6 Travel Souvenir Ideas: The Best Things To Buy On Vacation

We all like bringing souvenirs back home from our travels to remind us of the places we have visited.

In today’s economy and easy access to the world, one thing that’s sure changed for the worse is authenticity.

When was the last time you saw something unique and interesting in a souvenir shop which you couldn’t buy in all the souvenir shops in all the other places you’ve visited?

6 Souvenir Ideas

From t-shirts to wooden figures, from ceramics to refrigerator magnets, you can find the same souvenirs in every corner of the world. Sometimes it’s only the name of the place where you buy them that’s changing.

These are the kind of souvenirs which end collecting dust in some corner of your home or in the basement.

What’s the point of finding, buying, and displaying something, which is unauthentic, cheaply made, and overpriced? Or even worse, wearing it?

Did you see those disgusted looks the last time you wore an “I [heart] some-touristy-place” neon t-shirt?

After making all possible mistakes in choosing travel souvenirs myself, I’ve managed to learn and I’ve gathered my best souvenirs ideas, which I’m happy to share with you!

The Best Travel Souvenir Ideas Which Will Bring You Jealous Looks

So what are the best souvenir ideas which aren’t going to end collecting dust, long forgotten and never to be shown or used?

You have to ask yourself first, what is the purpose of buying a souvenir in the first place?

  • Is it to help you remember your trip?
  • Are you trying to make your vacation feeling last longer?
  • Do you want to show off and make your friends jealous of the places you’ve been to?
  • Are you buying it for someone else to let them know you thought of them while travelling?

Here are 6 travel souvenir ideas which check all the right boxes.

They will make your friends jealous, they are useful, and they are fun to bring back home as well.

1. Something For Your Stomach

You eat, let me guess, three meals per day? Don’t lie to me, you eat at least twice a day, don’t you?

If you bring something consumable from your vacation, your travel experience will be prolonged beyond the time you spent in an incredible resort (exploring secluded Dominican Republic beaches, maybe?).

The souvenir ideas in this category are endless:

  • Pack a few unripe mangoes or pineapples and eat them within a few days of your return.
  • Buy a pack of coffee or tea and enjoy a hot drink each morning in the upcoming weeks.
  • Get a pack of snacks, nuts, or dry fruits to munch in front of the TV in the evenings.
  • Bring back some typical spices and mix them in your kitchen for the next month or so.
  • Learn a new dish and use the recipe to impress your friends the next time they visit you.
  • Get a bottle of the local (alcoholic) beverage and mix your friends or family a new drink.

Make sure you buy these items from a supermarket or a vendor, not a souvenir or tourist-oriented shop.

There’s no way something like this will end in your basement, right? It won’t even take up space on your shelves because it will be (sadly) gone.

Except for the recipe!

2. Something For Your Outfit

I know I hinted t-shirts are stupid and widely found everywhere but hear me out.

I’m not talking about the souvenir shops t-shirts, hoodies, or caps with “I HEART [input name of touristy place here]”. I’m talking about genuine typical clothes from the place you have visited.

For example:

  • A cool woollen cardigan from Portugal or Ireland.
  • T-shirts from a local brand which is not widely popular in your state.
  • A new pair of shoes, flip-flops, or sandals.
  • Even a sexy negligee!
  • A piece of hand-made jewellery. Mallorca is famous for their pearls while the Dominican Republic for the rare larimar.

You get the picture.

Make sure you buy something which you’ll actually wear back home and not just hang in your wardrobe.

A sombrero or a poncho might seem fun and a good souvenir idea at the time, but when exactly are you going to wear them?

Try to find a little boutique or even a shopping mall with local brands. Don’t just go to the next souvenir shop by the beach.

Chances are, everyone back home will ask where you got your new piece of clothing or jewellery.

3. Something For Your Everyday Use

I’ll admit, coffee mugs or ceramic pots are some of the most touristic souvenirs possible.

But if you’re actually going to use them for your morning coffee or to serve snacks to your friends during the next party, why not?

There are a few things you should consider about these souvenir ideas:

  • Make sure they are authentic and not made in China with only the label being printed somewhere nearby.
  • Check that the quality matches the price. These are some of the favourite tourist souvenirs and prices are usually based on the location of the shop and the number of tourists passing by. Visit a few shops and compare prices before deciding what to buy. It is best to purchase from a store where locals shop, for example, a large supermarket. Sometimes factories are a good option, other times they’re the biggest tourist traps. Don’t pay more than you might pay back home.
  • Are you really going to use that glass, cup, dish, or pot? Or are the colours of the decoration hypnotising you? Is the seller too pushy? If you’re unsure, just walk away. If you still want to buy it the next day, just come back. The store won’t run out of stock overnight.

We once bought a wine bottle stopper. Although it’s not the prettiest souvenir or a high quality one, it serves its purpose and the memories it brings are invaluable to us.

Another time we brought a hammock back home! That is something everyone who knows us is really jealous of. Of course, we had to carefully consider if it would fit on our balcony before purchasing it. Don’t be spontaneous with a souvenir idea like this.

4. Something For The Walls Of Your Home

South African Picture On The Wall
A beautiful African scene, bought in Knysna, South Africa, from the incredible Peggy

Looking at the same pictures day after day in your home will make you ignore them after a while. They’ll stop serving their purpose.

So why not consider adding a few new ones or exchanging some of the old ones?

Here are a few travel souvenir ideas in this category for you:

  • Take lots of photos. Sort them well, choose the ones which make you most proud of or bring back the nicest memories. Printing them will only cost you a few cents, but the memories they’ll evoke each day from your walls are priceless.
  • Send yourself a postcard. Time it to arrive after you’ve come back from your vacation and it will feel like time travel. You can then pin the postcard somewhere around your home.
  • Buy a poster or a picture. Make sure you can transport it properly. You don’t want the disappointment of it being ruined when you unpack your luggage.
  • Bring only a picture frame. Sometimes a beautifully ornamented frame is as much fun to look at as the image it holds.
  • A mask you can hang over your couch is always something unusual and interesting to show to your friends. No matter if it’s a papier-mâché mask from Venice, a wooden carving from an African village, or a Mexican lucha libre wrestler mask, they’re all eye-catchers.

5. Something For Your Next Trip

Set your imagination free.

What is it you need during a trip?

Have you searched back home to buy a swimming suit in winter or a ski mask in the middle of the hottest summer days?

It’s much easier to find what you need for a vacation once you’ve arrived at your destination.

  • A good book is very useful not only next time you travel but also at home. It doesn’t really matter if you pick up a book about your destination, its people or history, or a fiction novel. While you’re reading it and each time you look at it on the shelf, you’ll remember your vacation.
  • A gadget or a tool you always forget to pack or buy back home. This could be anything: a pocket knife, a travel pillow, an adaptor, a small flashlight.
  • Toiletries to either use at home or during your next vacation. In many countries, local cosmetics are much more affordable than at home. For example, aloe is widely used in many creams and lotions and you can find a large number of products on the Canary Islands, one of the biggest aloe growers.
  • A new pair of sunglasses, new bathing suit, swimming goggles, a ski mask, a beach towel, or a sarong: these are products, which are seasonally available back home, but you can always find at vacation destinations.

Need more ideas? Check this list of practical travel gifts for further inspiration.

6. Something Priceless

Souvenirs are just a way to make us remember our travels. The sentimental value they have to us often exceeds their practical use or their actual price.

Sometimes it’s best not to buy anything but just to pick up something small from a place you enjoyed:

  • a little stone from the Sahara desert;
  • a few seashells from a Caribbean beach;
  • a maple leaf from Canada;
  • a small container of sand from a tropical island;
  • several coins or banknotes from the local currency.

Even a matchbox from that place where you had the most delicious cocktail ever is an excellent souvenir idea.

Beware Of Souvenir Ideas Which Will Bring You Into Trouble

Whatever you decide to take with you, don’t forget that some items are actually forbidden to export or their amounts are strictly regulated. Make sure you check each country’s rules so you don’t end up in trouble.

  • Live or stuffed animals are not a good idea to pack, including corals (yes, they’re animals).
  • No hallucinogens. Only because it’s legal to smoke weed in your vacation destination, does not mean you can take some home.
  • Weapons, this goes without saying, are illegal to take on a plane, even in your checked in luggage. Even some knives will get you into a lot of trouble with the customs officers. Check the regulations at both your vacation and your home customs.
  • Alcohol, cigars, and cigarettes are limited in amount.
  • Meat, fish, eggs, and milk products are often not allowed to import. They will not only be confiscated if found, but you’ll also be fined.
  • Forged and fake items can get you into trouble with customs officers. You already knew that Gucci bag or that bargain watch were fake and the quality sucks, is it really worth the risk?

What Are Your Best Travel Souvenirs?

We all love remembering our trips and vacations.

But sometimes the photos we shoot don’t seem like enough memorabilia. We need to bring back home something we can hold, easily show off, and put on display.

Don’t be that person, who buys the same crap everyone else buys, though.

A wooden penis-shaped figure might seem funny and like an excellent souvenir idea to bring back home after a few drinks, but are you really going to impress anyone with it? Or are you more likely going to embarrass yourself by putting it on display?

Better buy typical, authentic products, which help local producers and bring money into the country of your visit, rather than supporting cheap labour in Asian sweat shops.

Be a responsible consumer. This will make you stand out from the rest of the tourists, who don’t even remember the name of the last place they visited.

This is more likely to make everyone around you jealous.

Which souvenir ideas are you going to use on your next trip? What are you usually bringing back home from your travels?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Even if you say (*sigh*) that you buy “I <3 [vacation spot]” t-shirts.

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  1. Thanks for these ideas. My uncle likes tobacco. I think I’ll just look up some tobacco for his souvenir from my business trip.

    1. Hi Kayla, not that I approve smoking, but if that’s what your uncle likes – make the man happy and bring him some tobacco as souvenir from your trip :)

      Cheers, N.

  2. Kit Hannigan says:

    I like what you said about looking for artwork or pictures as souvenirs from your last trip that you can easily hang on your wall. My dad is looking to travel to Egypt with my mom to celebrate their anniversary. I think getting a piece of souvenir that can double as decor to give to their friends and family would be a nice gesture for them to do.

    1. Hey Kit, totally agree with you. A picture from Egypt would make for a lovely travel souvenir. I wish your parents a great anniversary celebration in Egypt! :)

  3. jojo vito says:

    I love souvenirs buying whenever I travel. Lately I’d been buying some artworks that I could see that are worth buying. I also buy foods too :)

  4. Alice Carroll says:

    You made good point that magnets seem like a universal souvenir idea. My best friend’s favorite animal is the kangaroo and it’s one of our dreams to one day visit Australia. Perhaps it would be great if we had matching kangaroo magnets as keepsakes.

    1. Good idea, Alice! Hope they help you remember your trip every time you open the fridge :)

  5. I would want to bring home something that my family could taste, like a delicacy…and yes some condiments maybe that is not available in our locality.

    1. Excellent idea, Jho! That’s one of the first things I pack when I’m headed back home from my travels.

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