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When you travel you often get the opportunity to purchase items from around the world to bring back home with you. Of course in the global-Amazon-Prime-almost-anything-you-want-in-two-days-or-less world we live in, buying something made in Paris, Japan, Africa, etc. isn’t as “special” as it probably once was, but buying souvenirs on your journeys can be a very fun part of travel.
If you remember the way the salty air smelled when you purchased a necklace from a beach-side stall, that was a good souvenir purchase. If you remember the smell of pastries and the way you felt as you purchased a painting in Paris, that was a good souvenir. If you bought something on your journey that you can actually use once you get back home, that was a good purchase. There are lots of ways to buy “good” souvenirs, and here are a few of my tips.
1. Buy items you can actually use.
Here are two things I bought while in Japan, both of which were very inexpensive and that we actually use on a regular basis. First, I bought a bowl that holds our keys, phones, sunglasses, etc. Second, I bought chopsticks for the whole family. I can buy bowls and chopsticks here of course, but this way I remember my trip to Japan via subtle items in my home that we not only own, but use.
Another example of buying this we actually use can come in the form of clothing. While in Madrid this spring it started raining very hard, and instead of dealing with wet kid feet we just decided to buy C some stylin’ red rain boots that she loves. Now every time she wears them back home we all remember the Spanish downpour.
I also picked up some Spanish made shoes while we are at the same store that weren’t exactly right for the rainstorm, but that make me remember the trip every time I wear them back home.
2. Buy smaller items.
I prefer to buy smaller souvenirs both because they are easier to get home in my luggage and because they take up less space in my home. This allows me to remember more places and decorate shelves with the items I treasure from around the world. For example, I have a small bog oak harp from Ireland, a handmade star from Amsterdam, a ball used in the game we went to at Wrigley Field, bulls from Spain, metal ship and tile from Holland, books from The Maldvies and Alaska, and a shark and shells from The Bahamas.
All of these items are on built-in shelves in my living room, and most were actually pretty darn inexpensive, or at least they weren’t expensive. Since they are small, they all easily fit in my suitcase without incurring additional shipping charges or hassle.
3. Buy local items you can’t get online.
I have found that buying locally made things that I can’t easily just click and buy online makes me happier not just in supporting the local economy wherever we travel, but in those items having for meaning for me months and years down the road. I cringe a bit when my daughter wants her “purchase for the trip” to be some toy or stuffed animal we could easily buy back home at Toys-R-Us, so we have tried to even teach her about buying items unique to the destination that she won’t be able to buy when she goes home…or at least won’t be able to buy as easily.
She has her fair share of non-nondescript toys and stuffed animals from our travels, but increasingly she has picked unique figurines and wooden toys from places like Barcelona, Aruba, Bahamas, and Mexico that are (allegedly) local to some of the places we have been. Heck they could have all been made in a factory in China for all I know, but at least that isn’t the story we are given.
4. Buy something that evokes a memory.
This “dime a dozen” reproduced painting from Paris is about 3 euros and is readily available in those iconic green stalls, or bouquinistes, along the Seine. It isn’t unique or handcrafted in any way, but it reminds me of the day we spent on the Seine and strolling in Paris on a spring day, so it was the perfect purchase and decoration for my wall. Not only do I love it and the memory of that day in Paris, but the price was right for my budget.
This may be a little more rare, but while we were in Dublin a few years ago we visited several antique shops, and met some very unique and interesting shopkeepers along the way. One shop that we loved, even though most items were out of our price range, was Martin Fennelly Antiques. We made a small purchase that day, but have kept in touch off and on, and love looking at the inventory on his website as a reminder of that day in Ireland. In fact, for an anniversary a few years later we made another purchase from his shop online.
In our case this shop became the souvenir that keeps on giving even though we haven’t yet made it back to Ireland since that original trip.
If you are lucky enough to travel frequently thanks to miles and points, it is important to give some thought into what items you purchase and bring into your home so that you don’t become “overwhelmed with stuff” or waste money on things that will lose their luster as soon as they are unpacked from your suitcase. I’m a huge fan of both less is more, and items being as functional as possible, so those are core components that factor into our souvenir purchases.
How does your family decide what to purchase and bring home from their travels?