Souvenirs to Collect When You Travel

Cheap or costly, souvenirs make memories

Cava and Champagne Cork

Luis Diaz Devesa/Getty Images

Souvenir collecting can be a lot of fun when you travel. Whether they're free, cheap, or pricey, the souvenirs you gather and collections you create become symbols of special places you visited and experiences you had. For example, shopping for souvenirs in Mexico enables you to buy some things you can't find elsewhere and other things, such as silver, that cost much less than at home.

Those who want to create a travel scrapbook ought to train their eye to view a variety of items as potential souvenirs.

Some travelers actually budget a certain amount for souvenirs on their trip. You needn't be compulsive about collecting them, though. And you can decide after you get home and empty your pockets, wallet, and suitcase whether the souvenirs you've collected merit safekeeping.

Before you leave home, acquaint yourself with the following list of souvenirs that can inexpensively tell a tale about your trip.

Paper Souvenirs

The great thing about collecting paper souvenirs is that they're light. No matter how stuffed your suitcase is, there's always room for flat paper goods. To protect them from getting wet or curling up, consider adding a plastic envelope when you pack and conscientiously slipping each acquisition inside it. 

  • Postcards from everywhere you visit
  • Paper luggage tags
  • Stickers and decals
  • Invitations
  • Maps and tour book pages
  • Itinerary
  • Candy wrappers
  • Business cards
  • Handmade paper
  • Airline/train/admission ticket stubs

Souvenirs from a Hotel

Hotels like to show off their brand, and many have eye-catching logo designs. While it's tempting to steal towels or bathrobes with an insignia from a hotel, it's inadvisable because of a) it is theft and b) you may be billed for the pilferage. However, you're welcome to take home all of these:

  • Plastic key cards
  • Folder for room keys
  • Hotel stationery
  • Hotel map

Souvenirs You Make Yourself

Are you handy and love DIY projects? Then don't let your creativity go to waste. Whether you draw, write or photograph, use your talents to record your trip and then combine your work in an artful way.

Souvenirs from a Restaurant or Bar

Like hotels, branding is key at restaurants. When you encounter eye-pleasing design, capture it. If you shoot food pictures with your smartphone, you may want to print out an image and create a collage with ephemera such as:

  • Restaurant menus (ask permission first)
  • Drink coasters/umbrellas
  • Wine/champagne labels
  • Promotional postcards
  • Matchbooks and books of toothpicks
  • Noteworthy charge card receipts

Souvenirs from Souvenir Stands

Understand that there are pros and cons to buying at a souvenir stand. On the one hand, they may be expensive and items you see are ones that you may encounter elsewhere for less money. On the other hand, if you know you will not pass that way again, and you see something you crave, this may be your only opportunity to acquire it. In some countries, it is expected that you will haggle over the price.

  • Postcards
  • Colorful stamps
  • Small pins
  • Flags
  • Souvenir magnets

Miscellaneous Souvenirs

If you have a creative imagination, just about anything can be converted to a souvenir. And once it's in your possession and you have time at home, turn your travel treasures into an assemblage that occupies a place of honor in your home.

  • Foreign currency
  • Shells
  • Swatches of material
  • Magazines in a foreign language
  • Ribbon and wrapping paper
  • Dried flowers
  • Antique postcards
  • Travel books
  • Snow globes
  • Beach towels
  • Holiday ornaments
  • Locally made jewelry
  • Embroidered textiles and garments

Shopping for Better Souvenirs

Why not devote part of your vacation to shopping for souvenirs that are beautiful, memorable, and convey a sense of place?

On a trip to a flea market, antiques district, crafts fair, or local commercial area, you have an ideal opportunity to find unique and exotic artifacts to decorate your new place.

One other place to look is airport shops: They keep improving their offerings, and in some destinations, you may find a better selection of goods for sale at lower prices at the airport than in local shopping districts. Depending on where you travel, you may want to go shopping for any of the following:

Shopping for Your Home

  • Baskets
  • Wall hangings and tapestries
  • Woven rugs and blankets
  • Masks
  • Lace and embroidered table linens
  • Mirrors
  • Pottery
  • Glazed tiles & ceramics
  • Original artwork and sculpture
  • Antiques
  • Vintage maps
  • Copper kitchen utensils
  • Miniatures
  • Carvings
  • Candle sticks

Shopping Smart

If you're traveling outside the USA, be sure to check customs regulations before you go. Some items, such as Cuban cigars, ivory, and tortoiseshell, cannot be imported to the United States, and there's a limit on the value of items you can bring home without paying import duty.

Do save receipts on purchases over $25. When they add up, you can turn them in to receive a refund of VAT taxes charged in Canada and in Europe.

Whether your souvenirs are big or small, inexpensive or costly, treasure them as an emblem of your wonderful vacation together.