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The Traveller's Magazine
  •   2 min read

Are you one of those travellers who likes to snatch up beer coasters at overseas pubs, take home little napkins with the restaurant name embossed on it, keep hotel key-cards and anything else not nailed down in your hotel room? “Souvenirs,” you say, “Useless,” we say. Here’s your guide for what to take home and what to leave behind.

There are lots of travellers like this, maybe you know one or you are one? They take home everything from ketchup packets from a McDonald’s in Paris to the plastic shower caps from their hotel room, coasters, restaurant menus, brochures, boarding passes… But are any of these “souvenirs” actually useful? Chances are most of them will end up in the trash at some point, so why bring them home?

If you must bring home something decorated with your holiday destination on it, try to stick to things which are useful, have some sort of purpose. T-Shirts, salt and pepper shakers, mugs and magnets are some of the most popular souvenirs, things you can buy everywhere but are special because they were bought during your holiday in Mexico or Spain, Thailand or Australia, etc. But really, how many do you need?

What should you take home?

  • Boarding passes: Most end up being tucked into a scrapbook or diary but these can come quite handy when you want to claim money back on reward miles. Many airline companies insist on seeing the original boarding pass. It’s best to hold on to them if you collect/use miles frequently.
  • Receipts: Keep every single receipt while you’re abroad. In some countries you are eligible to claim back taxes at the airport when leaving the country. Many write off part of their holiday as business travel if they’re a freelance writer or doing some business abroad. Don’t throw any of them away in case you are audited later.
  • Digital photographs: Taking up invisible space, these are the best souvenirs and the ones that take the least about of space and weight in your luggage. Brush up on your photography skills and give friends/family a framed photograph instead of a sombrero-shaped magnet with Cancun across the brim. For some help, check out: How to take better travel photos (without a fancy camera).

What should you leave?

  • Odds and ends: Tree bark, shells, sand, rocks, coasters, menus, travel brochures… all of these things are pointless to bring home. Very few will actually have some use and the rest will take up valuable space in your luggage and in your home later.
  • Kitsch souvenirs for the impulsive shopper: If you’re lured into buying things just because they’re sold at all the tourist stalls, resist. Or at least limit yourself. Maybe not every member of your family needs a traditional tea drinking outfit from Asia or a set of wooden clogs from the Netherlands.
  • Duplicate items: If you already have something similar/same at home, don’t buy it abroad. How many coffee mugs, t-shirts, hats do you already have at home? Collect items that you can really use, maybe another Myrtle Beach t-shirt is excessive.

Of course it’s nice to bring back items that remind you of your travels, but not all of them are really that useful or memorable. Skip the hotel freebies, unless you know your shampoo bottle is empty at home, and the little trinkets that just collect dust and stick to items that have both a purpose and look good at the same time.

What kind of souvenirs to you buy abroad? Do your friends and family expect something when you return?

Img: turningpoint / flickr cc

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