Window decal depicting every member of your family as stick people with mouse ears?
Plastic replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa?
Beret that says Paris?
A coffee cup with the name of a city, state, or country on it?
A naughty t-shirt that seemed like a good idea when you were on Bourbon Street?
I don't know when travel and tacky souvenirs became synonymous but it was probably when the first Barbarian child received a t-shirt that said "My father sacked Rome and all I got was this lousy shirt."
I'm on a mission to have people stop this kind of common and unsatisfying travel shopping. It's what most people do. Tacky little souvenir shops abound in places with heavy tourist traffic. After you have been in one I can promise you that you have seen what will be in every other one. Do you honestly want 3 shirts for $10 from the Alabama Gulf Coast? There is a way to spend your money more wisely and enjoy the purchases you make for years to come.
Focus on 2 things:
What is something you (or the person you are buying a gift for) use in your everyday life?
What is the area you are traveling to famous for producing?
Do a little research before embarking on your trip. Is the region famous for a particular type of food, textile, glass, pottery, or activity?
Plan on spending a bit more and buying less.
|This look, at a pastry shop in Assisi, is easily recreated at home.|
A classic and stylish piece of clothing, a leather bag or belt, or some decorative item for the home are good ideas. In any city look for local, quality, kitchen stores if you are a cook. Picking up an item that you will get lots of use out of and will remind you of your trip is a choice you won't regret. Lovely dish towels from a better linen store will give you joy and bring to mind pleasant memories, for years. If you love flea markets find one in your destination city and scour the stalls for something unique and unusual that goes with your decor.
Remember that we live in a world, where everything is available to us online. For this reason I don't recommend purchasing books very often while traveling. I do make exceptions for unusual second hand book shops or volumes found in antique stores. Books are among the heaviest items you can lug home. You could even conceivably see something in a store, order online from your hotel room that evening, and have it waiting for you at home upon your return.
If you see something that you absolutely fall in love with, know you will use, and it's a quality item...buy it. Especially if it is hard to find or in a thrift store or flea market. You likely won't get another chance. Anything in a museum gift shop or major store however, you can easily find on the store's website and have it shipped right to your door.
One last thing. Take lots of pictures. Those are your real travel treasures. You might even want to consider spending more on a camera for the trip of a lifetime and less on chachkies. Besides taking pictures of yourself at every important landmark, you can take pictures of flower arrangements, landscape ideas, interesting food/drink presentations, or interesting decor that you may want to recreate at home. You may come home with a new recipe or the love of a new food. Remember that you are trying to evoke a memory of a happy time, that doesn't necessarily have to be weighed when you check in for your flight home.
Go forth, and spend wisely.
Happy travels and shopping, y'all!