Musings, Travel


There’s a house we can build,
Every room inside is filled
With things from far away
The special things I compile
Each one there to make you smile
On a rainy day

A Million Dreams, written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

Souvenirs, tchotchkes, dust collectors … it doesn’t matter what you call them, they are the little trinkets we pick up on vacation that become the things that decorate our walls and shelves. They remind us where we’ve been and light the fire inside us to get back out there and see something new.

So what is the “best” souvenir? There are as many answers to that as there are plastic Chinese too-dads that fill the shelves of tourist traps … maybe more.

Snow globes are pretty easy to find. Photo by Streetwindy

I avoid those stores for the most part, but if shot glasses or snow globes are your thing you’ll find a treasure trove of options. Of course, they are also the perfect place to find a wide variety of postcards. For years, I’ve picked up postcards when I travel. I write them to myself like a mini-journal and drop them into a mailbox. Postcards are affordable to buy AND send … and you get a bonus of not having to keep track of it for the rest of your trip.

To me the key to a great souvenir is portability. Can you carry it with you for the rest of your vacation without breaking, squashing, crinkling or otherwise ruining it? 

I don’t wear t-shirts, but Greg does.

T-shirts certainly fit the bill, but I’m not a t-shirt girl. In fact, I’ve never been a t-shirt wearer. But I love the idea of making a quilt out of old ones, which extends the life of a souvenir and gives you a great way to display them. 

Some of these pencils go back 30 years.

When my kids were little, I always let them pick out a pen or a pencil. It became a tradition. They knew what to look for. They knew they would have to take care of it and carry it home; and best of all, I didn’t waste money on a plastic toy that would be discarded in a week. I even picked up a few along the way that still sit in a cup on my desk.

One of my favorites is this little Nativity Scene from Ecuador.

I’ve made it a personal tradition to pick up a miniature Nativity Scene when I come across one. They aren’t necessarily easy to find, but my collection continues to grow. Of course, we also try to pick up a souvenir ornament for our Christmas tree when we can. We have an entire tree packed with memories now that makes us smile. 

Souvenir mugs are useful memories.

In Germany, I’ve paid for the souvenir mugs that come with gluhwein at a Christmas market. I still have four and use them regularly. 

Fragile and bulky, but an all-time favorite souvenir

In Italy, Greg and I picked up a couple of serving dishes we fell in love with at a street market in Milan. They went against every rule of souvenir shopping … they are big and glass (bulky and fragile). Fortunately it was the last day of our trip, so we went for it. 

Tiny pieces of art remind me of my travels.

I’ve picked up tiny little paintings and drawings from street vendors in a number of cities. I slide them between the pages of a book to keep them safe, then frame them when I get home. They currently decorate the walls of a powder room.

Whether you go for shot glasses, snow globes, postcards or something else, just remember the best souvenir is your memories of a place.

There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored. Compile a few special things from far away that will make you smile on a rainy day.

© The World A to Z, LLC 2021 — Unless otherwise indicated, no compensation was received for this blog.

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