How to pick meaningful and unique souvenirs

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The experience of travel means something different to everyone.  There are so many types of travelers out there — from people going to Europe for the first time, to veterans taking Caribbean cruises, to those backpacking through Southeast Asia, and of course groups taking family trips to Disney.  So, how how can you choose the best travel souvenir to take home? Will it be worth buying? Will it be worth the suitcase space or the cost to ship it home?

Well, here’s some advice to help you pick out the right souvenir for your trip!

 

Hill Top Berry Farm and Winery

 

What do you want to remember?

What will your souvenir mean to you? I’m sure we all take photos, most of which will never get printed and may not even make it onto the computer. So, what is it about your travels that you want to remember?

 

Beach memories

 

Was that beach trip spectacular? Do you want a glass of sand in your house with the name of the beach written on it? Maybe instead you can collect some seashells from the beach and have a shadow box made from them. Finding your own unique spin on what you find in the touristy shops will make it feel even more special.

 

Culinary dreamsEggs and Grits

 

Was it the food that took you over the moon? Get the recipe and maybe the brand names of the ingredients to see if you can find them at home. Or buy a few and take them with you as long as it’s allowed (not all cheeses, fruits, meats, etc. are allowed into other countries). This is a memory you could relive countless times just through making a meal!

 

Spirited souvenirs

Cider as a souvenir - What souvenirs to bring home

 

Sometimes the local liqueur, cider, beer, or wine can bring you right back to that special place. We’ve been there with Lemoncello from Italy. Why not buy a bottle or two and bring it back? This souvenir is even better when you share! But don’t forget to pack it really well!

 

Breathtaking views

Painting of Prague from local artist - Great souvenir to bring back from traveling

 

Art from a local artist can be such a treat. Seeing the city from their unique point of view and supporting the local economy by paying the artists directly instead of a tourist shop is just an added bonus. Buying high quality postcards (without the writing on the front) and making a collage with the help of a framing shop can also make for a great memory because you pick exactly the scenes you want to remember.

 

Regional specialities

Perfume from Capri in Italy - Great gift from traveling or souvenir for yourself!

 

If you’re visiting the mecca for glass-making, or the city for perfume or cologne, then there’s probably a reason. Pick something that smells nice and the scent will always remind you of that one place.  As always, try to find a local shop to get a higher quality and more unique experience.

 

Style

Scarves - Fashion as a souvenir to bring back from traveling

 

Just thinking about some places around the world and the styles they wear makes me want to find those patterns and show them off. Be practical though! A silk scarf, handmade sandals, even a bespoke dress or suit can really bring that culture and all those memories home…if you’ll wear them. You won’t remember a thing if what you buy is in the back of a closet because it doesn’t match your style. Maybe something smaller is best, like jewelry or watch.

 

Decor

Pieces to decorate your personal space can be perfect additions to your home or office. Same as the clothes and accessories though, you’ll want it to be “you” enough so you can really enjoy it with the rest of your decor. A colorful pillow in a culturally relevant pattern, or a small statue to place on a table or desk can really add fun personality and work as a conversation starter. 

 

Photos

Mixbook.com - Photobooks from travel memories

Image from Mixbook.com

 

Your photos are a great memory and represent exactly what you were seeing or doing on your trip, so be sure to sort through them and keep the ones you want backed up for future reference. Have them printed on canvas or get them framed so you see them everyday. Maybe even design and create your own photo books to add to your coffee table! There’s nothing more personal or unique than your own photos.

 

Souvenirs we collect

In the many, many years we’ve been together, we’ve collected a few things on our travels. Mostly Christmas ornaments (specifically glass baubles) and local art. I started collecting silver charms after my mom gave me a charm bracelet when I was younger, but it seems these are getting harder and harder to find.

 

Christmas ornaments are a great item to bring back from a holiday

 

Other unique souvenirs we’ve purchased to relive our travel memories are Lemoncello, a Capri Watch, and Carthusia perfume (the one pictured earlier in the post!). What you will never find us buying are magnets, shot glasses, key-chains, or other knick-knacks. While they may work for some people, they are definitely not our style.  When we find something that really “speaks” to us and we feel like we just have to have it, generally we let it go for the moment, take a note of where we found it, and realize that if we want in later in the trip, we know where to go. 

 

Postcard collage of Amsterdam

 

Top tips

  • Buy locally and not from a tourist shop if you can help it.
  • Find something that you absolutely love.
  • Make sure you have room in your luggage or can have it shipped back home.
  • If you want one of a kind but aren’t sure if you’ve picked a mass produced piece, just ask. Hopefully they will tell you the truth. If you really love it though, does it matter?
  • Be aware of your country’s restrictions if you buy food or plants. Perfect example: In the Netherlands, not all tulip bulbs can be taken into the United States or Canada. There are specially marked ones.

 

Make sure you take home something you love

What this all really comes down to is that you should take home a souvenir that is meaningful to you. If you want an apron with the Italian flag because it will help you channel that Italian grandma spirit, do it! When you see it or use it, be sure it makes you smile. That’s what it’s all about…happy memories.

 

How to Pick Meaningful and Unique Souvenirs


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33 Comments

  1. Great tips! I try to go for small local things to bring back, or adapt it to whoever I am buying the souvenir for. For example, I have friends who just love fridge magnets. When I have to stick to something specific, I try to pick one that best reflects the spirit of the place I am visiting.

    Reply
  2. I am not big on typical souvenirs but I have recently started getting a few typical ones from my travels but usually it has to be a food or in extreme cases – a drink. Liquids are that much harder to carry but I made an exception for South African wine from Cape town coz it was just THAT good – it has to be brought back home to share with family and friends.

    Reply
  3. I really struggle to find the right souvenirs to bring home for people. Whilst it may hold memories for us, for someone else this is not the case. We also like to travel light so bring lots of gifts home is often difficult. I have started collecting bookmarks, which I know sounds strange, and I tend to stay away from the tacky looking ones on the counter at each tourist shop. When in Mexico, a local made me a beautiful one, added a symbol of my birth year equivalent to the mayan calendar and it is stunning.

    Reply
    • In general, I find buying for others is tough but for me, many times people just want a taste of a place. So little bites or drinks is what we do. Funny enough, sometimes we pack so light we have plenty of room 😛 But I like the bookmark idea. They are light and very thoughtful!
      Jessica C. recently posted…A dream trip to Tuscany for you!My Profile

      Reply
  4. When I buy souvenirs I usually make sure to buy directly from the artists and I always buy locally! I hate it when shops are filled with items produced in other countries (like ‘Made in China’ in Italy….cringe). I mostly buy textiles and my boyfriend always ends up coming back with a load of spices or teas!

    Reply
  5. I often collect shells and pebbles from beaches but I never get round to doing anything like that, it looks lovely! I usually buy something small that I can wear, like a scarf or jewellry, but I love doing cooking classes and taking the recipes home with me too. Its nice to have something ‘real’ to enjoy once you get back home!
    Claire recently posted…Xochimilco – Mexico City’s VeniceMy Profile

    Reply
    • That all sounds so nice! I like the small stuff I wear or use often too. My Capri watch I fell in love with and although I’m not really a watch person, I just love looking at it and wear it frequently. The cooking classes are so nice too! Now THAT’s authenticity right there!
      Jessica C. recently posted…A day trip to DelftMy Profile

      Reply
  6. I definitely used to by knick-knacks when I was younger that had no rhyme or reason. I think a lot of kids do that probably. Now that I’m older, I tend to want something of use: a decor item or clothing or just nothing at all. The photos I take away are usually quite enough to help keep the memories alive.

    Reply
  7. Some great ideas in there – especially the food one! I love the idea of taking a recipe home and being reminded of a favourite place that way. I’ve got choc hail from the Netherlands and have been eating it on toast for breakfast as a lovely reminder.

    We never used to buy souvenirs but started picking up fridge magnets about 1.5 years ago and now love shopping around for them. They’re cheap and don’t take up much room 🙂

    Reply
    • Magents seem to be quite popular for those exactly reasons…we just don’t have anywhere to put them! It actually took me a minute to figure out what you were calling chocolate hail, but eating it on toast for breakfast gave me the hint I needed! We call it hagelslag in Dutch. Sometimes I eat it for dessert at lunch, but it’s such a fun treat!

      Reply
  8. I do a fair amount of travel in Africa and I like to buy small things from local craftsmen. I feel this is a responsible way to support the local economy (rather than buying Chinese tat wherever you go!) and directly help local communities to support their families.

    Reply
  9. We are always trying to buy something strongly related with the place we visit… Unique perfumes in Paris, nice copper pots in India, carpet in Iran, beautiful Polish plates from Boleslawiec… the same when it come to gifts for our friends and family.

    Reply
  10. We’ve taken to buying Christmas tree decorations (we love Christmas as much as we love travelling, and it’s lovely getting them all out each year!) And I always bring my brother a bottle of local booze!

    Reply
    • You are so nice to your brother! I love the Christmas decorations too. It’s so fun trying to find the right one to bring home. Do you go for glass balls or anything that catches your eye?

      Reply
  11. I’m a huge fan of getting handmade products from local vendors. I’ve started collecting handmade art pieces from my travels, including a wooden carving of a hornbill made by one of the tribes in Borneo. 🙂

    Reply
  12. Hey Jessica! Great post.I agree with buying locally and avoiding souvenir shops, though it can be tricky. I like collecting travel mugs and stationery from my trips, what I struggle with the most is finding gifts to bring home to friends and family.

    Reply

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