I love making memories last from my travels as long as I can, and therefore know a unique souvenir when I see one. I usually buy it as well, and there you have my problem, because what do you do with all these items once you’re back home? Usually not much.
All purchases you’ve made abroad while being in a happy holiday mood seemed like such a good idea at the time. But back home, you’ll find that the conical hat you’ve been guarding with your life during your trip to Vietnam doesn’t quite fit with your woolen turtle neck sweaters. Or that your family doesn’t actually like listening to your didgeridoo practice.
To be honest, most souvenirs I buy on a trip usually end up gaining dust in a forgotten corner of my house. But over the years, I must say that I’ve become better at keeping my overseas purchases in check and only buy things that spark true joy. Marie Kondo all the way!
Today, I’d love to take you around my house and show you some of the items we have been bringing home from our travels that we don’t regret. And I’d love to hear what you like buying as travel souvenirs!
What we'll cover in this article
Best Ideas for Souvenirs to Keep Memories
Wooden Map of the World
This post has been sponsored by CoolGift, a fun website specializing in the sale of quality gadgets. They send us this incredible wooden world map wall decoration to keep track of our latest adventures. It took us a while to assemble everything (I say us, but of course Nick did everything), but we’re so happy with the results!
Have a look below for what it looks like, you can find this map here: coolgift.com/en/Wooden-World-Map-120x80cm
Let the games begin!
This is where things were still easy :)
Adding some fun extra elements to the map
Tadaa! The final wooden wall map. What do you think? We added some Polaroids to make the wall in my office even nicer. Other map decoration ideas would be to paint the countries you’ve already been to.
Now my office has a good base to remember all my travels from, let’s dive a bit into some of the souvenirs we’ve been collecting over the years:
Natural Souvenir Ideas
What better way to remember your trip by actually touching your memories? I always try to bring a piece of nature with me home -within the rules of customs regulations, of course. So no, I’m not talking about bringing a baby hippo or an entire palm forest back in your suitcase, but things like sand, shells and stones (although even with that, you have to always check if it’s allowed to take from certain places and bring into your own country!).
Sand is my #1 guilty pleasure when it comes to collecting natural items. I always carry packages of tissue paper (as I always have a cold) and those plastic packages are super handy to get the sand back home without getting everywhere in my bag. It’s also roughly the same size as my little mason jars at home, so a great measuring tool at the same time.
At the moment, my sand collection is boxed up, but in our home in The Netherlands we had a souvenir cabinet which was beautiful for displaying! It looked something like this:
I have my stones in jars as well, as I only take little ones. Another fun idea is to write or draw on the stones that you collect and bring home. You could write a word on them that reminded you of your trip, or simply write the name (and date) of where (and when) you found it. Here is a great example of that:
Local Food & Drinks
A while ago I had a dinner at the home of a couple of fellow travel bloggers and saw the best idea ever: a HUGE spice rack with flavours from all around the world. With these spices, of course you cook recipes of food from all around the world:
Depending on where I visit, I love to bring back something from the local kitchen as well, here you can see some examples:
Cooking & Kitchenware
Of course when you bring back food, you could also look into bringing back some cool items of kitchenware that you can use at home, but remind you of your travels. We have lots of things at home to make our house a true travel themed decor, for example:
Placemat from India, Bowls from Japan, Mugs from Barcelona, Helsinki and New York and wooden chopping board from Iceland
And yes, I still can’t resist to also still bring home magnets for our fridge (still one of the best souvenirs to collect, right?!):
One of my favourite ways to keep your souvenirs compact and tasteful, is to make memory boxes. It’s very easy: you just get a couple of shadow boxes from IKEA (the ‘RIBBA‘ 50x50cm work perfect for this) and fill them with little trinkets from your trip.
This way, you still have a nice memory that looks stylish, you are not tempted to buy large tacky souvenirs while on the road and they won’t gather dust when back at home. Perfect for creating memories and storing them afterwards!
Apart from kitchenware, we also love to bring back home items that make our interior look super stylish. Nick is not such a fan of the ‘ethnic/bohemian look’ (a mix-match of all kinds of patterns, animal prints and such things), so we settled on a more clean, light Scandinavian interior instead. When you’ve decided on a ‘theme’ for your house, it’s much easier to bring back souvenirs as well.
While my suitcase is never big enough for most of the items I’d like to bring home from my trips, I’ve collected some nice items to decorate the house with already. I find this one of the best ways to keep travel memories alive as it’s something practical that you’ll actually use or look at, instead of shoving it into a box and never seeing again.
You can think about collecting Stationary, vases, pillow covers, storage boxes, blankets, prints and posters, books, etc. I even met people on my travels that collected Christmas ornaments!
Here are some of the things we brought home from our travels:
First off: ALL.THE.GUIDEBOOKS. (well, this is only a small section, actually, essential in a travel home)
Lovely handmade coasters from Brighton in the UK
Alvar Aalto Vase from Helsinki, Finland
Wooden Items from Fiji and Japan added to our home travel decor
Book stands from Sydney and London
Art & Posters
Another item we love to bring back from our travels are art prints and posters or other travel wall decor, especially if they are vintage travel posters, such as the Australia ones below:
Aboriginal Artwork from Central Australia, perfect in our travel theme decor at home
Another Vintage Travel Poster from Australia
Clothing & Jewelry
Now, I’m personally not such a fashion geek and while I have some jewelry, I tend to never wear much of it, but if this is your thing, then shopping abroad can be great for you to bring some unique pieces back! Anything from clothing to shoes, jewelry, bags and even perfume can bring you back to the place where you’ve bought it in your memories and make for great holiday souvenirs.
What I love to bring as well are beauty products, for example, I have this Bath & BodyWorks cream that I bought in New York (after smelling it -ok maybe secretly using it a little bit- in our Airbnb place) and every time I use it now, it reminds me of this holiday!
Stay away from the tourist shops of course, and check out authentic markets and shops with local designers to get quality items and support them. Because I’m always cold, I love bringing back blankets from all over the world, so for example from Nepal, we got yak woolen plaid that we are still very happy with.
Another guilty pleasure of mine is to bring home blankets and little pillows from airlines (If they are unique enough, of course. And if nobody is looking). From FIJI Airways, I have this set, that I pretty much use daily:
I hope you got some inspiration for fun travel souvenir ideas from this post, and I’d love to hear what type of souvenirs you like to bring home.
A big thank you again from the guys over at CoolGifts for sponsoring this post and sending us the incredible wooden world map wall art. Definitely check their website if you’re still looking for an original gift idea!