Enjoy this inside guide to the best travel souvenir ideas from all around the world.
The Best Souvenir Ideas to Bring Back From Your Trip
Can I tell you a secret? I love a good souvenir. I love the way that a simple object can transport you back to the sounds of crashing waves, the feeling of sand beneath your feet and the sticky evening air brought alive with the zing of lime. I even love the fact that even the word stems from the French “to remember.”
But let’s face it, a lot of souvenirs are absolute rubbish. Tacky and doing nothing for the environment, these cheap souvenirs are a blight on the travel industry as a whole.
Then there are those which are great ideas but which never see the light of day. They fester, cluttering up cupboards and shelves for years to come, loading you down with guilt that you haven’t somehow made better use of them. That alpaca jumper I bought in Peru springs to mind. Or that dodgy herbal spirit from just about anywhere…
So, how do you make sure you bring home the right kind of souvenir? Here’s what I’ve learned from decades on the road. There’s more to travel souvenirs than magnets and postcards. There are new ideas, like these great poster prints. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s break it down into a handy list instead. Let’s go.
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Unique Souvenir Ideas
Repurposing Your Photographs
These days, it’s so easy to have your images converted into mugs, aprons and even canvas prints.
You probably know this already. But perhaps, like me, you’re leaving this possibility untapped.
When CANVASDISCOUNT.com got in touch with me and asked about a partnership, I was thinking small. I already have a few favourite travel photos as canvas boards and I love them. They sit propped on my shelves and I always have vague plans to do this more often on whispery to do list in the sky.
Then they suggested I try out their poster prints service. I was in a rush and couldn’t find a high res photo that would fit, so instead I opted for one of the largest canvas options I could find. It was 120 x 80 cm, far larger than anything I’ve ordered before.
When it arrived, my heart sank. I had to pick it up from my neighbours and waddle home, face obscured by cardboard packaging.
When I opened it, though, things changed. It looked amazing! What’s more, my family loved it.
It now sits in pride of place in the kitchen and I am definitely going to order some more. Maybe even as a larger size…
If this has spurred you into action, then you can get a 10% discount with the code TRAVELLAB10 at CANVASDISCOUNT.com You can use the code multiple times and it’s valid until 31st December 2023 (so right in time for Christmas.)
Repurposed photos really are some of the best souvenirs around and the personal touches make for great Christmas gifts and gift ideas.
I love collecting Christmas ornaments as a unique and creative way to commemorate your travels. We have a shell shaped Santa from Barbados, a hand-stitched Nordic symbol from the Arctic, a Welsh Dragon and more on our tree.
Create a Gift Basket
Gift baskets also make for a great personal present idea and they’re surprisingly easy to make.
You can buy the baskets themselves on Amazon, together with some recycled padding and then gather up some souvenir gifts when you’re away.
You can choose inexpensive souvenirs unique to the region like jams and vinegars, together with wine and crackers all in one supermarket shop. Presented in a gift basket, things look so much better, making them a perfect gift idea.
Wherever you go in the world, everyone has to eat. And each region of the world has their own way of doing things. Taste brings back travel memories with panache but there are a few things you need to be careful of when souvenir shopping.
- Restrictions – many countries don’t allow certain food products into the country.
- Spillage – make sure that bottles are well wrapped to avoid breakage during your journey back home.
- Melting – some items, like chocolate, will melt in the heat, ruining your perfect gift.
- Crushing – likewise, some delicate biscuits will easily be crushed during the baggage handling at the airport.
- Expiry dates – some fresh items will only stay edible for a short time. Make sure they can get back home!
Always wrap bottles of wine or spirits in clothes and put them in the centre of your suitcase. Look out for unusual snacks at supermarkets and at the airport as you can easily share them with friends.
Useful Souvenir Ideas
No matter where you go, you can find something useful. Here are some top gift ideas for the practical people in your life.
Wait magnets?! Didn’t you say they were tacky and a blight on civilisation or something?
Well, yes, they can be. But they can also be a beautiful way to bring home memories from around the world. And they can hold useful information in place on your fridge. Plus, they’re small and easy to pack and unlikely to break in your luggage.
So, never overlook the humble magnet in your collection of travel souvenir ideas. They’re fun and functional.
Finally, they are collectible, so your kitchen can serve as a reminder of all the places you’ve visited.
A keychain is an easy keepsake that’s not too expensive and it’s something that you can use every day. If you can find some made by local artisans, then you can also support the community you’re visiting while you’re there.
Salad spoons, mugs, cutlery, placemats, bowls, shot glasses… You can probably find gift ideas for everyone on your list just in the home decor section.
Many people I know swear by the skincare products they’ve found on their travels. While I have sensitive skin as I grow older, it’s certainly lovely to buy some bath salts made in a destination or soap handmade at cooperatives from local ingredients.
Just be careful if you have really sensitive skin or plan to use products on children. Different places in the world have different safety standards for testing beauty products and cosmetics.
One of the best ideas for a travel souvenir is to take a class to make the souvenir yourself! I’ve done this for soaps and for cheese and it probably counts as the perfect souvenir. It’s certainly one-of-a-kind ;-)
It’s usually pretty easy to pick up some textiles and handicrafts as you travel the world. Once home, you can embroider the name of the place you visited onto cushion covers, tea towels, or even a scarf as a special gift for someone.
Whether watercolours or oil paintings, artwork from places we’ve visited tops our list of nice souvenirs. In my office, I have a painting from coloured sand I saw come to life before my eyes in Cape Town. Then, in my daughter’s room is an incredible piece of work from Morocco: the artist painted in invisible ink before holding the paper over a flame to bring out the burnt red and orange colours. It’s amazing.
Free Souvenirs Ideas
Didn’t someone say that the best things in life are free? While I can’t say I agree with the sentiment entirely, you can certainly make the most of things that you can’t find in your home country.
Many hotels give out free postcards, for example. I often pick up a copy of a newspaper or magazine to bring home a souvenir.
You can collect ticket stubs throughout your trip and put them together in a photo frame or scrap book. Save certain food packets as you travel and some bank notes to do the same thing.
Hotel business cards and maps can go into this section, too, they’re a lovely way to mark the end of your trip. Plus, it often spurs me on to find unique mementoes that I might otherwise miss.
Of course, you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. You can always turn to classical souvenirs for birthday gifts – and gift sets are also a great way to save time when you shop.
Here are some souvenirs you can find the world over:
Snow globes, timeless and whimsical, encapsulate the essence of your travels in a miniature world. Unleash your inner child!
They can be good, they can be bad, they can be ugly. Transform your wardrobe into a travelogue with destination-inspired T-shirts. Comfortable and versatile, these shirts become wearable souvenirs, proudly displaying the places you’ve explored. Just make sure that if you pick one in a foreign language that it doesn’t say anything untoward.
I had a beautiful black T shirt with silver, Chinese letters once. I still haven’t recovered from the embarrassment from when someone came to tell me what it really meant when I was out and about in London.
Popular souvenirs for a reason, travel-themed tea towels can add a touch of culture to your kitchen. Practical and very occasionally stylish, these towels often feature local art, maps, or iconic symbols, bringing a slice of your favourite destinations into your home. It’s a subtle yet effective way to bring beautiful travel memories into the drudgery of daily life!
Aprons make for unique and functional souvenirs. Infused with the flavours of your travels, aprons often showcase regional recipes, ingredients, or culinary traditions.
And as they are wearable, cooking becomes a delightful reminder of the diverse tastes and experiences you’ve savoured around the globe. They’re fun souvenirs and can double up as birthday presents as well.
Tips for Buying Souvenirs
No doubt about it, there’s an art to souvenir shopping. One way to avoid buying something you’ll regret is to walk off for a while and give yourself ten minutes to decide. Whether you’re haggling in the heat or being waited on, champagne in hand, here are some tips.
Support Local Artisans
Done well, souvenir shopping can be a great way of contributing to sustainable tourism and travel. Done badly, it does the reverse. So, please don’t buy something that says “Made in Taiwan” unless you are, actually, in Taiwan.
Think About How You’re Going to Get Things Home
Avoid buying souvenirs that will break or leak on the way home and make sure you have space in your suitcase and weight in your luggage allowance.
For larger and more expensive items, like carpets or a breakable vase, reputable shops can ship your purchases home separately for you.
However, a word of caution. This can also be the basis of a major tourist scam, so never spend more money than you could bear to lose if you choose to take this route. Also, buy on credit cards when you can as this offers you some level of consumer protection.
Do a Little Research First
Knowledge always helps. Either read a guide book or (ahem) a blog post ahead of time to get to know the best gift ideas for a destination. We have a few guides here to get you started:
- The Best Souvenirs from France
- What to Buy in Seville: The 9 Best Seville Souvenirs to Bring Home
- 9 Singapore Food Souvenirs
- What to Buy in Italy: The 21 Best Italian Souvenirs
- 25 Best Irish Souvenirs: What to Buy in Ireland
- The Best Helsinki Souvenirs To Make You Think, Smile and Love
Imagine Using, Wearing or Drinking it Outside This Destination
Sure, the poncho looks cool on holiday. But once you’re back home, will the shine wear off?
Shop in the Right Place
It’s not always the case but quite often the tourist hotspots are the worst places for souvenir shopping. You’re likely to find a load of overpriced tat and miss out on the good stuff.
The only exception is probably at the airport. Items may still be overpriced but airport souvenir shops do a good job of gathering together all the products that a place is famous for.
It’s also a good idea to check out flea markets and food markets and to ask the people you meet for local ideas.
Don’t Take Things You Shouldn’t
Hopefully this goes without saying by now, but please don’t take animals or animal parts as souvenirs. Don’t try to remove coral from reefs or do anything else that damages the environment. Use all these other travel souvenir ideas instead!
FAQS about Travel Souvenirs
What Are Some Ideal Souvenir Ideas?
- Local Artwork: Seek out paintings, prints, or sculptures by local artists, capturing the essence of the destination.
- Customized Jewellery: Consider personalized jewellery, such as a necklace with a charm representing a significant landmark or symbol.
- Regional Food and Drinks: Bring home local flavours like spices, wines, or artisanal chocolates that reflect the culinary identity of the place.
- Textiles and Fabrics: Purchase unique textiles like scarves, blankets, or traditional fabrics that showcase the region’s craftsmanship.
- Practical Items: Opt for useful items like mugs, tote bags, or stationery with local designs or logos.
- Handcrafted Pottery or Ceramics: Explore local pottery or ceramic studios for unique and handmade pieces that showcase the region’s artistic traditions.
- Local Literature: Invest in books by local authors, offering insights into the culture, history, or stories of the destination.
What Makes a Great Souvenir?
- Meaningful Connection: A great souvenir forges a personal link to the destination, encapsulating memories and experiences.
- Authenticity: Look for items that authentically represent the local culture, traditions, and craftsmanship.
- Practicality: Ideal souvenirs are not just decorative but also serve a practical purpose, ensuring they become an integral part of your daily life.
- Compact and Portable: Opt for items that are easy to transport.
- Unique and Uncommon: Seek out items that are distinct and not easily replicated, making your souvenir truly special.
- Storytelling Value: A great souvenir tells a story, whether it’s the history behind a traditional craft or the significance of a particular symbol.
- Durability: Choose items that can withstand the test of time, ensuring your souvenir remains a cherished keepsake for years to come.
- Reflects Personal Taste: The best souvenirs align with your personal preferences and style, creating a meaningful connection between you and the object.
What to Buy as Souvenirs for Friends?
- Local Delicacies: Share the flavours of your travels with edible souvenirs like local chocolates, spices, or specialty snacks.
- Customized Gifts: Consider personalized items such as keychains, mugs, or T-shirts featuring the name or symbol of the destination.
- Cultural Artefacts: Opt for small cultural artefacts, like miniature sculptures or ornaments, that represent the local artistry.
- Practical Accessories: Choose useful items like scarves, hats, or tote bags with unique local designs that your friends can incorporate into their daily lives.
- Gourmet Goodies: Bring back high-quality oils, wines, or other gourmet products that are unique to the region.
- Artistic Keepsakes: Look for artistic pieces, such as paintings or prints, that capture the spirit of the destination.
- Local Literature: Share the stories of the destination with books written by local authors or those that explore the area’s culture and history.
- Handcrafted Jewellery: Gift your friends with handcrafted jewellery, such as bracelets or necklaces, that reflects the artistic traditions of the place.
Final Thoughts on the Best Souvenir Ideas
Collecting souvenirs isn’t just about acquiring objects; it’s about preserving moments.
Whether it’s the gentle shake of a snow globe, the comfort of a travel-themed T-shirt, the practicality of a tea towel, or the culinary inspiration from an apron, each item becomes a tangible piece of your journey.
But above all else, choose souvenirs that resonate with you, and let them be the portal to reliving your travel tales.