You may or may not have your itinerary planned out. You know where you want to go, what you want to see, and the cost associated with all of that. However, if you are anything like me, I do all my research before hand and travel with no itinerary. This leaves so much more time for exploration and just living like the locals. I also do not stay in hotels.
Gosh, I think I need to write a post about traveling without an itinerary and another post about not staying in hotels... Stay tuned!
Anyway. The best part about vacationing is the memories that you bring back with you. I was once told to buy one item from each trip to remind me of it. Not just an ordinary ol' souvenir that says, "I've been to ...". The cost and size should not matter because it will always remind you of that time you were in [place your vacation here].
Due to this amazing piece of wisdom, I have a few tips while shopping for souvenirs.
1. Don't go to a souvenir shop. Or do just to get ideas of what you don't want. I have purchased numerous coffee cups, shot glasses, t-shirts, posters, etc that have all made their way into the trash man's truck. Try and avoid the abyss of a souvenir shop. That coffee mug that cost you $20+ will not remind you of your vacation.
2. Ask the locals. Ask them where they shop. Ask if there is a local handmade store. Ask if there is a specialty (non-produce) food of the area. The locals know all, so ask for their advice.
3. Look around. Not all souvenirs need to be purchased. I'm not saying to help yourself to a five finger discount but nature could be your best friend here. I do not know all the laws if you are traveling out of the country, but you might not be able to travel back with sand, rocks, shrubs, plants, or whatever you can find from the Earth.
When I traveled to Costa Rica, they were redoing their tile sidewalks. There were hundreds upon hundreds of tile lining the streets waiting to be disposed of. I thought it was a great idea to take 4 of those tiles to use as coasters or trivets at home. It was a perfect idea and every time I put a glass on my coffee table I am reminded of my trip.
4. Take pictures. Is there a funny sign that you want to remember? Go take a picture of it. Are you standing in front of the most beautiful view? Ask a stranger to take your photo. Are you traveling with family? Take candid shots of them shopping, exploring, or just relaxing. These will all be fantastic memories to remind you of your trip.
5. Buy something useful or something that matches your home decor. Again, if you just purchase random items from a souvenir shop, you will likely through them away within a year. But where you are visiting might have some unique tools, kitchen supplies, or decor that you have never seen before.
When I traveled to Amsterdam, I was blown away by the houses. The row houses are just absolutely beautiful and I could see myself living there. While stopping in the cutest, little furniture shop, there was this tealight candle holder that was a tiny ceramic row house. It matched perfectly with the decor of my home and it was useful. I love lighting a tealight and using the candle holder. It reminds be of the romantic and cold nights walking around the city.
Now I can't stop thinking about all the fantastic trips I have taken over the years. Do you have any tips for souvenir shopping?