Something to Remember Me By

Kitschy souvenirs picked up in Greece

Purchasing the right souvenirs on your travels can sometimes be an overwhelming task. It's easy to buy items that seem meaningful at the time, but wind up collecting dust in some dark corner at home. I have purchased my share of kitschy art and tacky knock-offs (see above), but over the the years, I've developed a reliable system for choosing souvenirs that remain meaningful long after the ethnic music and Margarita buzz have faded.

Hand-woven blanket purchased at an Artisan's market in Antigua,
Guatemala

1. Do some research in advance. Take some time to find out what the area is known for and where you can get the best price. For example, Murano glass can be found everywhere in Venice, but it's cheaper to purchase on Murano Island, where it's made. Knowing these kinds of facts can help you make smart choices about your purchases.

2. Don't buy on the first day. Unless you're only in a city for a single day, or you find yourself in a market that has sporadic hours, avoid making purchases on the first day. Instead, take a few days to get a sense of what your destination has to offer and the various prices you may pay for that item. Prices tend to get steeper the closer you are to tourist attractions.

Michael Kors leather wallet, bought in Las Vegas, Nevada

3. Be realistic about your personal style. It's all too easy to be swept away in a romantic vacation bubble. After five days in Greece in 2005, I decided I wanted to start dressing like an islander - read: white linen drawstring pants. Once I got home, I wore them twice, realised they looked like pyjama pants, and then never wore them again.

The same principle goes for your home. Don't buy a piece of home decor that you can't imagine a spot for and doesn't fit in with what you already own. (No matter how good the price seems or how much you think you'll be changing the way you live after this trip.)

Well-loved leather briefcase from Venice, Italy

4. Go in with a plan. Before I take a trip (or a few days in), I take time to assess what I need and/or want. When I travelled to Italy in 2010, I went knowing that Italy is home to some high quality leather goods. I had just graduated from university and wanted a leather briefcase for my new job, but I waited until the seventh day of the trip, when I was sure I had found the right one, to purchase it. That bag (above) has seen me through the first three years of my teaching career, and whenever I carry it, I'm reminded of Venice.

Books picked up on various trips

5. Rembember that t-shirts, key-chains and shot glasses aren't the only items that qualify as souvenirs. (Although if you really want that I <3 NY t-shirt, get it. Just don't wear it in New York.) Generally, I prefer to purchase items that I will get regular use out of. When I was in Vegas last April, I bought a Michael Kors wallet as a souvenir of the trip. I also frequently buy books secondhand when I'm away. I write the year and place of purchase inside the front cover as a reminder of where and when I got it.

A perfect example of a touristy impulse purchase

6. Don't drop a lot of cash on a spontaneous purchase. From time to time, you should absolutely make an impromptu purchase. Just don't buy an investment piece spur of the moment. When I was in New York in 2011, I impulsively decided to buy a print of the Brooklyn Bridge while walking on the Brooklyn Bridge. I honestly haven't regretted the purchase, but I am glad I only spent 5$. Your definition of an investment piece may differ depending on your budget, but for me it means spending upwards of 30$ on a single souvenir.

What are some of your favourite souvenirs from your travels? Any face-palm purchases? I'd love to hear from you!