Tell me, how many times did you come back from a trip and end up wishing you hadn’t collected so much stuff? The truth is, while we all swear to purchase only unique and meaningful souvenirs, the reality is often something else. After all, it’s all part of the exciting experience of exploring a new place, and some souvenirs can be really fun to have. That said, what if there was way to make your travel purchases more thoughtful?
So, let’s face it: Whether you are traveling for pleasure or business, it is always a good idea to come back with a souvenir. However, these can be surprisingly expensive and end up costing more than you planned if you’re not careful.
The good news is that there are some ways to avoid the pitfalls when buying your souvenirs. In this blog post, I will share some of the mistakes that we often make when shopping for souvenirs and my tips to buy souvenirs that you won’t regret later!
Tips to Buy Souvenirs You Won’t Regret
1. Don’t Buy at the Airport
One of the worst places to buy souvenirs is at the airport. This is where many people trying to get last-minute gifts for people they have forgotten about will try to find something. You will be paying top dollar here for bargain-basement quality goods like T-shirts and keyrings. If you really have to buy something at the airport, well, try not to do that!
I mean, last-minute gift shopping is inevitable sometimes, but try to stick to the classic and traditional souvenirs, like postcards or stamps. This way you can still have a souvenir without spending too much!
2. Opt for Local Markets and Support the Local Economy
You will always be able to find the best deals in local markets and shops. Not only will you be able to get great gifts with lower price and maybe even better deals, but you also have the opportunity to support the local economy by buying handmade items made by the local artisans.
Whether it is a beautiful piece of jewelry or a unique souvenir, these types of purchases can help contribute to the wellbeing of the community, while still giving you the perfect travel souvenir to take home.
3. Look for Quality and Authenticity
You want something that will stand up to the test of time and be something that you can look at fondly as a reminder of your travels, not something that will fall apart in a few months. So, look for quality material and be sure to check for authenticity as well.
If possible, choose natural material over synthetic ones, and try to find something that is made by skilled local craftspeople. This will ensure that you have an item of quality that you can cherish for years to come.
The authenticity of the souvenir is another factor you should consider. Try to look for products that are made in the country you’re visiting, not just something that is mass-produced elsewhere and sold as a “souvenir”. It should has its own cultural element that you won’t find anywhere else.
4. Steer Clear of Touristy Souvenir Shop
Another trap that you can fall into when buying your souvenirs is to go a bit overboard. It might be tempting, but try to show some restraint and don’t purchase too much in the hopes of getting more gifts for different people. This will also take a toll on your budget.
How can you know if that gift ship is worth a visit? Well, if it’s filled with items made in other countries (you know that, right?) and it doesn’t smell like local flavors, then you should probably move on.
The bad news is, in popular tourist destinations like New York, Paris, Rome, Florence, London, etc., you’ll encouter lots of shops that are full of touristy items. Although it’s not a big no-no, they’re usually not the best places to buy souvenirs that can give you such authentic experiences.
So, keep an eye out for local markets, shops and art galleries. They’re great places to find unique and special items that will remind you of your trip without costing too much.
5. Make a List Before You Go Shopping
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to set a budget before you go souvenir shopping. So, make a list of what you want to buy, your family members and friends that need presents and set a budget according to that.
This way, you won’t be tempted to buy too many items or end up spending more money than planned. And if by chance, you fail to stick to your budget, don’t worry! It happens all the time. Just remember that souvenir shopping should be a fun experience, not one that puts you in debt.
You can try bargaining as well, even if it’s not expected in some countries. But don’t be pushy and try to make the vendor understand that you really want the item but you are on a budget. Chances are, they will be willing to compromise with you and offer better prices.
6. Beware of Food Gifts
While food gifts can be a great way to bring home a taste of the local cuisine and share it with your friends and family, they also come with their own set of risks.
For one, you’ll have to package them properly in order to prevent any damage or spoilage during transit. On top of that, depending on where you’re traveling, the food items you bought may not even be allowed back into your home country.
So, if you are set on buying food gifts, make sure to do your research and find out if they can legally be transported into your home country. If not, look for non-edible souvenirs that will still remind you of your trip.
In general, watch out for jams, jellies, olive oil and so on, as the liquid may cause security personnel concern. Don’t forget that many countries require you to pay duty when returning home, meaning that even if you save on an item at first it could end up costing you more than its original value.
7. Avoid Dust Collectors
Snow globes from Switzerland, a souvenir plate with an image of the Eiffel Tower, a set of shot glasses, or a small-sized statue of the Leaning Tower of Pisa—all these items are easily available in souvenir shops. But do they really need to be?
Let’s get one thing straight: A trip to a foreign country is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so why not bring home something that you can actually use instead of having them in your yet-another junk drawer?
Look for souvenirs that evoke genuine memories of your trip and don’t just settle for items that will end up collecting dust at the back of a cupboard. A well-crafted silver bracelet or a handmade music box — these are just some of the many items that you could bring home, depending on your budget.
When I was a student traveling across Europe, I bought two coffee mugs from Holland featuring all of the country’s highlights. You know, the windmills, the tulips, the wooden clogs… Now, every time I take a sip from it, I am instantly taken back to that amazing journey I took ten years ago and it’s a great reminder of the adventure I had.
8. Only Buy Things That Are Real Value
Truth is, souvenirs should not be considered as an investment or something you can save for years. Sure, there are some items that may gain value or have some kind of sentimental worth, but in the end, they are just items that bring you joy and remind you of a place. So, don’t be afraid to buy something that may not seem valuable at first— it might just become your favorite souvenir from the trip.
However, at the end of the day, make sure you buy items that are of the best quality and make sense for you to take home. Don’t just pick up anything because it looks cool or it’s cheap— if it doesn’t have any true value, then it’s not worth your money.
9. Buy Local Items You Can’t Get Anywhere Else
Oftentimes, I saw people waste their money on items that can be easily found back at home. Isn’t it the idea that we should bring home something special, something that doesn’t exist or is not available in our own countries?
When it comes to souvenirs, try to pick up things you can only get in that particular place, something that shows the culture of the place you visited. These are the kinds of items that will really make your souvenirs memorable, and you can look back in a few years and still be amazed at what you got.
In Greece, for example, handmade jewelry made of semi-precious stones is a great buy as they are literally one-of-a-kind. Or if you’ll be traveling to Vietnam, don’t forget handmade silk products from local artisans. These are the kinds of souvenirs that will tell stories for years to come and remind you of your beautiful journey. The same goes for spices, local crafts, and traditional clothing— if you can’t find it anywhere else, try to get it as a souvenir from your travels!
10. Watch out for Duty and Tax
When shopping for souvenirs, make sure that the items you buy are allowed in your destination country. Some countries have restrictions on certain products such as foodstuffs or even artworks, so it’s always best to check before you buy anything. Leather goods, for example, are restricted in some countries, so if you plan to buy anything made of leather be sure to check the regulations beforehand.
In addition, be mindful of bringing home any items that may get confiscated by customs or incur any additional duty. Before you leave the country, make sure to check for any taxes that may be applied for quality items purchased abroad, for example, in the EU countries.
Finally, some souvenirs may require additional paperwork for export or even approval from government authorities of your home country. Again, be sure to check what applies in each case before you hit the checkout counter.
So, the Final Words
I hope those souvenir shopping tips will help you find the perfect souvenir to commemorate your travel experience. But, regardless of what souvenirs you decide to take home, the best souvenirs are those that makes you happy and reminds you of all the amazing memories from your trip. That’s all that matters in the end!