Souvenir Sunday: miniature books and travel-sized items

Each Sunday here at is Souvenir Sunday: a day to take a look at some of the fun, inexpensive souvenirs you can find at airports.

AYP Novelty Shop from UW Libraries, digital collection

This week: fun, inexpensive and tiny things to bring to the airport and on your trip.

A friend heading to India (lucky duck!) was seeking suggestions for three weeks-worth of titles to load onto a borrowed Kindle.

E-books are certainly the modern way to lighten your load, but in the past avid readers might have chosen to pack miniature books instead. Perhaps some of the books described in a recent blog post by a special collections cataloger at the Smithsonian Institution.

Diane Shaw writes that the Smithsonian’s collection includes more than 50 miniature books, each three inches or less, and calls them “practical as well as whimsical,” and “easily tucked inside a wallet or pocket.”

Miniature book at Smithsonian  Institution

That sounds perfect for traveling.  Especially the tiny treasure titled Witty, Humorous and Merry Thoughts, which is in a metal locket-like case with a magnifying glass in the cover.

Miniature book at Smithsonian

Book photos courtesy Smithsonian Institution

But  why stop with books? Perhaps you already travel with a collapsible umbrella, a tiny alarm clock and TSA-friendly toiletries and cosmetics.

Here are few other items to consider:

Orikaso makes foldable, incredibly light and thin mugs, bowls and plates that, when not in use, are flat pieces of Greenpeace-endorsed polypropylene.

folding tableware

Bamboo markets several sizes of these collapsible Silicone travel bowls for pets.  But since the bowls are made from FDA-compliant materials and are PVC and BPA-free, I suspect they’d also come in handy for use by people too.

collapsible pet dog bowls

All sorts of games, from Mahjong and Monopoly to Candyland and Cribbage, can be found in travel-size versions.  And then there are some of the items for sale at sites like

In addition to the classic travel-sized personal care, cosmetic and pharmacy items, the site carries single-serving food items and useful pocket-sized survival items such as mini-rolls of duct tape, light sticks and space-age emergency blankets.

emergency blannket

Have you found a great, must-have travel-sized item?  Please share your tips here.

Schiphol getting world’s first airport library

Library at Strahov Monastery

(Strahov Monastery library, Prague. Photos courtesy Curious Expeditions , via Flickr)

Over the years I’ve heard from one or two US airports that were toying with the idea of letting their local library have a cart somewhere in the terminal where travelers could check out and return library books.

But so far, it seems nothing much has come of that.

Now comes word that, come July, Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport will have the world’s first airport library, complete with books, films and music. According to Radio Netherlands:

As the airport library is a place where people will pass time and then leave on their flights, visitors will not be allowed to take books, DVDs or other items away. There will, however, be a separate ‘download room’. A new device will allow visitors to not only watch films, but also to download them to mobile phones.

A brilliant idea! Hopefully other airports will team up with local libraries and do the same.

And, for fun and inspiration, take a look at this Librophiliac Love Letter from Curious Expeditions – a round-up of some of the world’s most beautiful libraries. Schiphol’s new library may not end up looking like any of these, but I bet they’ll create something quite inviting.

Stuck at the airport? Read. For free.

A great tip for staying sane while traveling is to have a book – a long, interesting, forget-about-time book – stashed in your carry-on.

The next best thing: a magazine on a topic you love – science, fashion, golf, celebrity gossip, or maybe even fish.

If you buy a pile of magazines at the airport instead of taking that stash of unread issues from home, it can get sort of pricey. So it’s nice to know that HMS host outlets offer the MagazinePlus Frequent Purchase Program. Get a punch card, buy 6 magazines, get the 7th free.


All HMSHost Retail newsstands across the United States and Canada participate in the program, including CNN Newsstands, News Connection and Fox News.

Every little bit helps.

Of course another great way to save on reading matter at the airport is to adopt castoffs. Look around gate areas after a plane has loaded – or check the seats and seat back pockets as you exit your next flight.

Summer reading for air travelers

In today’s Wall Street Journal there’s a review of a novel that will probably appeal to anyone who’s ever found themselves stuck at the airport. And these days, that’s a pretty big audience.

Here’s a link to the review about Dear American Airlines by Jonathan Miles. The book takes the form of a letter written to the airline after a flight cancellation leaves a man stranded at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

Reviewer Scott Morris writes: “…Now, we’ve all come to expect being stuck in airports, and we’ve not come to like it. Not a bit. There is a certain rage that results from being treated like truant kindergartners, potential hijackers and dull herds of cattle. But most of us endure the indignities and swallow the rage. Not Benjamin R. Ford.”

I can’t wait to read it!


Read any good books on an airplane lately?

The folks at Coudal Partners are a curious, creative and crafty crew. They not only curate the marvelous MOOM– the Museum of On-Line Museums – they organize lots of other intriguing projects.

Such as? The Field-Tested Books project, which is specially-designed for travelers.

Recognizing that “reading a certain book in a certain place uniquely affects a person’s experience with both,” the Coudal characters invite you to send along a 300-500 word “review.” They’re not looking for straight book reviews, but rather descriptive reviews of experiences.

This year’s “edition,” as they call it, kicks off in a few weeks. To get an idea of what they’re talking about, check out the reviews from 2006.