Step into any gift shop in any city, and you’ll probably see a slightly altered version of the exact same items: Magnets with a city name on them, snow globes with the most popular tourist destination inside, or picture frames that look like they were designed in the ’80s.
Instead of getting another forgettable tchotchke that you’ll stuff into the back of a drawer and never look at again, here are six ideas for unique travel souvenirs, gifts, and keepsakes that will help you remember your travels in a fun way that you’ll actually want to share:
Instead of bringing a book with you when you travel, make one of your first stops at each new destination a local bookstore, and pick out a new book to read. You can try to find a book that’s set in the destination you’re visiting, or ask the storekeeper for a recommendation and let fate take over.
Not only will this give you something to do while you’re relaxing during your travels, but you can bring each book home to start a collection that will remind you of the places that you’ve visited.
You can also write on the inside cover of each book, to add dates, times, and places that you visited, and memories or experiences that you never want to forget.
Taking photos while you travel is a no-brainer, but to turn them into a unique travel momento, pick a theme that you’ll always do whenever you visit a new place.
Maybe, like Matt Harding, you pick out a favorite dance move, and video yourself doing that move at every new place that you visit:
Or maybe you have a favorite travel shirt or hat that you always bring with you, and you can wear that in front of your favorite monument. Or maybe you jump up in the air with your arms raised above your head in front of your favorite view. Just pick something fun and unique that you enjoy doing, and you’ll look forward to finding just the right spot to take your photo at.
Many travelers get asked by friends and family to send back postcards from places they visit, but you can also send postcards to yourself as a way of remembering the places you’ve visited and the things you’ve seen and done.
Pick out a postcard that reminds you of your favorite experience, jot down a few of your favorite memories on the back, pick out a unique stamp that reminds you of the place you’re visiting, and then mail it back home. In addition to the postcard itself, the marks that the post office will put on the card when they mail it will become part of the keepsake.
Remember the favorite meals that you ate while traveling by bringing home the menu from that restaurant. You should always ask before taking a menu, and you can even offer to buy one if you want to increase your odds of the restaurant saying yes, but it’s a great way to remember the places that you visited, and something unique to frame and hang up on your wall back home.
Everyone loves to try new restaurants, eat new foods, and sample the local food scene when they travel, so why not bring some of that food home with you?
Whether it’s olive oil from Spain, unique Kit Kat flavors from Japan, chocolates from Belgium, kangaroo jerky from Australia, or a bottle of wine from Italy, edible snacks are a great way to re-live your travels, and it’s something that you can easily share with friends and family back home, which they’ll probably enjoy a lot more than looking through another travel photo album!
(Just make sure you look up any restrictions on what you can bring back to your home country, since you may need to declare certain items, or provide proof of where they were purchased from.)
If you’re the type of person that always seems to vacation at beach destinations, you can bring home a handful of sand from each beach that you visit, and display them in small glass bottles.
Not only will this make for a unique decoration, as each bottle will have different colors and textures based on what the sand is made from, but it makes for a great conversation starter when someone visits your home and notices your new collection.