What’s a relaxing vacation without a little retail therapy? Fact: when I travel, I love to squeeze in a little shopping time. To really revel in the memories of a pleasurable summer-break gone by, I make sure to always pick up a few mementos.
Souvenirs are a delightful way to remember a special place and time. When I say souvenirs, I don’t mean the cheesy, overpriced shot glass one finds at an airport kiosk. No, I prefer to scout around craft fairs and artisan shops for a unique token that truly captures the spirit of a particular destination. Here are some souvenir shopping tips that I’ve picked up over the course of my travels:
Souvenir Shopping Tips
- Do seek out craft fairs or cultural festivals that feature local artisans and handmade goods.
- Do make a few laps to compare products and prices.
- Don’t settle for overpriced items. See if you can bargain with vendors.
- Do mingle with the locals and ask about the story behind their goods.
- Do sample the local cuisine and treat yourself.
- Do remember to take in the sights and sounds.
What to Buy
1. Jewelry. Perhaps the most obvious choice, jewelry never disappoints. Am I right ladies? Look for jewelry that’ll remind you of a particular place. Seek out materials commonly used in the area (like amber in Poland) or a unique, handmade design.
2. Artwork. Artwork is a wonderful way to fill your home with character. Yes, large pieces don’t travel well, but a miniature painting, vintage postcards, a hand-drawn sketch, a portable poster, or a professional photograph can surely squeeze into your suitcase with a little creative ingenuity. Invest in works that celebrate a culture, bring back a fond memory, or that you simply find aesthetically pleasing. Antique shops, vintage stores, museums, as well as craft fairs are gold mines for these kinds of souvenirs.
3. Pottery and other handmade goods. Handcrafted trinkets make excellent conversation pieces and spiff up any old bookshelf lacking design details. Again, pottery is not the easiest thing to transport in a carry-on. Opt for tiny items such as small jars, miniature bowls, little figurines, and other charming collectibles. My most recent tchotchke purchase? A porcelain lamb bell made by a lovely couple who double as farmers and artists.
4. Lacework and linens. Tablecloths, table runners, and fabrics make fantastic gifts. Look for items that are sewn by hand and make use of local textiles and patterns. I’ve even seen these materials incorporated into greeting cards, clothing, ornaments, and (oddly enough) umbrellas.
5. Toys and candy. Sounds like a kid’s dream, right? Sweet little goodies incorporate local flavors into a petite package and make for an inexpensive, yet thoughtful gift for friends and family. Just avoid devouring your souvenirs on the plane ride home. As for children and young-at-heart adults, unusual toys, ornaments, and figurines are endearing mementos indeed.
6. Fashion accessories. Every fashionista appreciates adding one-of-a-kind pieces to their wardrobe. Shop boutiques for exotic designers or search markets for leather goods, furs, and other more PETA-friendly clothing items.
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