Lucky for us, most convention centers are surrounded by stores with stuff you can acquire for legal tender. Even exhibit halls can be sources of free stuff that will delight young children. An assortment of highlighters and stress balls was often more appreciated than carefully chosen gifts. Of course, I often scoured the stores for age-appropriate books with local flavor. Trip to Texas: Bluebell the Hill Country O'possum (she got mistaken for the football at the Texas-Oklahoma game during one adventure). Washington DC: All sorts of critters have written about the White House and other local sights. You get the idea.
Eventually, though, the children realize that your trips are valuable... to them. I remember the year APS had its first sex conference in October 2001. Unfortunately, I would be out of town until the day after my son's 9th birthday. I explained to him that I really, really, really needed to be in Pittsburgh for this meeting. Did he understand? And, by the way, would he like a special gift?
He really understood and immediately requested a Penguins hockey sweater. Hockey sweaters are pretty costly, even in youth sizes. I learned that day that my son can be bought, but he is expensive (like his mom).
As the kids have gotten older, they want different things. My 21 year old daughter likes jewelry, and I can usually find something to fit her taste. New Orleans has a store called Local Charm in the RiverCenter which features the work of regional artists. Her earrings were a simple choice.
My 16 year old son is usually satisfied with tees or hoodies for local sports teams, especially for college baseball and football. He can be a bit picky about color and the exact writing on it, but most convention areas can produce such an item. This time I did send a photo to him for pre-approval.
I found the video at right as I was browsing. Now, I know he would like it, but I really don't want to be known as the mom who brought her son soft porn. I will save that sort of swag for when some meeting hits something important, like his graduation or wedding.
Don't go ballistic.
I'm JOKING. I wouldn't miss his graduation or wedding!