I love to have something special and unique to remember our trips and vacations when we get home. Of course, travel – even on a budget – is expensive. My husband Brad and I make sure to budget for trips – sometimes years in advance, but, we often forget to budget for souvenirs or gifts to bring home. We’ve found some ways to find truly unique, beautiful and inexpensive items that are local and that we love to have in our home and share with friends and family. We also prefer things that are a bit more unusual than a postcard or a key chain (although sometimes we get those too, lol). Here are 5 of our favorites:
1. Local Event Posters
Before we had kids, we decided that we would purchase a new piece of art for our home on each trip. But this got difficult and expensive too. Once, while in Tuscany, Italy we attended a local art and wine festival and I adored the event posters taped on the walls and in the cafes throughout the village advertising the event. When we got to the festival, I saw a line of posters along a wall and I asked one of the event staff if I could have one – she happily obliged and even took the poster down and rolled it up for me. When we returned home, I had the (free) poster framed and it still hangs in our dining room – over 10 years later.
Last summer when we traveled to Greece – we collected several local event posters and framed one. Typically, when we see a poster we like (I’m drawn to design and color and I prefer any text to be in the local language), we ask the building or shop owner if we can purchase it. Usually they just give it to us and then we purchase something from their shop if we can – like a coffee or snack. In the process, we often strike up a fun conversation with the shop owner too.
2. Local grocery store products
One of my favorite things to do in a foreign country or new city is visit a local grocery store. This is my go-to spot for gifts too. In Paris, for example, we buy their amazing yogurt in ceramic or glass containers – after we’ve devoured the yogurt – we bring home the containers to use as dishes or bowls. We also stock up on local french salt and cookies. In Athens, we buy Greek candies and Greek bath products. I also love to pick-up some everyday grocery store products (cereal or jelly jars) with labels in different languages to bring home as souvenirs and gifts.
I adore paper maps and despite having access to smart phones and electronic maps everywhere these days – I still hoard paper maps while on trips. My girls have several taped on the walls in their closet, I’ve framed them from time to time as a piece of art and even use the maps to cut, collage and create a unique piece that reminds us of that particular trip.
4. Small locally made crafts or toys
If possible, I like to find small, easy to pack, locally made products like wooden animals to display in the house, small bowls (that I use to hold jewelry or spices) or locally made toys. In Pittsburgh we once found a street vendor who made knit finger puppets, in Morocco, we love the handmade wooden animals throughout the markets, in Guatemala, the locally made worry dolls where a perfect gift from a friend.
5. Foreign coins or money
My girls love to play with the small jar of foreign coins I have from various trips. They also love the Sacagawea dollars that I got as change on a recent trip to New Mexico (and often show up as a gift from the tooth fairy). In fact, when we were in Morocco a few years ago, my oldest lost a tooth and the tooth fairy brought her Moroccan dirham coins which is a prized possession of hers.