How to Choose the Best Souvenirs

The English word “souvenir” comes from the French irregular pronominal verb se souvenir de, to remember. In theory, souvenirs are meant to be be a keepsake of your travel journeys. Often times, the “best” souvenirs are marketed as cheap, inauthentic, or lacking the true essence of your travels. Want to choose the more authentic and truly best souvenirs for yourself or your family that capture the spirit your experiences? I’m sharing 5 ideas below!

best souvenirs

1. BEVERAGES FROM THE VISITED COUNTRY

If you are looking to capture the soul of a region after you leave, think about bringing home a signature beverage. Whether it’s craft brews, spirits, wine, tea, or locally roasted coffee beans, you are sure to be transported upon first sip.  If you are sharing the nectar of the travel gods with family or friends, consider hosting a get-together so you can reveal your photos and explain the traditions or memories surrounding your drink of choice. This will help your loved ones more deeply connect to your experiences. For my husband, this is the best souvenirs I can bring him.

beers from Flam, Norway
Craft beers from Flåm, Norway

2. HANDCRAFTED ITEMS FROM THE REGION 

Artisans and craftspeople have been making clothing, household, and decorative items in the region you’re visiting for centuries. What is more authentic than a piece of that history and tradition? In purchasing a handcrafted item, you’re infusing a part of that history and tradition into your life and home.

Some ideas? Jewelry, hand-knitted sweaters, carved or painted wooden items, instruments… Do a little digging on the history of the region you are visiting and try to locate an item that is made by a local craftsman. I am certain these would be the best souvenirs for a mother or mother-in-law.

Beljandi
Amanda and I are all smiles in our traditional Icelandic lopapeysas. Each of our sweaters were knitted by a local woman in the East Fjords. 

3. BOOKS FROM LOCAL AUTHORS OR HISTORIES

Some countries and regions have authors who are known around the globe. Others are not. If you’d like to purchase a book from an author from the region, step inside a bookstore operated by a local. I am certain they would be able to provide a recommendation for the best souvenirs for the bibliophile in your life.

Looking for something more definitive? Try books that relate the history, folklore, culture, photos, or other specifics about the country, region, national hero, or natural wonder. In the past I’ve purchased a book on the Icelandic Sagas, Italian culture, and animals that can be seen in the national park (a children’s book).

books-01
Books from my travels

4. POSTCARDS OF CITIES YOU VISITED

One of my friends always requests that I send her a post card from whatever country or region I am visiting.  Sometimes I have an easier times finding stamps and post boxes than others and don’t mail the post card until I return home.  Either way, I share a story and a greeting from a moment during my travels. To my friend Molly, these are the best souvenirs I can send.

When my grandfather was in the Army during World War II he was in Italy. Although he passed away more than 20 years ago, I still have the words he wrote on the back of the postcards describing the city of Verona to his mother. How crazy is it to think that my granddaughter might find one of the post cards I sent my mother when I was in Italy in 2007?!

postcard
Postcard from Verona, Italy. Circa 1945

5. PRINTED PHOTOS FROM YOUR TRAVELS

Ever since I created a Facebook account, I have been awful at printing any photos. It took 3 years before I printed any copies of our wedding photos. With instant access it is easy to get lazy with having any photos in hand.  That’s why it can be such a thoughtful gift! In a beautiful frame, a treasured photo hung in your home, on your desk at work, or as a gift provides a tangible reminder of the excitement, fear, wonder, or joy you felt on your travels.

printed photo from Pienza-01
Pienza, Italy sitting on my desk

BONUS! NOTES FROM PACKED TRAVEL DAYS

Whether you are into full on journaling, or find it difficult to make the time or headspace while traveling, write something down. Put pen to paper and jot down the name of a local you met.  Sketch out a scene that you want to imprint on your mind.  List the best three things that you saw today (or other similar prompt).

I kept a journal when I embarked on my first trip abroad in college. The stories and descriptions immediately take me back to my time in Italy.  I can visualize the artwork from the countless museums and churches.  I can taste that 10€ gelato in Firenze (Florence). Which, by the way was completely worth it!

10EURO Gelato
Too bad you can’t bring gelato back as a souvenir

However, when I first sojourned Iceland, I couldn’t bring myself to journal. Instead, I scribbled down the names of places I wanted to recall, sketched images along the road, and wrote sentence-long descriptions of what I was seeing and feeling. Now, I read the seemingly incoherent scratches and am transported to the Golden Circle. To me, the little notes are the best souvenirs of a life-changing experience.

notes
I’ll spare you evidence of my terrible sketches

What are some of the best souvenirs you’ve brought back for yourself or loved ones?

Want to send a message to someone who is traveling without you? Share this post with them so they get some ideas. ‘Cause let’s be honest no one needs another keychain or shot glass.

best souvenirs

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