A version of this was originally published in the summer issue of Love of Dixie Magazine – a beautiful online magazine for women, by women.
It’s not happenstance that many of the tourist attractions we visit take us on the exit path by way of the gift shop. It feels like a trip and I’ve been suckered more than a few times; usually buying for my grandchildren. Because what up-to-snuff grandmother could pass up a Nerf-like Knight’s sword and shield from Warwick Castle? Seriously.
In my traveling days of yore, my souvenir shopping list would consist of who to buy for and what my budget was. I would also need to consider how much packing space I would have. It’s a true travesty to end up paying for extra weight on your luggage for trinkets of little value. Sadly, I didn’t put much thought into what I would buy, I just needed to buy something for each person. It often felt more like duty than joy.
Nowadays, I limit my shopping. Having traveled a lot and purchased countless souvenirs, some junk and some not, I have a whole new perspective on my shopping list. I simply don’t make one. I don’t make a budget and I never (okay, almost never) exceed the weight limit for my checked bag(s). I say “almost never” because if I do go over, it’s because I got something nice for me.
I’ve now concluded that if other adults want something from England, Italy or Scotland, they are free to book their own trip and purchase what they’d like for themselves. This may sound harsh but it comes from years of buying cheap trinkets for everyone that likely end up in the garbage within a few years. If I must do something, sending a postcard is a wonderful option.
What are some good souvenir options? Here is a list of my favorites.
Books: These can get weighty so only consider buying books that are meaningful. Perhaps ones that have been written by authors who lived and/or wrote them where you are visiting. Purchasing a copy of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit in the Lake District where she lived is a beautiful idea!
Mugs/Tea Cups: These are heavier items but I do love my Starbucks mug collection! Drinking from a special mug, a teacup or a Scottish whisky glass, if that’s your preference, is a smart way to keep the adventure alive and relive the story with every sip.
Magnets: Magnets are small, cheap, lightweight and a fun way to capture a special memory. Even if you prefer a clean fridge (and most are not even magnetic these days), put a magnet board somewhere in your home office or family room to display your memories.
Clothing: I like to leave a little room in my bags for an article of clothing. I enjoy sleeping in oversized trip t-shirts. And often, the weather can change on you. Two of my favorite clothing purchases are a hoodie from Oxford, England and a gorgeously warm wrap from Mont Blanc, France.
Jewelry: Jewelry is small and lightweight making it a wise souvenir choice. A special charm for your travel bracelet or a piece with a special stone from the region you are visiting will be a treasure to be enjoyed for years to come. At the corner of our hotel in Nepal, there happened to be a small “made to order” jewelry shop. While there, I designed a sterling silver and onyx three-piece set and it was finished before we left. That, along with a gorgeous koru necklace made from pounamu greenstone (New Zealand jade) are among my favorite treasures.
Consumables: – Chokit! My grandson always asks me to bring him back “some chockit” (aka chocolate). His face lights up when he opens up a package of gold coin chocolates or ones with Paddington Bear on the wrappers. I enjoy bringing back tea from Asia, chocolate from Switzerland, coffee from Africa and my favorite skincare items from England, just to name a few. If traveling abroad, staying within what TSA will allow, consumables that have meaning can bring a literal taste back to share with your loved ones extending the trip for just a bit longer.
Photos: This is hands down my absolute favorite choice of souvenirs. A friend once pointed out to me that I had shared over 17,000 photos on Facebook. I said, “Yeah, and…??” I’m sure that number has tripled since then. I unashamedly take pictures of my food, the sunrise, clouds, shoes, cars, flowers, trees, buildings; really anything that I find interesting and captures the story.
On your next adventure, I encourage you to consider buying souvenirs that hold meaning to you and/or the recipient of them rather than ticking off the list of obligatory cheap trinkets that only serves to add weight to your luggage and line the landfills. It truly is the thought that counts and buy special gifts for yourself and that include a loved one in your travels is a true gift, a token of remembrance, a real souvenir.