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Souvenirs?

Over the last 15 years my wife and I have gone on many trips to Europe, some on RS tours and some on our own. We like to “pack light” and each of us uses a 45L backpack that works perfect for storage in the overhead bins and giving us enough room for our clothes and we really enjoy traveling this way. The one down side what to do if you decide to bring back “souvenirs”?

I have never been a fan buying keychains, mugs, frig. Magnets, etc that seems to fill the stores of major tourist attractions, but we would like to bring something back that always reminds us of the wonderful time we had, so this is what we do:

1) We try to find a Tea Towel represents the area of where we have been. I know this sounds silly but we rotate the towels and every time I walk into the kitchen (way to frequently) I’m reminded of the trip! (Easy to pack)

2) We try to find one article of clothing to buy, my wife and I bought merino sweaters made in Ireland, we wore these on the plane home (always cold on the flights) and still wear them every winter.

3) We try to find one piece of jewelry on each trip that represents something we experienced, like a necklace from one of the Greek Islands, ear rings purchased at Versailles Palace, France, a bracelet from the Galleria in Milan, etc. Jewelry takes up very little space!

4) I like to buy drawings or watercolor prints of the area we visited, I bring clear plastic sleeves in my backpack and put the prints in the sleeves so they stay nice until they get home, then I frame them and they are on our walls at home and in my office.

I would like for others to share their stories of souvenirs that they bring home!!

Posted by
4445 posts

Yes, all of those. I bring a packable tote and my suitcase is expandable...

Fridge magnets are stuck on a magnetic board to which I affixed a world map. Tea Towels - there is always one out. Jewelry that is somehow characteristic of the place. Delft flower vases. Small Sicilian ceramic trays and pitchers, from the artisan's atelier, including my cousin's. In my bedroom, the hand-painted Turkish tiles. And yes, a carpet. From Portugal, hand-painted ceramic Christmas ornaments.

I do love the Christmas ornaments because they are an annual surprise reminder of some of my trips.

I enjoy wandering around my house thinking, that was a good trip to .....!

Posted by
8334 posts

We do the same. Always seem to pick up a clothing item or two. A small photo or print of local scenes that we hang on a wall Mostly edible things: olive oil, wine, chocolate, cheese, cookies, candy - things we can share at home. Always have an eye open for something different, and something that would make a good gift for family & friends. We pack a empty duffle on the way over, and check it on the way back with liquids and clothes for cushioning. .

Posted by
870 posts

We love reminders of our trips as well……the French hand towels are wonderful and we always buy them and have lots on hand….we buy a painting and frame it as a reminder of each trip….adds a lot to our home and is a great souvenir. We take a foldable carry-on and load to up with our dirty clothes and carry it on…..put the souvenirs in our luggage. We have shipped clothes home before if we can and is not too expensive. Take a FedEx mailing tube and roll your paining up and store it safely there…you can store more than one!

Posted by
8162 posts

A Christmas ornament, or something that can be adapted into an ornament. It is a fun walk down memory lane each December when I decorate the tree.

Posted by
6048 posts

I'm with Carol on the Christmas ornaments - those are fun souvenirs and can be quite beautiful as well. I will also sometimes buy clothing or similar items (like the reading glasses I bought in Amsterdam). I try to avoid tchotchke - the last thing I need is more stuff to pile up so anything I buy must be useful (or ornamental for a short time, like the ornaments). I love the Icelandic wool socks I got one year and my daughter and her family loved the beautiful chocolates I brought back from Belgium.

I do buy gifts sometimes for family members. This year my son-in-law and my sister both had birthdays while I was gone, so I bought my son-in-law a Bayern München shirt since he loves that team, and my sister got some German coffee, which she loves, a small German doll and a Christmas ornament. And I usually get gifts for my grandkids, like the book, "The Diary of Anne Frank" that was purchased at the museum for my grandson, and a colorful tin Trabant car from the DDR museum in Germany.

Posted by
3727 posts

A couple after my own heart. I love to shop, especially on our trips. My #1 souvenir is a charm for my bracelet. I started them in 1976 when I first traveled to Amsterdam. It is a windmill. Just purchased a fan from Spain for my second bracelet. Yes also to Christmas ornaments, art work at the Sunday art fairs in the squares, fridge magnets (we have a magnetic board from IKEA just for these), and a piece of clothing - still wear my black denim jacket from Berlin. I also buy a small Cross or religious item for a collage in my from hall. I have also started buying pens in various museum gift shops, always need one. Then of course, there are different temptations in different cities - leather in Cordoba, a chef’s knife in Toledo, a soccer jersey in Madrid and Rijeka, a felt rose pin in the museum shop in Tallinn, a harrods tote bag in London, a hand carved Santa in Rothenburg. Also, in lieu of art work, we started buying something different, such as in Ljubljana hand painted boards from beehives (a specialty of theirs), a ceramic Trinacria in Sicily, a glass blown bagel complete with salt at the glass factory in Krakow (I wrapped fishing wire around it and made a small hook for hanging), a ceramic salmon in Alaska - anyway, you get the idea. I sprinkle these items on the wall between my pictures. I take pictures of my walls before each trip so I can see spatially what would work. And of course, we have a digital frame where I upload the best pictures, interlaced with family ones. Oh, and I almost forgot, after each trip I make a scrapbook on snapfish, it helps me relive all our wonderful experiences all over again.

Posted by
330 posts

My favorite souvenir is a meter of fabric (ok, or 2 or 3) that I make into accessories - zipper pouches, shopping bags and scarves that I then use for travel or give as gifts. I try not to hoard it (if you know, you know). For our recent trip to Germany I made a zipper pouch out of a piece of laminated cotton I picked up in Antibes and lined it with Liberty of London cotton I bought at the Regent St store. In Germany, I bought about 5 meters of fabric (so many cute mushroom patterns!) and just rolled it all up and stuffed it in the corners of my suitcase. And bonus, seeking out fabric stores is a relaxing break and often takes me off the beaten tourist track.

Posted by
17 posts

Mousepad with map of Madrid Metro printed on it. Easy to pack, useful, look at it every day.

Posted by
69 posts

I too purchase tea towels as souvenirs and gifts for myself and others. They are easy to pack, inexpensive to purchase and my number one requirement for all souvenirs/gifts: useful. I have also started picking up reuseable shopping bags on trips. Most of these don't appear special to anyone else (nothing emblazoned with a tourist attraction on it), but everytime I use it, I'm reminded of my trips. One of my bags, a sturdy bright pink one, often gets compliments from folks at the grocery store. When they ask where I got, I smile and say "Marks and Spencer in Dublin!"

Posted by
23125 posts

We can always find room for a towel or two or an apron or a clothing item. We are big on non-breakable Christmas ornaments. When we have purchased major pieces of art we have the vendor ship it. Generally the VAT saving will cover most if not all of the shipping expense.

Posted by
542 posts

Another vote for tea towels, my oldest is from 1994 with Welsh castles on it. I have occasionally picked up salt and pepper shakers—my most recent ones are miniature Rosetta stones from the British Museum gift shop.

Posted by
195 posts

The last few trips, I’ve purchased reusable grocery shopping bags. I use them here every time I go to the grocery store and remember Rewe, Lidl, etc. I purchased one in Poland that is decorated with the traditional Polish floral design. It’s a fun reminder of my trips and sometimes starts fun conversations at check out.

I always buy Christmas ornaments too. They bring up fond memories while decorating the tree.

Posted by
186 posts

I like buying kitchen items or food on our trips. I found an olive wood spatula in Italy and a tiny microwave egg steamer in Japan. In Greece I bought a package of the cured black olives in salt for salads which you can't get where we live. In Spain I found an olive oil decanter at the truck stop that served espresso. Fleur de sel from coastal France makes a great gift for foodies. My husband likes to buy a book of local history which he reads on the plane. We both like to shop for actual maps and a few postcards of scenes that we couldn't take ourselves unless we had a helicopter.

Posted by
1125 posts

My wife always buys souvenir coffee mugs. When we were in Venice/Murano, I bought a bagful of glass candy pieces to give away and to decorate my fish aquarium. It seems the only time I buy t-shirts is in Hawaii, which are usually made in Mexico. We also load up on Kona coffee and chocolate covered macadamia nuts.

Posted by
11186 posts

Like you, we buy useful things for ourselves. In addition to tea towels, sometimes placemats and napkins, or runners. We have bought and shipped — from the seller — olive oil and wine.

We do also shop for Christmas gifts and usually come up with a box to ship back via the UPS Store in Italy or the Post Office in Switzerland of late as those are the countries we frequent. Swiss Army knives were a popular gift to the young adult grandchildren last year. They did not need to be shipped as we checked a bag and they are small.

Wish I had bought more Swiss chocolate this year.

Posted by
395 posts

I recently purchased souvenir eyeglass cleaning cloths in Italy and kept a couple and gave a couple to my friends that I usually travel with. Other items that I like to buy include fridge magnets (which remind me daily of my travels), small Christmas ornaments, tea towels, earrings and clothing items. No, I usually don't buy all of those every time I travel but will come home with at least a couple of different items.

My taste has changed over the years. I have a collection of souvenir spoons and thimbles that I acquired from the 1980's through the early 2000's. I haven't bought one of them in many years.

Posted by
93 posts

First overseas flight many years ago, a n/s over the pole from SFO to London. Around 3 a.m. we were rudely awakened by the pilot informing us that the plane had "lost an engine." We landed at a small "cargo" airport outside of Reykjavik, and after mechanics determined they could not fix whatever was wrong, we all deplaned to wait for a few hours until another plane was sent out for us. I wandered thought the little deli/gift shop and looked at the gorgeous Icelandic sweaters, but since I was only traveling with a backpack and didn't know how my packing choices would carry me through the next 3-1/2 weeks in GB, I decided to buy something small, just to remember Iceland by (something besides a postcard). I wandered the aisles until I spotted the perfect souvenir: A Mickey Mouse cartoon magazine--in Icelandic, of course! Since then, I've collected Mickey Mouse cartoons with Mickey & friends speaking Spanish, French, Italian, and German (actually, that one featured Donald Duck, because I didn't happen to see any Mickey Mouse cartoon mags as I traveled through Munich or Austria). I buy other things too, but this are just fanciful and no one else I know has them.

Posted by
50 posts

I like to buy useful things, too, jewelry! I have a collection of pendants from many countries and wear them often.

Posted by
148 posts

I’ve really enjoyed reading what everyone does.

As someone mentioned above, I collect foldable grocery bags. I use them all the time and enjoy pulling out a bag and remembering a trip. I will also buy some food items.

I do collect key chains and then remove the chain part. I add a ribbon and use as an ornament on a small tabletop tree. I call it my travel tree. We have SO many ornaments already and they can be large snd/or fragile to take home, so this works great. Keychains tend to be the perfect size, are inexpensive and easy to transport.

Finally, I look for antique type stores for postcards. I often carry a small reusable plastic envelope with a piece of lightweight cardboard in it to carry them. Full disclosure, I haven’t done this out of the US yet. But I do in the US and when I get home, I display on small easels on an antique desk and rotate. I prefer postcards that were used with a postmark, and typically want cards from before 1940 but will make exceptions. For example I found a postcard from the riverboat “Admiral” that sailed on day cruises on the Mississippi River in the 1970’s. I went on the Admiral during that era. I will even will look on eBay when I return home, to get something that represents where I have been. I also collect postcards for the holidays. I found a postcard from the 1904 Works Fair in St. Louis. I visit there a bunch but also, my great grandpa did the electricity for the fair!

Posted by
4445 posts

I do collect key chains and then remove the chain part. I add a ribbon and use as an ornament on a small tabletop tree. I call it my travel tree.

I absolutely love this idea! I have some of my key chains hanging from hooks on an old baton from when I was a kid. I'll replace the ugly hooks with ribbons. And start hanging some of them on my Christmas tree!

Posted by
929 posts

Thank you for starting this thread. I love the suggestions and will use them on my upcoming travels this year.

I travel only carry on and therefore, I typically reserve my souvenirs to some thing light that I can carry home. Jewelry and small prints are two of my favorites. The most unique souvenir that we bought and carried on was a ukulele from Hawaii.

There have been a couple of times when I went a bit souvenir happy and had to buy luggage to cart it home. One was in Vietnam when my husband texted me that I had to find this coffee shot in Hanoi and buy coffee to bring home. That combined with the beautiful embroidery, prints, I needed to buy a suitcase in the night market.

I have also had items shipped. I purchased Murano glasses in Italy and hand-blown glasses in Biot and I was so glad that I had them shipped. I have also purchased cases of wine and have had them shipped.

Posted by
2054 posts

I buy lively local music CDs and play a variety of them at dinner parties. CDs are flat and take no room to pack. I also by small cook books. I have a great one from Turkey. I just threw out a box of souvenirs from Peru.

Posted by
3961 posts

Fun Topic! Over the past 20 years we’ve enjoyed picking up souvenirs for ourselves (or to gift) to remind us of our journey’s. 1.) Our prized item was a Copper “Wine Ice Bucket” from Bottega Del Rame in Montepulciano. Several of us were celebrating wedding anniversaries and had the Ice Bucket shipped home. 2.) Olive Oil, Pumpkin Seed Oil. 3.) Watercolor Prints or photos to frame and proudly displayed where we can see them everyday! 4.) Small Leather items to gift from Italy. 5.) Favorite jewelry- earrings from Taormina, bracelet, earrings, pendant from Greece, earrings from Portugal, pendants from Croatia, necklace from Ljubljana. 6.) Tablecloth, towels from Provence. 7.) Soaps/lotions from Italy & France. We enjoy going to museum gift shops and I usually find fun gifts to stash in the suitcase. We pack light to adjust for “souvenirs!” lol. I will add- one of our most unusual souvenirs was a Japanese glass ball found on the beach in Kauai, HA. My husband was jogging after a storm and found it. He was able to put it in his personal carryon!

Posted by
2280 posts

I also buy jewelry, magnets, and Christmas ornaments. I’ve started buying more “everyday” items, after an impulse buy in Slovenia: a wooden spoon with a smile cutout. It just makes me happy every time I use it, and it reminds me of Lake Bled. I also buy a reusable shopping bag. In Costa Rica I bought a beautiful cutting board a carved napkin holder.

I have a shelf in my office that contains a collection of small figurines: glass animals from Venice, a beaded peacock from Guatemala, a genie lamp from Granada, all kinds of little treasures that bring me joy and great memories.

I love the idea of converting keychains to ornaments!

Posted by
1914 posts

I have a lot of kitchen towels from travels, but have more than enough now so have to resist;)

I enjoy coffee mugs, but they have to be something different and not ones you see in every store in the tourist areas.

We just got back from Iceland this week and a few things we brought home included a beautiful wool blanket for our daughter, a sporty yet dressy wool cardigan for our son, some of our favorite candies/licorice that are local, and then the famous hot dogs. Yes, we brought one of those thin cooler bags and brought the hot dogs home in that. We have done that several other times and it works like a charm. I also bought a wool plant pot cover that is red and will look festive for the holidays.

Posted by
6965 posts

We (or I traveling solo) pack light, so souvenirs either need to be lightweight or very special to be worth the hassle of carrying them in a separate bag.

From the dozen trips to Europe, I have three ceramic pitchers from Italy, Spain & France. I also bought a modern artistic ceramic tray in tiny Spello, Italy that’s on our coffee table.

Otherwise, lightweight souvenirs are colorful scarves, a table runner, & dish towels - the Menton, France dishtowel is on the stove handle right now!

Souvenirs from special experiences:
I brought two of the bulky proctored Covid home-test kits with me to Italy in June, packed in an Engle Creek shoe bag. They were annoying until I realized their size & flatness were perfect “packing material” to keep my sketch and watercolor from two private art classes in Bergamo, Italy in good shape throughout the rest of the trip. The sketch is visible from where I’m sitting, and it’s a wonderful souvenir memory of both the location sketched and my kind art instructor.

I took a croissant pastry class in Paris several years ago. I bought a fantastic pastry brush from them. It’s the size and shape of an oversized hair brush with a nice wood handle and horsehair fanned bristles. (It removes all traces of extra flour as I’m laminating the layers.). It’s my favorite souvenir to use - makes me smile each time I make croissants.

Posted by
2581 posts

I have happy reminders of my travels at home and in my office at work--3 small folk paintings from Budapest and currently using a mug from Liberty of London.

No trip is complete without major tea towel acquisition! I brought home 10 from my trip to England in April, and added them to my already large collection--they get changed twice a week, and as Donald says, they are a daily reminder of my wonderful trips. My favorite one was purchased at Buckingham Palace gift shop in 2019, Warhol rendition of the Queen...I bought 2, so I'm set when the first one wears out!

I like to buy a nice piece of jewelry--or two--preferably artisan-made. Favorites are a silver ring of the Budapest attractions and 3 unique pieces from a collective in Tallinn.

Random things: usually a scarf, magnets, and a Christmas ornament. I won't buy things unless they speak to me, so not all trips end with me lugging home over 20 lbs of 1930s Hungarian pottery or a stack of books from Persephone in Bath :)

However, the best souvenirs were free: a stork feather from Margit sziget in Budapest and my happiest day ever was visiting the Tower of London and finding one of the ravens' feathers.

Posted by
47 posts

Love to bring back Christmas ornaments. They become a great conversation starter each year and hold many memories. I have purchased handmade jewelry for myself as well as gifts. Tee shirts for the teenagers. I buy a bunch of the old fashioned paper bookmarks from art museums for friends and co-workers although they are getting harder to find.

Posted by
169 posts

Great thread! My motto is "if you can't eat it, wear it or use it, don't buy it." My recent fave souvenir is a large reusable shopping bag from France. Every time I grocery shop and use the bag I remember the hot day I shlepped my dirty clothes to a laundromat that turned out to be closed, then bought new socks and underwear in a grocery store, along with the new cool bag to replace my failing plastic one. Great memories. Buying souvenirs is an art!

Posted by
796 posts

I got a huge bag from BHV @ Hotel de Ville for 5 Euros, am DEFINITELY going to buy more if they have them when I go back!

Posted by
2232 posts

On our trip to Belgium and The Netherlands some of the tickets to museums or churches were really nice with artwork and the name of the place and sometimes even the date. I laminated a couple of them and use as a bookmark.

Posted by
822 posts

I will always buy a few postcards, usually of the spot I can’t get good photos of due to bad weather or too crowded. But, my favourite item is pens. I make pens so love to find handmade pens from other places. In Greece I found a store in Monemvasia where everything was made from olive wood, and he had handmade pens and even had them in olive wood cases. In Ireland I found one with an inlaid silver Celtic pattern, and in Venice I found some made from glass. I also buy small art work if I can, and I will also try to find a small notebook with a local design. I will buy a fridge magnet or two, and maybe a map I can later mark my route on. I try to find something small that is unique to the country, so I bought worry beads in Greece, and a tin whistle in Ireland.

I'm with Donald on this subject. I always pack light, to bring back souvenirs for my friends and to buy cute stuff for me, like clothes, books, food (you know like dried fruits, or homemade coffe/tee) etc. I also love bringing back art. Buying art from street artist or local markets, is my thing. And what I always do, is buying a snow globe. My father always brought me one, when he was on a long business trip and I kept the tradition after his death. Last year I went to Berlin and I just couldn't find the perfect snow globe. I thought, that I am going to cry. So I searched online, and I found the perfect one on Euro Souvenirs – a snow globe with the Berlin bear, which stood in the Brandenburg Gate. I loved it, so I bought it, even if I didn't found it in a local market.
Is anyone else collecting snow globes?

Posted by
2392 posts

The clearance shelf in the museum bookstore will almost always have the exhibition catalogs from past/recent exhibits at heavily discounted prices - high-quality prints and essays that can be a great coffee-table book or even carefully cut up for posters, etc. And your purchase is supporting the museum. It can act as the stiffening board in my packer/folder for the flight back, too.

One item I've mentioned before: some tiny scissors from a pharmacie in Arles that specializes in perinatal care. The handle is baby blue, and it sits in my toothbrush rack and serves as a mustache trimmer.

Posted by
101 posts

I like to purchase scarves and small watercolors, which are just a bit larger than postcards. The scarves are very pack friendly and I use them year-round. Also, if I need to bring gifts, I frequently bring the same thing, but from our region. They travel so easily.

We used to buy magnets, but our collection is large now and we revisit quite a few places, so it would be redundant.