Inside: How to find those special travel souvenirs you’ll love forever.
A month ago I was in Amsterdam.
Staring at a closed door. Locked out of the apartment my sister, my friend and I were renting.
Not my proudest travel moment. But good things can come out of bad times.
While my friend waited on a locksmith, my sister and I explored the city.
We walked the cobblestone streets and analyzed each step of how we managed to lock ourselves out. How did we do that? But as we turned a corner, the happy white tents of a flea market greeted us.
We found the best souvenirs of our two-week trip at that flea market. (Scroll to the end to find out what we scored!)
Besides including a good story to tell people back home, those souvenirs were also the real deal. There were genuine finds that I’ll love forever.
Talk about a serendipitous moment. If we hadn’t locked ourselves out, we never would have found that flea market.
Why Choosing the Right Travel Souvenirs Matters
The souvenirs you bring home from your travels should make you feel good.
You want them to spark memories, be useful or purely enjoyable.
None of us will remember every aspect of our trips. But like a good photo, the right souvenirs will remind you of the good times.
Don’t buy a t-shirt emblazoned with the name of the place you’re visiting simply for the sake of buying a souvenir.
Instead, look for travel souvenirs you’ll love for a lifetime.
10 Genuine Souvenirs To Remind You Of Your Travels
These are the best travel souvenirs to bring home with you.
1. Local artwork
Keep an eye out for local art. Whether you’re wandering the streets of Paris or road tripping through Minnesota.
There’s nothing like decorating your home with uncommon art from your travels.
Every time I look at the hand drawn sketch of the Eiffel Tower on my wall, I remember buying it. I bought it from a street artist selling his sketches on cobblestone avenue near Notre Dame. It was money well spent compared to buying the same cheap tchotchkes sold in stalls all over the city.
Travel tip: Look for street artists, art galleries or boutiques. These are your best bets to find local artwork to fit your style and taste. (And to find art not sold by every tourist vendor in the area.)
2. Mugs or pottery
Every morning when you sip from that handmade ceramic mug you picked up on your travels, you’ll remember where you bought it.
As a coffee
addict drinker, I love buying mugs when I travel because I use them in my everyday life.
But, don’t stick to mugs alone. Any pottery vessel makes a great souvenir. Think cups, plates and bowls.
Travel tip: Scope out art fairs, local coffee shops or small art galleries. These are the best spots to find handmade pottery. Besides mugs, I also like to buy small plates or shallow bowls to hold jewelry or small trinkets.
When I travel abroad, I always pack light and plan on buying a piece of clothing at my destination.
Clothing doubles as a functional item and a travel souvenir.
Whether you need a raincoat in London, a dress in Paris or a sweater in Reykjavik (all items I’ve purchased,) be sure to choose a piece of clothing you’ll want to wear again.
Every time you pull it out of the closet, the memories of where you purchased it will return.
Feels more genuine than a plastic statue of the Empire State Building, huh?
4. Locally-made soaps
Buying locally-made soaps as travel souvenirs will remind you of your travels, even if the soap bar doesn’t last forever.
Every time I suds up with my patchouli soap bar scented with patchouli, sandalwood, myrrh and vanilla, I feel a humid Arkansas breeze blowing across my face. I smell the dust from the gravel road sifting through the rolled down windows of our Toyota Four-Runner. I remember the rural country store we pulled into, where I bought the soap and lingered over jams and jellies, ice cream and gifts.
Travel tip: Even if you’re not a bar soap fan, opt for the bar. It travels better than liquid. Choose small hand soap bars if you don’t think you’d use a full body bar. They’re smaller and less expensive—both useful qualities when traveling.
I never pack scarves when I travel.
I’m not forgetful. I always plan to buy one.
Why? Scarves are more than great travel souvenirs that you’ll wear again. They’re also useful while traveling.
Handy uses for scarves while traveling:
- Wrap a scarf around you or use it as a blanket on chilly airplanes
- Pull a scarf over your head if you’re caught in an unexpected downpour
- Add some style to your outfit if you forgot to pack accessories
6. Non-perishable foods
Loved the tea in England? Gorged on stroopwafels in Amsterdam? (Oh wait, that was me!)
Pack those non-perishable foods in your suitcase and bring them home to remember your trip by.
Travel tip: Non-perishable foods like coffee, tea, candy, wine and packaged cookies make great souvenirs (and gifts.) When you’re back home, they’ll give you a taste of where you’ve been.
7. Something you need
Do you always forget to pack something while traveling?
It may sound silly, but that practical item you need right now also makes a great souvenir.
That umbrella, pajama shirt, pair of shoes, hat, raincoat or backpack will remind you of your trip every time you use it.
You probably wear jewelry to express your style, for sentimentality or simply to feel good.
Those are all great reasons to buy a new necklace or bracelet as a souvenir from the place you’re visiting.
Besides looking stylish, you’ll have an accessory that’s also a memory.
Travel tip: You don’t have to buy expensive jewelry. Scope out flea markets, craft fairs and boutique stores for unique, inexpensive jewelry.
When traveling, I always send postcards to family members and friends—and myself.
Mailing yourself a postcard is a fun (and inexpensive!) souvenir. Be sure to write a short message on the back like, “Enjoying Copenhagen! June 5, 2016”
When you get home, you’ll get excited to find the postcard in your mailbox alongside the usual utility bills and grocery store flyers.
10. Flea market finds
Shopping flea markets filled with vintage and antique items from the country, state or town you’re visiting is fun in itself.
If you find a unique necklace, houseware, tool or sign you can’t leave without, well, that’s the cherry on top.
Bonus souvenir idea
On the last day of a trip to Paris, a flea market popped up right outside my hotel.
I’d already purchased my metro ticket to the train station and I had one euro left in my pocket.
Hauling all my luggage—my travel backpack on my back and a smaller backpack on my front—I scoured the flea market for something I liked marked at one euro or less. After rummaging through a one-euro bin, I found a little blue pill box I loved.
Silly experiences like that make souvenirs memorable.
The experience is what means something to you. The souvenir is a reminder.
Look for experiences, not souvenirs.
So, what did I find at that flea market?
Here’s what I found:
- Two Delft blue bowls with lids for €3.75 each
- A vintage Delft blue tea strainer for €5
- A vintage tin made in Holland for €2
- Two yellow license plates for €4 each.
- (The poster and the wooden shoe in the picture weren’t from the flea market.)