As someone who travels full-time, there's one thing I don't like about wildly popular destinations.
The larger (and more attractive) the area, the more shops you'll see, peddling everything from Christmas ornaments to shot glasses, magnets, and mugs.
Anytime I've given into the temptation and purchased an item to take home, it almost always ends up in the donation bin a few months later!
That's what happens when we infuse all our wonderful memories into an object that can't hold the same power over time. That item is just a thing that you bought when you fell in love with a specific place.
(It was probably overpriced too.)
Editable Vacation Packing List
The One Question I Ask Myself to find the Best Souvenirs
I, like you, enjoy picking up mementos that remind us of our travels. Especially since we travel so much now! And sometimes, I want more than just an awkwardly posed selfie.
But when I browse gift shops and street stands looking for the best souvenirs, I ask myself one question to make sure whatever I buy fits into our minimalist lifestyle.
Is this item practical or usable in some way?
Here are the things we indulge in that answer this question with a resounding Yes!, remind us of our travels, and add value to our lives. Now you can hold onto those wonderful vacation memories without cluttering up your home!
The next time you want to remember a vacation you loved, buy an item you can wear that reminds you of that trip you took.
This doesn't mean the item has to say where you were when you bought it. (Although I have done that before!) Look for one-of-a-kind clothing stores that you can find in downtown areas and feature items you will wear regularly, including jewelry.
I once bought a delicate anklet on a beach trip so I could dress up my sandals and remind me of that trip long after we arrived back home.
The best souvenirs don't necessarily have to be worn by you, however; you can also purchase something to decorate your home!
Can you imagine how fun it would be to look at your couch pillows and be reminded of that trip to the funky decor store on Florida's west coast? Or be reminded of your Texas trip every time you light the citrusy-scented candle you snagged from a downtown Dallas boutique?
I guarantee you'll get a lot more use of these items than just another keychain bound for the junk drawer in a month.
During our visit to Holmes County, Ohio, (almost 10 years ago now!) we stopped by a local pottery shop. I picked up a beautiful utensil holder that I still use to this day. Every time I pull out my whisk or spatula, I remember how much fun we had exploring Amish country.
I may be biased, but this is the best way to experience a trip, in my opinion! Purchase a delicacy you can't get anywhere else for the ultimate taste of local culture.
In Mackinac Island, we spent $20 on fudge (Murdicks all the way!) because that's their specialty. We savored our chocolately cubes over the next week or two and were transported back to the island every time we popped one into our mouths.
But when the fudge was gone, it was gone! We didn't have to worry about storing, displaying, or organizing the item after we enjoyed it.
You know all those maps, brochures, ticket stubs, etc. that you get for free when you visit specific places?
I suggest you do one of two things with them:
- If looking at them doesn't give you joy, take a picture so you only have to store it digitally and ditch the real thing (and the guilt that goes with it!). Just say no to more paper clutter you don't need.
- Save them in a special way:
- Create a cool ticket stub shadow box!
- Include them in a traditional photo album commemorating your trip
- Scan and add them to digital albums through a company like Artifact Uprising.
- Tape them inside a travel journal where you write about places you've been.
All of these options above would work perfectly for the next idea, too!
5. Professional Photoshoots
Photos still make some of the best memories, so if you're headed to an incredibly scenic area, book a professional photoshoot!
My friend, Michelle, did this when she visited Paris with her husband. Flytographer.com matches you with a photographer in the area who will take professional photos in your destination's most iconic spots.
Her Christmas card looked amazing that year.
I haven't booked a destination shoot yet, but it's on my list. I'm thinking the Pacific Northwest could be really pretty!
Whether you take any of my suggestions above or come up with your own creative ways to commemorate your travels, remember this:
Become a collector of memories, not possessions.
If you do buy souvenirs, I encourage you to make intentional decisions on your trip (like I did with the cute ball cap pictured above!). It is possible: You can bring home loads of memories without the accompanying clutter.
Because your favorite moments are not hiding in a pen or cheap coozie. They're always with you.
Psst… follow along on our full-time travels via our Open Roading Instagram account!
What vacation souvenirs do you love?
Do you have any other creative (and clutter-free) ideas to share?
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Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.