I’m a huge fan of souvenirs. What better way to immortalize your travel memories than souvenirs? Souvenirs not only serve as tangible reminders of our travels but also allow us to bring a piece of the destination back home. In this article, we will delve into the art of selecting the best souvenirs on each trip, helping you choose meaningful and authentic mementos that truly capture the spirit of your getaways.
Research the Local Culture
Before you leave, take some time to do your research and familiarize yourself with the local culture, traditions, and specialties of your destination. Make sure your souvenirs truly represent the essence of the place.
Seek Local Artisans
Choosing souvenirs that support local artisans is a wonderful way to make a positive impact on the communities you visit, and to take home something truly authentic. By purchasing directly from local craftsmen or artisans, you can not only contribute to the local economy, but also the preservation of traditional skills and artforms.
Check Flea Markets
One of my favorite places to find souvenirs is thrift stores and flea markets. They are less categorized than other stores, so you can really find anything.
Think Small and Portable
When it comes to souvenirs, remember that bigger isn’t always better. Opt for smaller, lightweight items that you can get home easily.
First, be aware of what you’re allowed to bring home with you. Depending on where you are from, certain items (such as alcohol, cigars, or even knockoff designer goods) are not allowed to be brought into your country. If you are from the states, check this list for prohibited items.
Some Ideas for Any Trip
Capture Memories with a Photoshoot
Sometimes the best souvenirs don’t take up any luggage space at all. One of my favorite souvenirs for any trip is hiring a photographer to capture some memories. We did this for the first time in Paris, and those photos are my absolute favorite souvenir we brought back.
Get a Tattoo
Another favorite souvenir of mine is TATTOOS. I can’t tell you how many souvenirs I have lost or broken over the years. But I have started getting tattoos on my travels, and those are souvenirs that I can keep with me forever.
Clothing & Accessories
I personally love getting clothes, jewelry, and accessories on trips. I love fashion, and it’s always nice to respond to a compliment with “Thanks I got it in Paris” or wherever. I have a leather bag from Italy, a pair of vintage sunglasses from Paris, a Merino Wool sweater from Ireland—and I love wearing each one.
My home is filled with things we’ve acquired on our travels—a portrait of me painted in Montmartre, a mask from Venice, framed playbills from New York. Our little collection, each piece with it’s own story behind it.
When in Doubt, Keep it Simple
There’s a reason things like shot glasses are a cliché souvenir. They’re inexpensive souvenirs that don’t take up a lot space. Things like magnets, stickers, and patches will always be on my list for this exact reason…and maybe a shot glass every once in awhile.
How to Get Your Souvenirs Home
Leave Room in Your Luggage
It’s easy to get carried away with shopping while on vacation, so remember to leave some extra space in your luggage for souvenirs. I know many travelers who pack an empty duffle in their luggage just to fill with souvenirs on the way home.
When you know there are specific souvenirs you absolutely want to bring back, a little planning can go a long way. For instance, if you’re heading to a wine region, invest in padded bottle protectors to shield your wine bottles from breakage. Likewise, if you anticipate buying posters or prints, consider bringing a sturdy tube to protect them from creases and tears.
Use What you Have
I’m not suggesting you travel with packing materials—a lot of what you already have in your luggage will work just fine. Use your soft clothing to create a protective layer around your souvenirs. This added cushioning can help absorb shocks during transit. I once got a hat home from Rome by filling it will socks and then wrapping it in scarves. Who needs a hat box?
Put Your Most Fragile Items in your Carry-On
If you’ve purchased especially delicate souvenirs, travel with them in your carry-on bag if possible. This way, you can personally ensure their safety and minimize the risk of damage during checked luggage handling. Keep in mind the airline’s restrictions on liquids, sharp objects, or other restricted items in your carry-on.
Bring a Luggage Scale
My luggage scale has saved me on more than one occasion. Easily portable, it helps avoid overweight luggage fees when you’re leaving with more stuff than you came with. Remember, your checked bag typically has a weight limit, while your carry-on usually does not.
Shipping souvenirs can be costly, but is possible. But some vendors offer direct shipping, which is the best option if available. Even if they’re not advertising it, it never hurts to ask, especially on higher ticket items. On our trip to Tuscany, the vineyard we visited shipped your order for free if you bought a certain amount.
In the end, the art of souvenir hunting is all about capturing the essence of your trip. To have something to remind you of that time, that place. Each souvenir has a story. With the proper research, you can curate a collection of meaningful mementos that truly reflect your adventures.