Who doesn’t love to bring home souvenirs both for yourself and others-but what to get??? Before every trip, I make a list of possible items to seek out to purchase while I am there. Depending on where I am going, I research what the place is known for (think Florence=leather) and who do I need to buy stuff for besides myself. If I’m going on a girls trip, I better be bringing home something good for my husband, which is usually vinyl because he collects it. Always, I need to bring home good gifts for the grandkids. I try to bring home unique Christmas gifts for the family. You get the idea!
One new tradition that I started with our last trip to the UK, Paris and Italy was to send myself the most beautiful post card I could find from every place we went. When we got home, we had a great memory of our trip waiting for us and we ended up framing them.
So, make a list of the who, what and where for your souvenir list and then do a little research. Looking for vinyl-go to Yelp in advance for the city you are going to and read the reviews/check store hours and put it on your agenda. Don’t wait till the last minute to get your list checked off as other priorities can come up during a trip and then you leave with regrets that you weren’t able to get what you wanted-it has happened to me several times and I learned. Below are some suggestions for you based on my travels.
- Stuffed animals local to the area: I found a wild boar that roars in Florence-so unique! We have a shelf for the grandkids with all these animals for them to play with when they visit. Oh, the fun they’ve had enacting stories with the panda bear I got at the Great Wall in China taking on the koala and kangaroo from Australia. Hint-the bear wins.
- Ducks for the bathtub: our prize collection of ducks from around the world for our grandkids range from Vincent Van Gogh duck from Paris (look for these at museums!) to Roman Soldier duck (Bath-from the Roman Baths there but there was also a specialty store that had so many to choose from!) to Queen Duck that we got in Liverpool on the day that she died. I hope that after our grandkids grow out of creating elaborate stories playing with them in the bathtub, we will store them until their kids are ready.
- Placemats: We started this tradition when we were in Paris and placemats were easily found in many gift shops. When I got to Florence, I looked everywhere for them and finally found one. My sister took photos from our trip and had several placemats made for me too. I let the grandkids pick one every time they come over to eat (see picture below of placemats from our girls’ trip to Bath, England). This way we can talk about the places we’ve been and encourage a love of travel in them early on. Oh, the places you’ll go!
- Christmas tree ornaments: good for those who celebrate. My sister bought handblown ornaments for her entire office staff and had them shipped from the store in Bath. I love our NYC landmark building ornaments that we bought. Buy bubble wrap at a local stationary or postal store to carefully pack anything fragile.
- Custom products: make all kinds of cool stuff with trip photos. For our girls’ trip, I took pictures from our trip and had them made into coasters and luggage tags for the ladies and myself. I use Shutterfly to create items like this but there are lots of online companies to pick from.
ITEMS ANYONE WOULD LIKE
- Food specialty items: think coffee beans (Hawaii) or tea bags (UK); Just remember that you will have to pack these items away in your checked bag or, if you are like me and only travel with a carry-on, they will have to be small to stay within liquid restrictions. Anything that smears is considered a liquid so that would include jams, honey, etc. in Europe.
- Booze: buy what the locals drink-Scottish whiskey; Tuscany wine. Again, with liquid restrictions, you may want to see if the place will ship the booze home for you. I tried that with wine from a vineyard we visited in Tuscany and almost all the bottles made it but we did have one bottle break and shipping took two months.
- Scarves: whether it’s designer (Milan) or handwoven (Ireland) both men AND women like scarves for fashion and to keep warm. No worries about the fit/size and super lightweight and easy to pack. Perfect gift!
- Leather: eyeglass case, makeup case, handbag, bookmark, etc. We have purchased lots of items from the Florence Leather School because the students make the items there at the school and they offer free engraving.
- Magnets: easy to find at any tourist store and so many people love these to post items on the fridge.
STUFF I LIKE TO BUY
- Pillow covers: My home is filled with pillows from everywhere in the world from China to Italy and all places in between. Many places sell the pillow cover, and you can get the pillow insert from Amazon when you return home. Easy to pack into a full carry-on, pillow covers can even be used to wrap and protect other souvenirs you buy like jewelry. We bought fabric at Liberty of London and Patti used it to make us pillow covers for Christmas presents since we couldn’t find any pillow covers to buy on our girls’ trip to London.
- Kitchen towels: most places you can find kitchen towels. My favorites are from museums and Parliament gift stores (we have visited both the Scottish and UK Parliaments) They are light and won’t break and I use them every day in my kitchen.
- Jewelry-I love to seek out unique jewelry pieces to bring home. They are easy to pack and every time I wear them, I have such fond memories of the trip. I have several jewelry artists that I’ve met on my travels and that I collect jewelry from now. It’s so special when you have seen the artist in action and then get to wear one of their pieces. Here are some favorites of mine:
- Starbucks city mugs: I know, they are heavy and fragile and thus terrible items to pack, but I just love them and have collected them for years. From Moscow to Paris to Shanghai, I’ve got them and have wonderful memories of seeking them out wherever we are. On the last girls’ trip to London, we scored the original version of the London mug from a Starbucks we just happened to find when we got lost. This particular style with the raised images has been discontinued and run about $80 each on eBay so we all bought one and I drink my tea (also from the UK) in it. Next trip up is Milan in June. They have a Starbucks roaster fancy café so I’m hoping the mug selection is broad and that means I’ll be hauling it all over Italy/Switzerland for a few weeks before I return home, hopefully with it in one piece.
- Local art: Walk the streets of Montmartre in Paris and you’ll find local artists sketching away and selling their art. We discovered a street artist in Florence who goes by the name Blub and then stumbled upon a limited edition print of Blub’s art in a local store. We were thrilled and bought a cardboard tube and had the studio roll it up for me to pack. It is now framed and hanging on our wall at home and is a fabulous reminder of our time spent hunting down Blub’s street art in the quaint streets of Florence.
- Eyeglass frames: get the frames and bring home to get the lenses put in by your local optical place. I’ve had success with Costco. My frame collection is growing, and I now have two pairs from Florence and one from Tokyo.
I hope you can find awesome souvenirs next time you travel that will remind you of your adventures. Enjoy the journey!