Picking out travel souvenirs
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How do we pick out the most meaningful travel souvenirs for the people back home?

Wherever we go, there is bound to be a souvenir shop selling fridge magnets, t-shirts, shot glasses, and lighters featuring the flags and national symbols of the place we’re visiting. Yet, do these necessarily make for the most meaningful souvenirs? Ultimately, a meaningful travel gift differs from person to person. However, if it is sentimental to the person you are giving it to, you can never go wrong.

Walking through any city, you’ll be inundated with souvenir shops with at least one set up on every main street. In Rome, you cannot miss the fridge magnets of the Colosseum and pasta dishes and, strangely, t-shirts of Mona Lisa dabbing. By the time you come back from Amsterdam, you’ll be sick of anything to do with clogs, bikes, and tulips. Although these may seem like our only options, is finding the perfect souvenirs for our loved ones a bit like finding the diamond in the rough out of the generic travel mementos?

You’re on your travels, not spending your time away only to buy things for other people

Sometimes, souvenirs do not need to be seriously thought of, and just giving somebody something from your travels is enough. A magnet makes for a lovely gift for someone who collects them from the places they or other people in their lives visit. A tote bag featuring a place name can a cute and practical gift. A mug is a universally well-received souvenir for anyone on your to-buy list. In fact, you don’t have to search far and wide for the perfect keepsake.

You’re on your travels, not spending your time away only to buy things for other people. Yet, if you find a gift that has that extra meaningful touch, go for it! We are not obligated to bring back anything from our adventures, but a thoughtful souvenir shows how you care for the close people in your life. And it is always nice to be nice.

On my recent travels to Australia, I tried to find gifts that were meaningful but also related to me being on the other side of the world. Ultimately, this was a once in a lifetime trip, so I wanted to make sure I had everyone on my souvenir list covered. For my dad, I bought him a photo frame featuring some aboriginal patterns and then printed a photo of myself, my dad and my brother to put inside of it. For my youngest brother, who received a puppet show stand for Christmas, I bought him a Koala bear puppet. Lastly, wherever I go, I buy my mum a shot glass of a woman in a bikini with the country’s flag. She laughs when receiving them, but they are then quickly hidden in the back of the kitchen cupboards because she hates how rude they are. Thus, I tried to be personal but at the same time bought them things I might not buy in the UK.

If you are on a budget, writing a postcard to your loved ones when on your travels is not only heartfelt but inexpensive

Another thing to think about is trying to balance your finances when away and not trying to bring back the whole of Prague or Paris, to then divide between family and friends. If you are on a budget, writing a postcard to your loved ones when on your travels is not only heartfelt but inexpensive. If you have a lot of people on your to-buy list, why not buy them all the same thing accompanied with a personal card or letter? In most cities, you could purchase multi-packs of keyrings or pens, or you can pick them up individually for a low price. For instance, in Rome, which isn’t the cheapest of cities with its rows of designer shops, many stalls sell keyrings for one Euro. It is possible to show the people in your life that they have been thought of without breaking the bank.

It’s always ideal to make sure you have the important people covered. You do not have to buy everyone you know a souvenir. If you cross off parents, siblings, partners, other close relatives, and your best friends, you’re set. Of course, amend the list to who is most important to you. But still, this differs from trip to trip. If you’re travelling to somewhere considered out of the ordinary for your family, it’s nice to get them all a small keepsake. The same goes if it’s your first time aboard on your own, or you’re travelling to celebrate a milestone such as your 21st birthday.

So, souvenirs do not always have to be meaningful, but that extra bit of time and effort will always be well received by the people you love back home. If giving your auntie or grandad a fridge magnet of a Dutch tulip is just another reminder that you think of and love them, what’s the reason for not buying them a memento of you seeing the world?

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