Savvy Souvenir Shopping

The experience of being abroad is amazing. But all too soon, you’ll be back at home and all you’ll have will be your memories. And what better way to remember your trip than by being surrounded by a bunch of cool stuff? It can be all too easy to spend way more than you intended on souvenirs. What with the obscenely overpriced tourist shops everywhere and the horrifying exchange rate in places like London, souvenir shopping can be mighty dangerous. Here are some tips to help you avoid spending your food money on stuff you won’t need or want once you get back:
  1. Avoid gift shops. At the end of every museum or local attraction, they’ll inevitably make you walk through a crowded store with tons of kitschy, overpriced stuff like mugs, t-shirts, and calendars. The bright lights and colorful displays will make you think, “Ooh, that’s nice"... until you see it in the light of day, where it'll make you go, “What was I thinking?” Don’t waste your money on that garbage. If, by the time you get home, you actually regret not buying that “I <3 Madrid” t-shirt, chances are you can get it cheaper on Amazon, anyway.
  2. Search for markets. The whole point of buying souvenirs is to have something you could never get anywhere else, right? So be on the lookout for local fairs and markets. There, you can find amazing, one-of-a-kind gifts that really reflect the local culture—not to mention, you can probably haggle for a lower price. And there’s usually tons of great food you can eat while you browse. Be warned, though: if you look really tourist-y, they’ll jack up their prices the minute they see you coming.
  3. Get creative. Yes, that Guinness you had on your weekend trip to Dublin was amazing. But is shelling out 25 euros for a t-shirt with the Guinness logo really the best way to remember it? Instead, you could buy a picture frame and a bunch of postcards: one with a view of the city, one with shot of a perfect pint of Guinness, one of the bridge you strolled across to get to the pub—you may even be able to find one of the pub itself! Now you’ve got a souvenir that’s cheaper, more memorable, and—if you wait until you get home to buy the frame—easier to transport than the original.
  4. Be practical. At some point, you will have to get home. And when you do, you’ll somehow have to fit all of your stuff into your suitcases. As stunning as that 4-ft. long poster of the panoramic view from the top of the Eiffel Tower is, is it really going to make it home without getting wrinkled or torn in your suitcase? If you can’t get your chosen gifts and souvenirs back home in one piece, you’d actually be better off with that stupid t-shirt.
Good luck, and happy shopping!