pins are not the same as the buttons.  You can get buttons for free as mentioned above, pins must be traded or purchased.

9.  You can also ask for free buttons at the hotel gift shops.  The nice cast members will give you some if they have them.
10.  You can get free ice water throughout the parks.  Just ask for water in a soda cup.


11.   Riders on Autopia in Disneyland Park can get a driver’s license card before the ride. Ask the attending cast member for one before getting on.

12.  Ask a cast member if you can visit the wheelhouse on the Mark Twain river boat ride.  They’ll take you to the second floor to a door marked “Private”.  Knock on the door and the Captain will take you to the wheelhouse and let you pilot the riverboat.  You’ll even get to sound the whistle!  After the ride sign the guestbook and ask for a certificate that says you piloted the boat!

13.  When you enter the Haunted Mansion ask a cast member for a Death Certificate.  They don’t give them to everyone who asks, it’s up to the cast member.  If he says yes one will be ready for you at the end of the ride.  You can also ask about the Pet Cemetery and you’ll get a personal tour.

14.  Ask a cast member for a free map on the Jungle River ride.  It shows the cruise’s entire route.


15.  Here’s some great advice from Mouse House Musings:  “If you get to the park at opening, there’s a special opportunity to take advantage of! The Lily Belle is a special train car designed by Walt Disney’s wife, Lilian.  It was originally designed to carry VIPs and now is available to a certain amount of guests per day.   It’s a complete posh ride! When you arrive to the park, go right up to the Main street station and ask if there are any available reservations for the Lily Belle.  They’ll give you a souvenir train ticket with the Lilly Belle logo and a specific return time.  If you are visiting in the summer months, try to get one in the morning as it can heat up pretty good in a more closed up car”

16.  Grab extra park maps!  They have different covers and make great souvenirs.  You can use them for character autographs and frame them if you like! Or put it in a shadow box with your other freebies.

17.  Save your admission ticket.  You add it to your scrapbook or shadow box.

18.  If you must have plush Mickey and friends don’t buy them at the gift shops, they cost a fortune.  They are so easy to win at the carnival games in the Boardwalk Games in the California Adventure Park.

The games are cheap to play and are easy to win.  We ended up with 2 large bags of Disney plush toys and other Disney stuff, makes me wonder why we bought souvenirs at the Disney shops.  It was actually cheaper to win them.  

19.  Grab a free recipe card at the Dole Juice Bar in Adventure land.  They have different ones.

20.  If you find yourself dining at the Blue Bayou Restaurant located in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride ask the waiter for a free paper pirate hat for the kids.