These Are the Most Genuine Travel Souvenirs to Bring Home With You

Inside: How to find those special travel souvenirs you’ll love forever.

These Are the Best Travel Souvenirs to Bring Home With You |

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.

These Are the Best Travel Souvenirs to Bring Home |

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.

These Are the Best Travel Souvenirs to Bring Home With You |

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.

These Are the Best Travel Souvenirs to Bring Home With You |

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.

3. Clothing

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.

These Are the Best Travel Souvenirs to Bring Home With You |

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.

5. Scarves

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.

These Are the Best Travel Souvenirs to Bring Home |

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?

Who doesn’t?

These Are the Best Travel Souvenirs to Bring Home With You |

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.

8. Jewelry

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.

9. Postcards

When traveling, I always send postcards to family members and friends—and myself.

These Are the Best Travel Souvenirs to Bring Home |

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.

These Are the Best Travel Souvenirs to Bring Home With You |

If you find a unique necklace, houseware, tool or sign you can’t leave without, well, that’s the cherry on top.

These Are the Best Travel Souvenirs to Bring Home With You |

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.

These Are the Best Travel Souvenirs to Bring Home |

So, what did I find at that flea market?

These Are the Best Travel Souvenirs to Bring Home With You |

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.)

These Are the Best Travel Souvenirs to Bring Home With You |

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Make a Travel Art Wall From Souvenirs

Art hanging on the wall.

When most people travel, they buy one thing: souvenirs. I’ve bought plenty of keychains and magnets from those kitschy souvenir shops that seem to exist everywhere. As great as the [insert name of city] magnet or bottle opener is, I’ve found that I want something more memorable to remind me of the places I’ve visited.

Over the past few years, I’ve collected different types of artwork from the countries I’ve visited. To show them off, I put together a wall of travel art in my apartment. Displaying memorabilia collected from the different trips I’ve taken works not only as a souvenir, but also as personalized home décor. It also makes a great way to remember my travels.

Art hanging on the wall.Art hanging on the wall.

The great thing about creating a wall of travel art is all the possibilities! The collection can be made up of prints, photographs, postcards, one-of-a-kind paintings, fabric, scraps of paper… (you get the idea).

When I travel, I try to keep the expenses low. Most of my trips to foreign countries have involved staying at hostels or budget hotels, and packing lunch from the free hostel breakfast. As such, I try not to spend too much money on souvenirs. Here are some ideas for finding awesome art for cheap:

1. Buy postcards

You can usually get a few of these for under a dollar. Avoid the ones that look like they’ve been printing the same picture since 1982. The right postcards can actually make stylish artwork. Something as simple as a postcard with the country’s flag and name in a snazzy frame can add a “vintage poster feel” to a travel wall. I also like to find postcards of my favorite sites and landmarks that look more like fancy prints rather than postcards. Also look out for local artists. Local artists often create postcard versions of their art, and generally they are MUCH cheaper. I’ve found this to be a great way to get a unique, local print for less than the cost of a cup of coffee.

2. Explore different mediums

Art hanging on the wall.

Artwork for a wall doesn’t have to be prints or paintings. One of the features on my art wall is a piece of fabric from a little market in Costa Rica. The design was made by a local and it was hand-sewn. I used double-sided tape to attach the fabric to the back of the frame. It made it appear to be “floating” and allowed me to add some extra color (yellow) as the backdrop. Not only was the fabric unique and locally-made, it also didn’t cost a lot, due to its size (somewhere around $15-$20).

3. Find art in everything

Art hanging on the wall.

You can transform almost any item into a piece of art. You just need to get a little creative. For example, on my travel wall I have a picture of a red horse that I got in Sweden. (The red horse is called a dalecarlian or dala horse and is an icon of the country). The “picture” is actually some kind of pot holder/hot pad that I bought in a home store for only a few dollars. I knew I wanted something with the Swedish horse on it and I’d been searching through traditional souvenir stores looking for something, but everything I found was overpriced and kind of cheesy. Then I spotted that pot holder. I knew I could transform it into a cool piece of art with a fun picture frame and mat. I chose a red frame that I bought at a garage sale for $1 and used a piece of scrapbook paper for the background. The whole work of art cost me $5 – $10.

4. Shop for street art

One of my best friends and travel companion likes to buy items from local street artists. This is a great budget strategy. Buying street art typically costs a fraction of the price of purchasing art from a gallery. It also gives you the opportunity to talk directly to the artist. Be sure to ask questions, find out who actually makes the art, etc. During a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland, I was lucky enough to come across a street art market. I picked up a picture with bright coloring and a modern flare of the Edinburgh castle. I got to chat with the artist, who told me that he liked to take the traditional tourist sites and create a different take on them. Not only did I get a great souvenir to remember the place I visited, but I also got a fun memory.

Collecting art from your adventures can make your trip extra fun. It gives you something to look for as you stop at local markets and stores. Remember, the travel art wall is your own creation. Just make sure you have room for what you buy in your bag! Happy travels!

This is a guest post for Red Leaf Style by Kara Hudson. A Monday through Friday accountant, Kara is an avid weekend traveler and garage saler.

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