How To Shop For Souvenirs You'll Actually Use


Travelling often provides us with an incredible excuse to eat more, drink more and shop more than we would usually. While all of these behaviours can have a serious impact on both your body and your bank account, we generally know the guidelines around what we should and shouldn’t be consuming. Shopping on the other hand, can be a more challenging impulse to control. 

Souvenirs are a trap. When we are strolling through palm tree-lined streets and listening to the romantic languages of other cultures, we become tempted to purchase clothing, trinkets and gifts that are reminiscent of our surroundings. Unfortunately, a white linen and lace dress or seashell necklace is unlikely to be quite as fashionable once you find yourself on the streets of your home town. 

Not long ago I was in Peru, enjoying every bit of the incredible culture but freezing my ass off every night. Not anticipating the cold evening weather may have left my toes frozen but it also invited an opportunity to own an item I genuinely coveted—and one I'd use again and again. A beautiful handmade llama wool blanket still sits atop my sofa and looks incredible with my decor.

From my experience, here are the kind of souvenirs that can be cherished, enjoyed and used regularly. These are things that you will either use during your trip, things that are consumable or things that will make an amazing impact on your decor. This is your guide to smart tourist shopping. 

Things you will use during your trip

During your trip you may find that the sandals you brought are too uncomfortable or that you probably should have brought along a lighter, more comfortable sundress for the steamy afternoons in the sun. If you can find items that are useful for your trip and will be used again on your next big adventure, more power to you. Ask yourself a few questions to ensure that it is a smart purchase and not an impulsive buy. 

  • Will I wear it in the next 24 hours?

  • Will it be fashionable or useful in one year?

  • How many times do you see myself using it on this trip?

  • Will it have purpose at home (added bonus)?

Things that are consumable

Food, alcohol, spices and snacks can be a great addition to your suitcase. Either as a gift or as your own special treat, consumables from other countries are a wonderful way to reminisce over a great vacation and a great way to provide loved ones with a souvenir that they will actually enjoy. To be certain that they are consumed and not left in the back of a fridge or a cupboard, consider the following:

  • Do I (or my loved one) regularly consume a version of this product at home (think special coffee, amazing hot sauce or a really nice bottle of wine)?

  • Am I allowed to bring this item back to your country? (Don’t disregard the importance of laws around duty & carrying certain restricted items across border)

Things that make an impact

Decor is a wonderful incentive for purchasing exotic and interesting items overseas. Statues, masks and tapestries can be wonderful additions to your home and can make an impressive impact on the decor. That being said, not unlike certain clothing, some elements can appear attractive and interesting in one environment and be completely tacky and over the top once it reaches your living room. Before attempting an eclectic travel look, take these questions into consideration:

  • Is the item understated and easily incorporated into any background?

  • Does the colour scheme work with my current style and decor?

  • Is it easily transportable?

  • Where will it fit?

  • Do I have similar items that will go with this one or too many of the same thing?

As you begin to collect interesting and meaningful items from across the globe you will learn what works best both in your suitcase and on your shelves. Be sure to keep it small. Nobody wants to wade their way through a museum of a living room. An enormous sphynx statue is unlikely to look classy in your hallway but a small Egyptian figurine with interesting lines and understated colouring could be the perfect thing to balance the volcanic stone urn you have from Guatemala. Collecting can be a fun way to close a vacation but things are never as valuable as your memories. If something that is totally appropriate catches your eye, go for it! But never seek out unnecessary souvenirs. That money is better spent on you next flight.