When it comes to buying souvenirs while on vacation, my parents fall into two distinct camps. In one camp you have my father whose motto is “you better buy it now … you don’t know when we’ll be back.” In the other, slightly less fun, camp you have my mother whose words echo in my head each time I pick up a potential souvenir … “things that look cute when you’re on vacation rarely look as cute when you’re back home.” She’s almost always right. Case in point: the sequined fish wind chime that I had to have on our beach vacation when I was 13 years old because “it will be so cute in my room.” It wasn’t. Or the tie dye pashmina circa 2014. "Tie dye is only cute at the beach,” she said. She wasn’t wrong.
Finding the happy medium between “you better get it now” and “you’re not going to like that later” is a delicate balancing act that I’ve been working on perfecting my entire life. Here’s the trick that works for me: if you can picture how you’ll use it in your real life, you should 100%, absolutely get it! If you can’t picture where you’ll hang it or how you’ll wear it … there might be something better out there for you.
Here are a few ideas that rarely disappoint:
Artwork: No, I'm not talking about that mermaid painting that you found in the shop by the snowcone stand. Mom would warn you that it's only cute because you're at the beach. She would be right. But that doesn't mean that you can't find stylish artwork to remind you of your visit. One of my favorites for stylish, contemporary travel artwork is Gray Malin. From Central Park to the Beaches of Barcelona, a print from Gray will serve as a stylish reminder of your travels.
Antiques: If you're a vintage lover, up for adventure on your vacation, find the nearest antique store. I love collecting vintage state glasses to use when hosting a party (forget writing your name on your cup, my guests only have to remember their state) or as bud vases around the house. The Montana glass? I got it at an impromptu shopping stop on my way to Austin. Maine? It came from the shop we stumbled upon in Louisiana. If you're not into vintage, that's okay. The same rules can apply: think about the things that you collect, then look for them while you're on vacation. If I've learned anything from years of being forced into antique stores by my parents it's this: different places have different things. I don't still have the t-shirts or toys from our Disney trip in 1995 but I do still have the Disney World name tag we found at the shop in Lake City on the way!
Accessories: This will fly in the face of my earlier "tie dye pashmina" story but, to this day some of my favorite souvenirs are accessories that I've picked up during my travels. Visiting Europe? Shop like a local! Instead of trinkets that will be lost to the back of your closet, grab a pair of ballet flats in Paris or driving moccasins in Italy. As long as you can answer the question, "How will I wear this at home?" you're safe to shop! I may not wear the tie dye pashmina but I still have the coin purse I bought in South Africa when I was 15.
My best advice for souvenir shopping? If you love it, buy it! While things might look different when you get them back home, Dad is the one that's right ... you never know when you'll be back!