With airlines charging a fortune for checked luggage these days, bringing home souvenirs from your travels can cost more than the items themselves. Gifts for friends (or yourself!) can take up that precious cargo space so its time to assess what you bring home. Here are some thoughts:
1. How many trinkets from one place will you value in the long run? Do you need another pair of wooden shoes? How many knick knacks do you want/need to remind you of a trip?
2. Are the trinkets useful or decorative? If you’ve found the perfect tapestry for that empty wall at home, it may be worth the space in your suitcase. Useful things like a tea-towel with images of Scotland also take up space, but have a purpose. A Heineken beer opener from the factory is much more useful than a replica of the latest mascot that will only take up space and dust.
3. The memories of a trip are what we really want to retain, so how about choosing a photograph book, a calendar with beautiful pictures, or something with an image that reminds you of that elephant ride in Thailand?
For friends and family:
1. Keep in mind that what your friends and family really want is for you to come home safe and sound.
2. A small token for the dog sitter or plant-watering neighbor is always appreciated, but keep in mind what they like and suits their lifestyle. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on these token gifts – its the thought that counts. If you bring back something perishable, like shortbread from Scotland, they won’t be stuck with a knick-knack they don’t really want, need (or like!) just because you gave it to them.
3. Send postcards from your travels. The images I like are ones that have a wide scene of what I can see rather than a picture of a little dog or flower box. Let them imagine being where you are.
What about Shipping?
Many stores will ship things home for you. This has several advantages. If you ship from the UK, you don’t have to pay the value added tax and then carry the items along with you. You will have to pay for shipping and your items will show up in about 4 weeks. Your items will not take up room in the suitcase. We’ve shipped home many items from several stores and it worked perfectly.
Buy flat or compressible items: post cards, calendars, scarves, placemats or drink coasters. Small prints without a frame are also great for packing flat in the bottom of the suitcase. Frame it when you get home! Think small – like earrings, flat bracelets, or a simple necklace. You can use any t-shirts you buy as packing material around a beer mug from Bavaria.
One more thing. If you spend your travel time searching out booty, you miss a lot of opportunities in your travels. One more gift shop will not make your trip complete. The best booty is bringing home memories of the view from the bell tower in Paris or the boat ride on the Seine. Someday when you are old and gray in your rocking chair, it’s the memories of all the wonderful places you’ve been that will keep you warm. Not the treasure.