While there are some places you'll never forget, it's still nice to come home with a reminder or two of where you've been. Photos, of course, are one of the easiest ways to look back on past adventures, but there's value in bringing home an item that you can incorporate into your daily life. After all, how often do you really scroll through all those photos you snapped?
How do you find the perfect souvenir? Here are some tips.
Get Something You Can't Find at Home
In the age of Amazon, it can be difficult to find souvenirs that are truly unique to the place you're visiting. Try buying local by searching markets for handmade items rather than shopping at chain stores, where most products are mass produced and available to you back home. This is also a great way to get off the beaten path and into the more authentic neighborhoods of whatever city you're visiting.
But sometimes it's the story behind the item that matters more than the item itself. A pair of necklaces you and your sister buy from a store in London, for example, will mean a lot more than if you had purchased the same necklace at home on your own. Look for souvenirs that remind you of the experience or a particular adventure during your travels, and you'll be bringing home memories you couldn't have made anywhere else.
Opt for Practicality
Considering a souvenir's practical uses is one easy way to reduce the odds that it will end up in a drawer with other knick-knacks. Try to opt for items that can actually be used, versus ones that will simply take up shelf space. An exception to this rule: if you or a loved one collects certain items, like stuffed bears, mugs, or snow globes. Then, by all means, take advantage of your travels to add something fresh to their collection.
What are some examples of simple and practical souvenirs? Creative types could opt for a notebook or a fine writing instrument. If you enjoy wine and are traveling through a wine region like Tuscany or Napa Valley, pick up a few bottles of the best wine you sample to enjoy in the future. Consider a bowl or something decorative and functional. Just be sure to anticipate how you're getting your souvenirs home. That wine might have to be shipped or carefully added to your checked bag.
Consider the Free Stuff
Traveling can be expensive, but bringing home meaningful souvenirs doesn't have to be. Pay attention to the various freebies along your way, especially hotel items like pens or matchbooks that come printed with the name of your destination. You can almost always find free maps, whether you're visiting a national park in the United States or swinging by the visitor center in a foreign city.
Depending on your destination, you may even be able to find souvenirs outdoors. There are few beach mementos more iconic than seashells, and you can always use them to decorate something like a picture frame or table centerpiece at home. Local stones are another souvenir you can often find on walks or hikes around your destination — just be aware of any restrictions against taking such items home.
Odds are, your luggage space is limited. Postcards are one great option that take up minimal space and can be found anywhere. Whether you actually mail them from your destination or just share them when you get home, they're an easy way to let friends know you were thinking of them while away. Magnets are another cheap and fun-sized possibility, and they can easily be displayed on your refrigerator or at your desk to remind you of your recent adventures. Some of the other items we've mentioned — from pens to jewelry — also tend to be small and easily packable, and for that reason are often a better choice than a vase or dishes. If you do decide on something fragile, however, you can save room by packing it in soft clothes or consider shipping your new treasures home.