Raise your hand if you’ve ever bought a trinket from a trip that you almost immediately forgot about.
It’s easy to breeze through the duty-free area on your way home and pick up some cookies or chocolate bars — and sometimes that is just the right thing to do. No judgment there.
But if you love to dig around for souvenirs and gifts that have personal meaning and that reflect what was most meaningful to you about your trip, here are some fresh ideas for your next vacation.
Keep an eye out for things that don’t cost a thing.
Souvenirs connected to your trip and that spark pleasant memories often come in our everyday interactions on a trip. Complimentary items in hotels might remind you of great service or the incredible view from your balcony. Ticket stubs, interesting city maps, drink coasters — all these things can remind you of adventures and beautiful days in a favorite city.
Look to nature.
While mindful of laws regarding the transportation of local material across borders — there are natural objects that can mean much more than anything purchased in a store. A flower petal or leaf pressed in a book, a beautiful unique pebble, a jar of sand or sea salt — these are simple things that can be incorporated into your décor at home that will make you smile every time you see them.
Connect to the culture.
Consider something that will offer you or someone else an inside view of the culture, history, music, or food of where you’ve visited. Cookbooks, linens, non-perishable food items, children’s books, postage stamps, silk scarves, and other easy to carry items are fantastic gifts.
Don’t be afraid to ask.
It’s okay to inquire at restaurants or bars or coffee shops if you can add the price of a unique piece of dishware or glassware to your bill. If you’ve had a particularly wonderful experience at a restaurant, share that enthusiasm with the waiter/owner and ask if they’d be okay with you buying something to take home. Imagine sipping your morning tea or coffee from the very same cup you used in Paris. What could be better?
Something old, something new.
One of my favorite adventures is to scour antique shops or flea markets for treasures. Vintage postcards or photos can be a collector’s dream. Jewelry, scarves, cuff links, bags, old books — these all give a glimpse into style and history and make a statement, and they don’t need to be fancy or expensive. Plus, you’ll have a great story to tell with every compliment you receive.
Tell your own story.
Even if you don’t call anyone while you’re away, your phone can be used as a camera. Your photos can be easily turned into souvenir books for yourself, family, or friends.
Whatever your tastes, there are tons of ways to bring home a souvenir that will have personal meaning for you or its recipient and that will spark wonderful memories months and years after you’ve come home.
Helen Jordan is the owner of Jordan Luxury Travel, an independent affiliate of Brownell Travel, a member of Virtuoso. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.