By Michelle Yastremsky
Tired of bringing home the same old magnets and postcards from your trips? Chances are, your relatives are also tired of receiving them!
On your next trip, bring home something they’ll (or you’ll) not only love, but also be able to make good use of. And if you’re traveling within the next few weeks, your destination is also a great place to pick up your Christmas gifts (two birds with one stone!) Here are 8 great souvenir ideas that’ll do more than just clutter up the refrigerator door:
Deck the halls!
The holidays may be celebrated worldwide, but each country and culture has their own special pattern or story associated with this magical time of year. Pick up a homemade ornament that tells a unique story and also helps add some dazzle to the decoration!
Tunes worth traveling for.
The haunting sounds of an ancient Swedish herding call, an acoustic solo from a Spanish guitar, there are few things more powerful and moving than the traditional sounds of a people. While you may not find charming musical boxes playing Mozart outside of Vienna, a CD or vinyl will do the trick! Even better if you find a local street performer selling their sounds – support the community and make a memory!
Sugar, spice, and everything nice.
Volcanic salt from Iceland, olive oil from Italy, hot sauce from Mexico...the culinary world is your oyster! Gift your favorite foodie a selection of ingredients from the country in question, and be sure to invite yourself for dinner when they plan to use them!
Fuel their collection, or help start a new one!
Does your recipient have a favorite book, with its worn binding and folded pages, showing signs of years of love? Why not surprise them with a copy of it in a different language or with a unique cover? Or perhaps their study is filled with framed currency from around the world? If you’re a seasoned traveler, you can even help them start a collection – see just how many different types of coins and currencies you can help them amass!
Bath and body gifts for the friend who couldn't make it.
From mud masks from the Dead Sea to cult beauty favorites (snail drops, anyone?) from Korea, surprise your special someone with a unique gift that lets them pamper themselves even if they couldn't join you on the trip.
Say it in style!
If you want to bring them something they can wear, there are much better options than a generic I <3 NY shirt! Bring home a one-of-a-kind hand-woven keepsake from Avoca In Ireland’s County Wicklow, or keep your loved ones warm with an Icelandic Wool sweater - they'll love that you took the time to choose a gift that suits their unique personality.
One-of-a-kind gifts that tell a story.
Support local artists while bringing your special someone a one-of-a-kind gift! You can find sellers peddling their wares at flea markets, craft fairs, small galleries, and even on the streets in popular tourist areas. You can find paintings depicting the city’s most famous attractions or crafts celebrating traditional craft styles.
A culinary experience, now in hardcover!
If you’re unsure about bringing over local ingredients or want to gift them something they can use forever and not just for a meal, surprise your friends with a cookbook celebrating the most authentic and traditional recipes! Make this gift extra special by offering to join your friend in making one of the dishes together, perhaps your favorite one from your travels.
Don't limit yourself to gift shops.
Local craft shops and weekend flea markets are a great place to find one-of-a-kind gifts they’re sure to appreciate. Museum shops will also carry a wide variety of eclectic and unique gifts, so even if you’re not ready to embark on a day of culture, you can still stop by the shop and pick up a quirky gift or two!
Check with Customs.
Keep in mind you’ll have to declare everything you are bringing over with Customs, so be sure your gifts meet the guidelines of your country’s import laws before climbing to the top of Iceland's Mt. Hekla to collect some volcanic ash.
Don't forget duty-free!
Note that most shops at the airport offer duty-free shopping, which can save you a fair amount on unnecessary taxes (and a great way to rid of your leftover currency)!