After traveling around the world, and bringing souvenirs back home for ourselves, and for friends and co-workers, we've identified what's the best souvenirs to bring back from our trips.
Waste! What an absolute waste. The furniture that we've brought home/received as souvenirs ranged from clocks, to African fertility statues, to large Christian crosses.
Clocks-we received a cuckoo clock when we were visiting Germany, a wedding present, and received a Vietnam clock(a clock in the shape of Vietnam) when someone came to visit.
The issue we have with clocks, and furniture in general, is it's too big and doesn't typically fit your aesthetic. If bringing something back with you from your vacation, you don't want to be hauling around something that doesn't fit in your luggage. Clocks are big, and they are fragile. The cuckoo clock-it's big, it's wooden, and there are a lot of fragile moving parts. The Vietnam clock-it's big, it's wooden, and there are a lot of fragile moving parts. You starting to see the point? The other issue with furniture picked up while vacationing is it rarely fits the decor of your house. The cuckoo clock, while an iconic piece of German culture fits nowhere in a farmhouse aesthetic. The same goes for the Vietnam clock. While the cuckoo clock managed to find a space on a corner bookshelf full of other souvenir trinkets, we eventually removed the batteries and turned off the bird because of the constant noise. The Vietnam clock found its way into a drawer and when locating it for this article the neck of the clock was broken. Clocks may look nice while buying it, but if you are buying it for others think if people will really use the item you are gifting. This same sentiment goes to other mounted furniture.
Is it a religion that you celebrate and it gives meaning to you? Then get it- for yourself. Are you gifting the religious artwork to someone-know the person and their decor. We've received African fertility wall art, large Christian crosses and all of it goes in storage. Similar to the clocks these souvenirs don't fit any of the aesthetic within the house, even worse we don't celebrate the religious teachings related to the artwork. Both of these items were given by close friends and family. They presumably knew what we liked in the house and decided that these might spruce up the house. Or maybe they were trying to change our heathenish ways with a three foot metal cross, and try to get us pregnant with the fertility statue.
You go to Venice you want to get a mask. In Disneyland mickey mouse ears. In Savannah a ghost. All of your vacations you want to bring home something significant that you enjoyed about going to the location for anamnestic sake. All of those items, maybe except the ghost, tend to go onto a shelf and left with nothing more than a quick glance every once and awhile. We're not going to say we haven't gone down that rabbit hole.
But if you are buying souvenirs for others, they won't have the same attachment as you might since the memory of the items are not associated. Think of Marie Kondo and don't clutter if possible.
Key chains, Refrigerator magnets, Cheap nic-nacs
The temptation is high, MUST BRING BACK SOMETHING FOR OTHERS! I'm not sure where this philosophy came from that when you leave for vacation you must bring things back for co-workers and friends. In an age where people can buy anything online does buying key chains and small souvenirs for Joan from accounting, and Frank from fiscal really mean anything anymore?
What do people really do with a key chain of a kangaroo that says Australia? What do they do with a magnet that shows a palm tree on the water with Key Largo written on the trunk? Trash or keep? They might put it up, put it on a key chain or they might easily get rid of it. The memories that you associate with these places don't get transferred. Buying the cheap nic-nacs are easy because you can give it to acquaintances without any real blow back at $2.99 a pop. But for the receiver of these gifts, your $2.99 might go literally in the trash.
What to actually give- Food
If you are bringing something for the office, because of the social need to share your vacation with all your co-workers, then bring food. Go to Hawaii-macadamia nut chocolates. Louisiana- Cajun spices. England- beans and toast? you can get creative. Food is something that the masses of work/friends/family can enjoy. By bringing food you actually share some of the uniqueness of the location you visited with others. They can enjoy the tastes and smells that you enjoyed and can bring them similar memories that you both can share. If you want to really get creative you could make the food and bring it to the office/friends/family- key lime pie from Florida or gnocci from Rome anyone? While doing this might eat away at some of the space in your luggage you might be able to do some work arounds.
One thing to remember about food- sometimes it's restricted.
After visiting Barcelona we fell in love with Iberico ham, Spanish olives, and assorted meats. The day before we left we decided to go to the local grocery store and buy around 200€ in meat and olives(which turned out very easy to do since Iberco ham is very expensive) and we decided this was a gift to ourselves and maybe a few friends could get some scraps. While we start packing for the return flight we read the customs notice - No MEAT. Well *&$#! After reading more into it, due to the way the different countries store and process the meat one doesn't allow the other to bring in the food without regulations. The way that they stop this influx of delicious meat- beagles.
At the airport, within customs they employ these friendly pups to search for contraband in between flights.
So now I begin to freak out, Lewife was more calm about the heist. I couldn't go to airport jail over some pork! I had too much to live for! OH THE HUMANITY! Lewife came up with the idea of eating it on the plane. And so we did. We had the most expensive airplane food imaginable. We asked the flight attendant to bring us extra rolls and we began our feast. When we finally arrived the most expensive meat was already eaten. There was a small portion left that we contemplated throwing away-but turns out the dogs were on a break. We brought the meat home and it spoiled within two weeks... Karma.
Buy Souvenirs online and skip the hassle
Still want to buy a physical gift for others, why not buy it online. Everything is online now these days right? Why not buy the souvenir you wanted to give to aunt Mildred from the retailer online. With a lot of businesses doing free shipping, if you find something YOU KNOW she can't live without ask the business before you commit your valuable luggage space their website information and about shipping. For a few instances we knew we didn't want to waste space on a trip and actually paid for items before we went on the vacation, just so we knew we were done with the obligatory shopping.
Buy what makes you happy
Ultimately you are bringing back memories of your vacation with you. Do you want to see the castle with no one in it- buy a professional photo. Do you like the leather fabric made in Florence- buy a hand bag. If you want something unique to the locale then get it for yourself. It's always easier, and more meaningful for yourself than others.
Most of our souvenirs are framed photos that we took on our vacations that we have around our house. They bring us happy memories and they fit within our homes aesthetic.