I’ll be in Austria, Germany, Czech and Switzerland for 3 weeks and plan on following RS advice of packing light and backpacking. We’ll definitely be purchasing souvenirs while traveling but with only a 9x14x22” backpack, we’ll have zero space for bringing back gifts/souvenirs. What are our options for having our souvenirs shipped back to the USA (if the store doesn’t offer shipping) instead of lugging around the extra shopping bags? Thanks
Shipping souvenirs can become very expensive. I’d suggest buying an inexpensive but sturdy (and possibly used) suitcase and send them back as luggage checked through to your final destination.
You have a range of options from the local post office to shipping services. We don't buy a lot of souvenirs but when we do they are generally small and unbreakable. We tend towards Christmas ornaments. We pack a small book bag size backpack that is carried on for the souvenirs and dirty clothes are in checked luggage. If buying something bigger then look to the shop to ship. Generally the VATax savings will off-set most of the shipping costs.
I used DHL to send a box back to the states this year when I was in Germany. To find the nearest shop with DHL services, just use Google maps. You can buy boxes there (get the customs form while you're there), then pack them up, fill out the customs form and take them back to the shop for shipping. It is pricey - my box was around 24"x18"x16" and was packed full, and it cost around €50-55 to ship. Weight is also a factor.
It's better if you can get the shop to pack and ship, but some will not and those that do may require a minimum amount.
I send a postcard to my favorite people – simply: with love from Paris, Venice, etc
My favorite souvenirs have been printing up & framing photographs from our travels
I’ve brought back small, easy to pack items: a few small holy cards, postcards of favorite paintings, chocolates, framed lace art work from Burano, Italy – near Venice as well as a necklace, rosary from the Vatican, etc
There's no shame in checking a bag on the return trip. We always pack an empty duffle bag going over, and use that for carrying souvenirs. Its loaded with clothes (for cushioning) and liquids (like wine bottles) for checking in the return flight. More valuable things stay in the carryon.
It sounds like the OP is trying to avoid bringing an extra bag along while they travel through 3 countries. And I have to agree, which is why I sent a lot of my stuff home mid-way through my trip. It was well worth the money.
I agree with Mardee. Since I know I'll accumulate treasures, I bring a small box with me, plus small roll of clear packing tape and a sharpie marker. This is because I can't always find shipping boxes. I've already got my home address on it. At some point along the way I'll find a post office and ship my treasures home. It's a cost I willingly bear in order to continue traveling light. I usually have a wonderful time in the post office while I'm at it, and it's such a pleasure to have that box waiting for me when I return!
Like Stan, we always bring a small, lightweight, collapsible mini-duffel bag (sometimes two, actually); they pack down to roughly the size of a baseball. We also try hard to resist the temptation to load up on souvenirs until late in the trip. By then we have enough dirty laundry to move to one of the extra duffels. The dirty laundry makes great cushioning material for when we check that bag on the way home (not only is there no shame in checking a bag, but on the way home, there's really almost no risk in doing so, too, since if it mis-connects and has to follow you home a few days later, it's no big deal). We also often get Christmas ornaments (and things that might serve as such). Some of those can be quite fragile (blown glass ornaments...) so those get packed and carried home v-e-r-y carefully.
Thanks for all the tips. I think purchasing the small cheap suitcase once in country is the best option. That will also allow me to pack up and ship my lederhosen and shoes back, which being deer skin are quite heavy and bulky, instead of lugging it around once the Oktoberfest is over.