gifts

Souvenir Sunday: Airport Tower gifts

It’s Souvenir Sunday – a day we look at some of the fun, inexpensive things you can get at airports or, today, aviation museums.

Through November, 2016, the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum is hosting an impressive exhibition of photographs by Carolyn Russo exploring the Art of the Airport Tower.

Reagan National Airport , photo by Carolyn Russo

Reagan National Airport tower, photo by Carolyn Russo

StuckatTheAirport.com reader Robert Little went to see the exhibition and enjoyed it so much he went home with some Art of the Airport Tower souvenirs – and sent along these photos for Souvenir Sunday.

(As a thank-you for participating in Souvenir Sunday, I’m sending Robert a collectible airplane model. Don’t tell him.)

Art of the airport tower souvenirs 2

Airport Tower souvenirs

There’s a nice sampling of Russo’s photos accompanying this interview I did with her for NBC online, but I’m sure seeing the images in person are far better. And, if you’re a fan of great photography and/or aviation (or know someone who is), I’d encourage you to buy the Art of the Airport Tower book.

Souvenir Sunday: gear for fans of flying

Airport code pillows

Holiday gift-giving season is coming up and if you’ve got friends or family members who love to travel, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding the perfect present.

One site to try this year: Airportag, which sells throw pillows, coffee mugs, t-shirts, totes and other items with airport city codes and travel-related slogans, such as “Take Me Anywhere” and “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list” and, my favorite, “Jet Lag Made Me Do It.”

DFW Airport will ship your gifts for free

DFW FREE SHIPPING ALT

 

Many airports host gift-wrapping stations during the holiday travel season to encourage and help out travelers doing some last-minute shopping on the fly.

But this year Dallas/Fort Worth International is upping the ante and not just wrapping gifts purchased at the airport; it’s offering to ship gifts purchased at the airport for free.

“Our marketing staff was doing research into what customers were interested in,” said airport spokesman David Magaña, “And while free shipping wasn’t a big request from leisure travelers, it was on the part of the business travelers, who make up most of our customer base. We took it to our retailers and 90% said they were in.”

Launched Nov. 22, the “You Shop, We Ship” program is in effect through Dec. 24, and is available to travelers who purchase an item valued at $50, $75, $100 or more, depending on the concessionaire.

For travelers who don’t need a gift shipped but would like to show up at their destination with wrapped presents, the airport is also providing a gift-wrapping kiosk near Gate 24 that will be open daily from 1-5 p.m. through Christmas Eve. Purchases valued at $50 or more will be wrapped for free.

DFW has a yoga space, free Wi-Fi, walking paths and a branch of the Minute Suites nap center. A Centurion Lounge for American Express card holders opened in mid-October.

“We’re keenly interested in making sure we put our best customer service forward,” said Magaña, “especially for the holidays.”

(My story: Dallas/Fort Wort airport will ship your gifts for free first appeared on Today in the SKy on USA Today.

Souvenir Sunday all week long

Earlier this week, I shared a few of the tacky souvenirs I was going to feature in my NBC News Travel article about Doug Lansky’s new book, “Crap Souvenirs.” Here’s the full story, as well as more photos of some kooky souvenirs.

As the author of the popular “Signspotting” series of books chronicling weird and wacky street signs, Doug Lansky has proven he’s got an eye for the absurd.

When it comes to souvenirs, he’s also a connoisseur of the kitsch.

From the “Popener,” a bottle opener sold in Rome bearing the likeness of Pope John Paul II, to a pair of flip-flops from Spain adorned with bundles of tiny President Barack Obama faces, Lansky has seen it all. And for his newest book, “Crap Souvenirs” (due out Oct. 2 from Perigee Trade Paperback), he’s curated a collection of some of the strangest, kitschiest and tackiest souvenirs he could find.

Some, like the Egyptian-themed toenail clipper, he purchased and actually uses. “Each time I’m clipping my toes like an Egyptian, I’m reminded of an evening spent hunting for just the right souvenir,” Lansky told NBC News from his home in Sweden. Others he carefully (and sometimes surreptitiously) photographed and left behind on the gift shop shelves.

“It started when my wife and I would threaten to buy each other crazy things from the SkyMall catalog on airplanes,” said Lansky. “It then spilled over into airport gifts shops and out into the streets to souvenir shops near tourist attractions.” Lansky said he often didn’t have room in his suitcase for all the souvenirs he wanted, “but I’d go from shop to shop looking for the kitschiest stuff I could find.”

Through the Crap Souvenirs website, travelers shared photos of some of their favorites, and Lansky picked about 150 to feature in the book. He added corny captions and bits of souvenir trivia, such as the fact that souvenirs — good, bad and crappy — are a $15 billion worldwide commercial industry.

“Nothing is really bad,” said Lansky. “But some, like some of the shot glasses and the salt and pepper shaker holder from Austin with a 7-inch lizard wearing a bandana, cowboy hat and cowboy boots, are so kitschy and tacky that they’re good.”

Travel is considered an extraordinary experience, said Kristen Swanson, a merchandising professor in the School of Communication at Northern Arizona University. “So the souvenir helps us remember the extraordinary when we have to go back to our ordinary lives.” She doesn’t believe that tacky souvenirs are necessarily purchased because they’re tacky, but simply to cherish an experience. “And, at that moment, it most clearly represents what the tourist is trying to capture and remember in the fleeting touristic experience,” she said.

With so many tacky souvenirs out there, Lansky did have to narrow down his search. For an item to be a true crap souvenir, Lansky decided it had to be: for sale for between $2 and $15; created as a souvenir; and somehow tied to a place. “It’s great if it says, ‘Greetings from Texas’ or wherever it was purchased, but things like alligator claws made into ashtrays don’t need that. Those are clearly from Florida,” said Lansky.

After sifting through thousands of crap souvenirs, Lansky does have some favorites. In addition to that Egyptian-themed nail clipper, Lansky has a soft spot for souvenirs that are unlikely combinations of things, such as the Empire State Building that’s also a pencil sharpener, the ceramic alligator that’s also a thermometer and a miniature version of Mount Rushmore that’s also a lamp. “Sometimes the randomness of an item will just make you shake your head,” he said.

Lansky also likes the Benadictaphone, which is a tiny bust of a pope on a keychain that can record messages, and a tie made of cane toad skin and sold to tourists in Australia.

“The cane toad is an invasive pest there and people are allowed and encouraged to kill it,” said Lansky. “The tie is not only made out of toad skin, but the knot in the middle is the toad’s head staring out at you.”

With so many classic, kitschy, creepy, wacky and sometimes off-color souvenirs out there, how did Lansky ultimately sift out the just plain terrible from the terribly cool?

“I just know a great crap souvenir when I see it,” he said.

(All photos copyright Doug Lansky, from the book Crap Souvenirs)