When it comes to souvenirs, we've all been in the same situation: each day of your vacation, you think of another memorable item one of your friends or family members would love. Then, suddenly your trip is over and you're standing in the airport empty-handed, looking at a shot glass that says "Paris" on it. The unfortunate reality is that most traditional gift shops offer very few items you'd actually like to bring home as a gift for someone. (Have you ever once actually used the woven coin pouch your grandmother brought you from Peru or the hand-painted fan your best friend gifted you from her trip to Tokyo? We haven't either.) To add a level of difficulty to the already challenging world of souvenir shopping, the ideal souvenir demands little space in your (already packed) suitcase and is something you'll be proud to give as a gift (criteria that are hard to satisfy). We've narrowed down our three favorite options worth bringing home for yourself or a loved one:
1. Vintage goods: This idea brings us back to the many Sunday afternoons I spent at the Rose Bowl and Melrose flea markets. From old records to ceramic dishes, jewelry to vintage purses and dresses, you can almost always find unique, gorgeous, decorative pieces (usually at incredibly low prices) in market booths and old vintage stores. Emily brought back some of her favorite pieces in Paris from this shop, and Leslie's favorite souvenir is an antique, fly-shaped brass ashtray from a market in Budapest she brought home for her parents' coffee table (it now holds trinkets instead of ash). Don't forget to keep your eye out for hidden shops in small towns, where some of the best antique pieces can be found.
2. Self-care products: Oftentimes, the best beauty and skincare discoveries are made abroad, which is why Katie brings an entire bag full of beauty products home from each of her trips. Look to the locals to determine what to buy, whether it's a highly coveted French girl lipstick or a popular Korean face mask. Emily discovered beautiful dried rose petals while in Paris. Other self-care favorites include deluxe body oils, bright or shimmery eyeshadows, and pretty candles (and don't forget to grab matches from cafes and restaurants throughout your trip!).
3. Signature treats: Similar to beauty products, some of the best sweets and treats are sold exclusively in other countries (see: the endless selection of unique Kit-Kats in Japan). Emily likes to pick out a variety of gummies, chocolates, and other treats which are a really great way to bring a part of your vacation home with you. They're excellent gifts and also make for a special moment when you enjoy them at home and reminisce on your vacation days. As a bonus, unique food can often be picked up easily at a corner store or gas station since it may be commonplace at your destination but as soon as you're back home, it's a rare find!