Save. Spend. Splurge.

What I look for in a perfect souvenir

I have never been the type to collect keychains, shot glasses, postcards, magnets, or any kind of knick-knackky trinket. I know people who do, but I am not one of those.

I’m also never going to have a shelf full of little jars of sand I collected from different beaches and countries around the world, even if it is more original as an souvenir.

To me, they’re not souvenirs because they’re mass produced, easily purchased and perhaps illegal (if you have seen the keychains and crap sold near the Eiffel Tower by illegal vendors, you’d feel a bit weird too).


For souvenirs, I realized that I have a specific want in souvenirs, they have to be:

1. Practical — I can actually use it, even as a piece of clothing

2. Memorable — I will not be buying items at chain stores like H&M where I cannot recall if I purchased that in Canada or where I traveled

3. Unique — Unique in the sense that it cannot be found or purchased elsewhere because it is specifically made in THAT region of the world

Sometimes, the above three criterion don’t meet, but I do strive to reach this in everything I purchase.

More often than not, it ends up being clothing like scarves, shoes or purses where I am instantly transported back to the country, time and store where I purchased it.

It reminds me of the trip I had (all the good and bad points), and sometimes there’s even a story that goes along with it (like snatching that lovely brown satchel out from other the nose of a hovering French girl).



  • Sarahn

    I have bought a lot of unframed art, which I love. I also shop a lot when travelling for clothes as until recently we didn’t have H&M and Zara and the like in Australia, we still don’t have banana republic though it can’t be long as we have The Gap!

    Otherwise, my parents started a charm bracelet for me as a child and added sterling silver charms to it. It’s pretty full now so it’s only if I remember and there’s a clear “symbol” of a place that makes sense to me that I’ll buy one. I don’t wear it thou, again,it’s like art

  • Carol

    sometimes the best souvenir is not something you buy but perhaps pamphlets of places you visited, a serviette with a cafe/restaurants name on it (not used) that you enjoyed a meal at with friends.. things that are easy to slip in/out of a journal..if you buy, then buy small things that wont take up much room..charms for a charm may never wear it but it is nice to pull out and look and remember the places you saw..also, think of shopping in op shop/charity find something unique there and you are helping a charity at the same time..l like to buy items of jewelry cause the take up less room and remind me of the town l visited..

  • Elle

    We still buy magnets because our family and friends give them to us as gifts and we don’t want our travel destinations left out of the fridge collage.
    For other souvenirs we plan in advance a list of local owned vendors and shops to visit. Most often we buy clothing, jewelry or local grown/processed spices. Locally produced or drawn postcards are also huge hits with the family. In Oahu I really wanted a tattoo by a local artist of some local art/symbols but my husband pulled me back from that idea.

  • Tania

    I buy less now when I travel but if I do it’s jewelry, clothing or foodie items. I no longer look for something as a momento anymore however, just something cool I don’t see back home. My BF and I do like to visit resale or vintage shops while traveling and we also do buy some new fan gear at the Univ of Washington bookstore each year (we go up for a week and attend a couple of football games while we’re there). I sometimes resist the urge to be super prepared before trips by leaving one purchase open to buy while traveling. Last year I wanted wool boot socks for the cold weather, just bought them while on the trip rather than ordering online before. If I ever get to Paris, I’d definitely plan to buy a pretty scarf or two while there.

  • Sylvie

    After traveling throughout the Middle East, I saw the same souvenirs everywhere, mostly made in China. I’ve never bought a knick-knack for the reasons you identified. I tend to gravitate toward jewelry because it’s really distinct and particular to the locality. Also, in the Middle East, gold jewelry is weighed, so if you know what the price of gold is, you know what the mark-up is.

  • Sense

    My souvenirs are usually jewelry/gemstones–I ONLY buy jewelry (mainly silver rings/necklaces) whilst traveling, and ONLY if I fall absolutely in love with the item and if it is unique to the place. Therefore, each piece in my collection is special and brings back specific memories: Prague, SW USA, Japan, Chile…

  • Kathy

    I dislike the kitchy nick-nacks also. What a waste of money and shelf or storage space. What I do buy is something I will truly love for a long time. I’ve gotten a authentic gold necklace from the Alaskan Mint on one trip to Alaska and a framed print and a piece of sculpture on two other trips there. I have a crystal vase from Ireland. These are things that are on display in my home or used frequently. I’d love to go to England and get a great teapot. Maybe someday.

  • Krystina

    The only souvenirs I collect are Christmas tree ornaments that I pick up or others pick up for me while travelling. That way, when I put them up, I am reminded of the people who gave them to me or my own travels. They are special because they only come out once a year and are safely stowed away until the next year.

  • raluca

    We seem to have aquired a collection of fridge magnets, but it’s ok, at least we see them every day and all the visiting kids both like them and break them :), Our collection never gets to big :).
    We also like to buy speciality food and spices from abroad. Ok, those are not souvenirs but at least it’s not clutter and I get to experiment in the kitchen.

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