Travel souvenirs: ideas & inspiration
Do you collect travel souvenirs? Are there any in particular that you’re attached to? Here are a few ideas you can pinch while embarking on your world travels.
Are you the type of traveller who collect souvenirs?
I know they’re not for everyone and some people swear off them completely. Each to their own.
Personally, I’m far from being a minimalist. I like to have things around me that remind me of the places I’ve been.
I collect art, jewellery, figurines, bottles, mugs, journals, pins, iron on patches, Christmas decorations, magnets, postcards, coins and notes. I’ll bring back food and booze whenever I’m able to. Some of my favourite items of clothing are from secondhand or boutique stores overseas and they always get compliments (although when people ask where I got it from, I inevitably feel like a bit of a wanker saying “ahem, Iceland.” or anything of the sort).
Lately, I’ve been buying books when abroad, preferably written by authors who live in that country. Once purchased, I write on the first page when and where I was when I bought it. I figure they’ll make a fun addition to my hypothetical future library.
Some of these souvenirs I keep for myself and others I give to friends. Seeking out these items for me, is part of the fun of travelling.
Perhaps one regret I have, is that there isn’t one same item that I’ve looked to purchase in each country I’ve visited. I’m intrigued by those who do.
Some people will collect more conventional items like tea towels, magnets or postcards. Others look for items that are a bit more quirky or rare, like figurines of a particular animal.
There are travellers who may have a particular ritual they fulfil in each country they visit, like sending themselves postcards or taking photos of a specific thing (like coffee cups and bathrooms).
This seemed very interesting, so I reached out to some other travellers to ask what it was they collected on their travels. The answers were quite varied indeed.
What travel souvenirs do you collect?
By Christopher from Traveling Mitch
I have no idea why I started, but before I knew it I’d collected over 100 shot glasses from around the world.
I do indeed have a mild affinity for a drink or two, but I had no idea just how annoying it would be to carry my collection with me around the world. At certain points, I’d have 30 or or so shot glasses stuffed into my travel pack, and they’re deceptively heavy.
Furthermore, I simply couldn’t have picked something more fragile. What I ended up doing was sending shot glasses home via shipping randomly when my bag ended up a little too heavy.
Nowadays, I’m awfully happy to have that collection, but you may want to collect something that’s a little less fragile and just a touch lighter!
By Kati from Queensland and Beyond
I’ve long since stopped collecting souvenirs, especially those of the ‘dust-collecting’ kind. But I’m not immune to the temptation of consumerism so I do find myself getting sucked in to one particular kind of souvenir: The ever useful, ever reliable, good old-fashioned tea towel.
I need them at home, I need them camping, I need them road tripping, and I could even make a case for needing them when hiking (I can think of multiple uses here… oversized hanky, anyone?). There’s virtually no place where you don’t need one, right?
And so I’ve collected a fair few tea towels on my travels. But I don’t just buy any old tea towel – I want them artsy, authentic, with indigenous print designs or stitching. And ideally not made in China, unless I happened to be in China at the time.
Travel Journal Stamps
By Halef from The RTW Guys
Are you someone who documents your travels in a journal – who loves collecting mementos of your journeys? Here’s an idea: a personalised postage stamp collection!
One of my travel journal ideas is to go to post offices around the world and collect unique postage stamps.
Every country has stamps with beautiful designs. When you buy one to send postcards to friends and family, get an extra and paste it right into your travel journal – an inexpensive memory of your trip!
In most cases, the post office will even be happy to cancel the stamp for you. The cancellation often shows the location, as well as the date you were there!
Editor’s note: This is an excellent idea and I’m feeling quite inspired to do the same myself!
By Jolene from Mum Knows Best
Our kids are mad about cats! Everywhere we travel, we try to find some sort of cat-themed souvenirs that in some way relate to the country that we visit.
Regardless of where we travel, whether it is Bali, Japan, France or even Poland, there are always plenty of cat related things to buy and add to our collection.
Currently, we have a few cat-themed hanging mobiles, dozens of small wooden cat statues, a few cat pillows, cat linen, cat head phones, and even a cat themed Russian Doll. Yup, crazy I say!
I really love focusing on purchase things overseas that have either have a purpose or one that fuels a passion, in this case, my daughters’ love for kitty cats.
By Brianne from GRAPHICPAINT
I take pictures of bathrooms. Everywhere I go — visiting my mom upstate, a highway stop in the deserts of Jordan, a fancy restaurant in Copenhagen — it doesn’t matter where, I love it all.
There’s something so intimate and perfect about the inside of a bathroom. Even if it’s awful, for those few moments when I’m alone inside, it is a perfect closed circle of sight and experience.
Capturing the interior of a bathroom is very much like a secret, a place few ever think to memorialise or make any effort to remember. But when I look through my images and see those moments inside the bathrooms of all the many places I’ve visited, I’m right there all over again; inside that little room with no window, all alone and quiet.
I can think of no better way to capture the honest truth of a destination.
By Catherine from We Go With Kids
On a trip to Punta Cana’s Bavaro beach years ago, my husband and I stopped to check out some souvenir shops lining the beach.
I usually do not pick up knick knacks while travelling, but a small stone turtle caught my eye. My husband started haggling with the owner and, unsatisfied with the final price, told me we’d find a different one at another shop.
We visited many more shops that all had similar turtles, but I wanted the one I pointed out and later returned and bought it, even if it cost slightly more than those available elsewhere.
I never had a special fondness for turtles, but since that trip, I’ve added turtles from India, Spain, Mexico and Italy to my collection. Each are a distinctive and special remembrance from our trip.
Find out more about the Catherine’s turtle search in Venice.
By the Alternative Travelers
Earrings (or your jewellery of choice) make great souvenirs as pieces are generally small, easy to pack, and are something that you’ll use for years to come, rather than collecting dust on a bookshelf.
I’ve been collecting earrings from my travels for years, and every time I wear each pair, I’m reminded of the trip on which I got them.
They’re great conversation starters and often lead to long conversations about travel.
I always buy from local artists and artisans in order to support the community and local economy, a key part of responsible travel. In purchasing directly from locals, I’m able to learn more about them, the local way of life, and learn more about the piece I’m buying and its meaning.
Read more about sustainable travel on Alternative Travelers.
By Ben from Horizon Unknown
Travelling is my favourite thing to do, and so I’m always after unique was of remembering my experiences while on the road – especially if its cheap/free.
While in Japan in 2017, my travel group of 3 began to notice that many shops, train stations and attractions provided free stamps – many were aimed at children I think, but stamp hunting became a regular activity throughout Japan.
After buying book after book from the local dollar stores, collecting as many ink stamps quickly became an activity on its own. Every Japanese train station had a stamp, but we’re so hard to find in the underground maze of the subway system. I even collected stamps at an overnight stay in a Buddhist temple!
During 3 months of travel throughout Japan, I gathered well over 100 unique stamps. But the best part of all, especially for a backpacker on a budget, was that I didn’t pay for a single stamp and is a great memory of a beautiful travel destination.
By Brianne from A Traveling life
My magnet collection got started when I took my first solo trip soon after graduating from college.
I still remember buying the Georgia peach during my weekend in Atlanta, Georgia – I was so excited to be visiting a new (U.S) state.
Since then, I’ve bought a magnet every time I’ve visited a new state or country. Magnets are cheap and take up little space, so they’ve been the perfect souvenir for me to pick up, especially during longer trips.
I’ve now been to nearly 40 states and more than 50 countries, so my collection is a big one. These days I only have a fraction of my collection on display in my home in Boston, but I love seeing the daily reminder of all my adventures.
By Corinne of Reflections Enroute
As I travel, I enjoy taking cooking lessons.
I love spending a few hours in the kitchen talking to instructor, learning about the food and the culture of the country. I’ve taken cooking lessons all over the world.
Because of this, I’ve started collecting wooden spoons. Unlike souvenir spoons bought in a gift shop, a wooden spoon is usually for someone to use, not for decoration. I have over 20 wooden spoons from all over the world.
My favourite wooden spoon, pictured, is a huge spoon used to stir and drain dumplings. In the Republic of Georgia, I took a Khinkali lesson. Khinkali is the unique and delicious dumplings made there. They look like little money purses, and there is even a special way to hold and eat them.
During the lesson, we used a huge wooden ladle to monitor the cooking of the dumplings, and after doing so I was bent on bringing one home. It took the entire rest of the trip to find and purchase the Khinkali spoon. I love it!
By Kylie from Our Overseas Adventures
We love to collect Christmas tree decorations from around the world when we travel.
So far in our collection we have a Vietnamese snowman, a South African Santa, a glass angel from Malta, an old school Father Christmas from the famous Käthe Wohlfahrt store in Oberammagau in Germany, a festive Mickey Mouse from EuroDisney, an elf from SantaPark in Rovaniemi in Finland, another angel from France, a Murano glass miniature Christmas tree from Venice and Victorian style Christmas stockings from the UK.
Sometimes we’ll buy small trinkets that aren’t strictly Christmas related but look great on the tree. We have a red and green Rajasthani puppet from India, paua shell flowers from New Zealand and Chinese lanterns from Shanghai.
We definitely have one of the most diverse Christmas trees out there and we love reminiscing about our travels every year!
By Sherrie from Travel By A Sherrie Affair
I really don’t remember when, where or why I started my collection of rocks. I like to think I began with an unconscious decision to try and bring a piece of earth home from all different locations around the world.
I did have a little mental struggle on how to store them. Should I mark them with each location that they came from, or should I just combine them all? I have a little bit of OCD in organisation, so this honestly was a quandary to just put them all in pretty glass display cases. As I added more it did not bother me as much.
Now I have a few display cases with all different rocks, different colours, shapes and sizes.
Some are from beaches, others are from pathways in gardens and still others are from outside castle walls.
I now have rocks and stones from several locations in the following countries; Italy, France, Belgium, Greece, Iceland, Canada, United States, Switzerland, England, Ireland, Scotland, Monaco, Spain, Ireland, Andorra and Vatican City.
I have a lot more to go and look forward to adding to my own pathway around Earth.
By Ben from The Sabbatical Guide
Our favourite thing to collect when travelling is wooden, beaded and ceramic animals.
This obsession started as a kid, spending time in Africa with my dad. Wooden animals are at every craft stall in Africa, so most tourists seems to pick up a wooden hippo, rhino or 3ft tall giraffe!
But when you start to look for them, they are found all over the world. We’ve got a shark from the Seychelles, a bear from Croatia, a reindeer from Germany and an elephant from Cambodia. We’ve even got a small stone ladybird from Scotland!
This weird little family are all set up in an old CD rack in our living room and, mixed in with our Lonely Planet Guides, they make a wonderful collection of memories from our time on the road.
Hard Rock Cafe Charms
By Marie from Our City Travels
I’m not really into jewellery in that I tend to only wear earrings and sometimes a ring or two. But one day, my husband came home from Venice and gave me bracelet charms.
With it, I started a collection – bracelets with Pandora beads and Hard Rock Cafe (HRC) charms.
The HRC charms mostly came from hubby as a coming home gift and I was able to buy some during my own visits to certain cities.
A charm costs about 8€, each bears the name of the city an HRC is located in. While most are shaped as guitar picks, there are also other ones depicting what a particular city is famous for.
There are 168 Hard Rock Cafes around the world, and I haven’t even visited half of them. And although I have a handful more charms waiting to be used, I’m looking forward to buying the next one in the next city. ^_^
Our Own Photographs
By A World to Travel
Well, if you were looking for the quirkiest souvenir collection, this is not it. However, you might get an idea or two about what to do with all your snapshots after every trip, so I’d stick around.
Basically, it all started when photography became a huge part of our travels, and our photography collection something we could not show anyone unless we were into getting killed.
We soon learned that going through the tons of pictures we had shot on our trips, carefully selecting the very best and sending them to print paid off quite nicely, and that was the only way we were going to show any of our trip albums to our friends and family.
Nowadays, we aren’t so actively doing it as time is limited, but we still manage to compile an album every once in a while. They are way better than the big format Taschen books that populate every coffee table out there, and the perfect excuse to go down memory lane. Highly recommended!
Final tip: If you are feeling lazy and have a few walls to fill, putting some of them in frames works wonders too. Enjoy!
By Kylie from Between England and Iowa
I collect pressed pennies from my travels!
I love the way that they are using the local currency and are stamped with the location or the attraction that I visited. There’ll often be different designs to choose from.
There are even websites that’ll tell you the locations of the machines and if they are in working order or have since gone, because they aren’t always the easiest thing to find!
Although they are pennies, the machine often requires a couple of extra, larger, coins but they still make cheap souvenirs that are easy to pack and carry around.
Some attractions will also sell pressed penny albums with a design from the location. These are a great way of displaying the pennies and keeping them altogether in one place.
A Box of Adventures
By Gena from Gena’s Adventures
My husband and I started travelling together 6 years ago and decided that we wanted to collect something very special from our adventures. Something that would allow us to bring back the happy memories.
So, we started collecting tickets and receipts from memorable places and put them in the “box of adventures”. It’s like you are taking a small piece of that place back home.
The oldest item in our “Box of adventures” is 5 y.o. plane tickets to California where we celebrated our first wedding anniversary and the latest is the receipt from the first gelato we tried last summer in Rome.
The point is to collect something that made you incredibly happy while visiting a new place. This way it will be both meaningful and close to your heart, and won’t require purchasing anything extra. Because we are all budget travellers, right? 😉
By Stuart of Go Eat Do
During my travels I make sure I visit a shop to bring home a bottle of beer. My A to Z of beer purchases includes Coopers Sparkling Ale from Australia and Zambezi lager from Zimbabwe.
Whenever possible I buy beers brewed in craft breweries. One of the best brews I tried this year was Mad Tom IPA from the Muskoka Brewery in Ontario, Canada. It was beautifully crafted and a beer I thoroughly enjoyed during a lakeside barbecue.
I also like to try seasonal brews. One of the more recent acquisitions I made was a couple of bottles of N’Ice Chouffe, a winter beer.
I tend to keep the bottles until December then enjoy them in an end of year celebration of my travels, ideally with friends.
Keyrings as Christmas Decorations
By Cath from Passports and Adventures
Keyrings might sound like a strange thing to collect while travelling but hear me out.
Many places we visit we would like to bring back at least one Christmas decoration as a memento. But, we usually find them to be quite expensive for what they are.
When you’re looking to keep costs down while travelling, buying expensive Christmas decorations just aren’t worth it. However, keyrings are usually much cheaper.
So, we buy a keyring or two for less than the decoration would have cost, bring them home, remove the ring and chain and replace them with ribbon in Christmas colours.
It’s a great way to make inexpensive Christmas decorations to commemorate all the places we’ve been. Plus, we get more for our money. And if there aren’t decorations available to buy, you can still make your own through the keyrings.
How about you? Are there any particular souvenirs you collect whilst travelling? I’d love to hear about them in the comments – the stranger, the better!
Pin me baby, one more time.
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Such a great post! Thanks for having us. We loved reading about what everyone else is collecting. We would have loved to collect Christmas decorations!
Same! I’ve started to now but kick myself for not doing it in the past. Thanks for taking part. 🙂
It’s magnificent to see the array of things that people collect. Lovely post.
It is, isn’t it? Thanks Barry!
I loved, loved, loved reading this compilation of travel souvenirs! When I was in Japan, I also sought out those stamps for my travel journal 🙂 I always pick up postcards when I’m on holiday, and usually buy an iron-on patch if there’s one going (though I’m quite picky with these – it has to be a nice one, rather than one for the sake of adding to my collection!). When I was in Portugal, I bought a couple of magnets with azulejo patterns on them as I liked the tiled facades out there so much.
The stamps are such a good idea and those magnets would be gorgeous! I highly regret not starting up a magnet collection earlier (only kicked off late 2016) but also feel like I’ve made up for lost time. Nothing wrong with being picky about the patches – I’ve been stockpiling a little collection too, along with pins and want to stick on a denim jacket one day. It would look fun and be a real conversation starter.
Gee, I really should throw my minimalist souvenir ideas out the window!! There are some really awesome ideas here – really love the passport stamp idea for your travel journal. And the bathroom photos and wooden spoons, made me chuckle.
Really great post, so fun!! 😀 😀 😀
Cheers Kati! It was really interesting reading everyone’s entries. The stamps are such a good idea, plus if you carry a journal and still send postcards home, would be really easy to do. And yeah, perhaps having extra souvenir ideas was a bit dangerous, haha – but I get so much pleasure out of mine that it doesn’t matter. Thanks for contributing!
I do the whole keyring-as-decorations for my Christmas tree as well. You can’t always find decorations depending on what time of year you’re travelling, but you’re almost always bound to find keyrings somewhere. They’re a nice little reminder each Christmas of all the journeys you’ve had. One year I bought so many decorations/keyrings during my travels I had to buy a buy a new tree to fit them all on! Haha great article, I especially love the bathroom idea!
It’s such a good idea! I have been stockpiling xmas decorations, but don’t ever get a tree, so perhaps it’s a bit pointless! The bathroom idea is great. I have regret for not taking photos of a Star Wars themed bathroom in Reykjavik, which I’m sure will linger for a lifetime.
Interesting post! I collect stamps. 😀
Stamps are great!
I found it interesting that Ben states that he gets animal figurines on all of his travels. My brother and I are heading down to Texas this summer and my mom wants us to bring her back a gift. I will keep this in mind while we are looking at different souvenirs to get her.
It’s a great idea!
I liked that you explained that one way to remember the vacations that you’ve been on is by purchasing magnets as souvenirs. I would imagine that magnets would be a great way to remember your vacation without it being larger, bulky or unusable. I will consider collecting magnets when I vacation.
I feel happy whenever I go to my fridge and look at them and then feel doubly happy when I open the door and look at food.
I loved collecting souvenirs but found it all took up too much space when we downsized. I started collecting souvenir spoons from the places I went, cutting the tops of and turning them into keyring / bracelet charms. I can take them with me everywhere and they don’t take up any room! You can get them for just about any country, city, landmark or event!
That’s pretty neat!