It is sort of disappointing that you can buy anything via the internet nowadays. Our friends just told us this story about how they bought special biscuits in France, hauled them for 15 days around the world, only to find out upon returning to New York that they were available at the new shop near their home.
As difficult as it is, I think we’ve found some souvenirs that are fun, practical, useable, and special that you can’t just pick up at the corner store:
Used Books. I think it’s great to buy used books as a souvenir for so many reasons; One of the best is that you’ll find something that you would never find at your local used book shop. We found this guide to being Polish in Krakow, and thought it would be the perfect thing to read at the bar and on the plane ride home. Also, if you read in the language of the country you’re visiting, seize the opportunity to grab some books in that language.
Magazines. It’s the cheapest souvenir you can buy, but also really fun. I never go through Gare du Nord without picking up at least two magazines in French so I can practice my French until the next time I return. Magazines are actually not that border-crossing, even larger magazines like Vogue and Cosmo have different editions for different countries, so it can be really fun to get the different versions. I buy Martha when I go to the US, because you can’t get her here.
Posters. Posters are one of those things that you can buy online, but it is difficult and expensive to ship because of the odd packaging. Also, you can’t buy particular posters online, such as ones advertising a particular art exhibit or event you attend while on vacation. What better way to commemorate your trip then by hanging a framed poster on the wall? If you’re wall space is all taken up, get postcards instead!
Beer and wine. Yes you can also buy this locally and online, but we have found that London is very expensive for alcohol, so we will stock up when we go to Belgium or France. I’m not joking, we will just go to the grocery store in the train station and stuff our suitcases because it’s half the price and the variety of local beers and wines is plentiful. You also can’t beat going straight to the source by visiting some wineries or breweries and buying there. (Note: this option is only cost effective when you’re travelling by train or car)
Local treats. This is actually a bit more challenging to do. When we were in Edinburgh, we ended up at a local organic cafe type place with a shop attached to it. Our friend bought a beautiful chocolate bar with dried raspberries on top. I had never seen this brand before. Upon examining the packaging, it was in fact made in Scotland. No, it’s not worth lugging chocolates or biscuits around with you most of the time, but when you find something like this that’s not available at home (yet), get it!
Mustards, Chutneys, Teas. Same as above, just be careful. I know you can get Edmond Faillot Mustard here, but I haven’t seem them in the cute little bottles. Plus it’s fun to go to the factory and taste all of the different kinds. So basically, when your souvenir shopping is an experience, it can be fun to buy, even if it’s available at home.
Functional decor. I love Danish stuff! I loved every single little item in every home in all of Denmark! I loved the home goods shops and could spend hours in there. We ended up with the two items pictured, plus three other items and spent more than we ever have on “things” while travelling. But it was worth every cent. Danish design is a very big part of the experience of being in Denmark, so we thought we’d
copy join the Danes in creating a cosy living room with our purchases.
Tokens. These Swedish napkins have Swedish drinking songs on them. Although they look like they’re from Ikea, I have confirmed they are not. As we were sitting at a long dinner table under the full moon, still light out at 9pm, and drinking Aquavit and singing these songs, I slipped a paper napkin into my pocket to take home with me to put in the scrap book. For you it might be a ticket stub, a program, a box of matches, or coaster. Sometimes these freebies are the most fun to look back on!