>  Advice   >  Tips for buying the best souvenirs

Have you ever returned from a holiday with a souvenir that is memorable for all the wrong reasons? Yes, tacky Paris t-shirt hiding at the back of my wardrobe, I’m talking about you. It’s always fun to discover new markets and shops and bring home a special holiday memento but you don’t want to waste your hard-earned holiday dollars on the wrong souvenir. Often the best souvenirs are those you can keep using long after you return home. Something practical like a scarf or umbrella is perfect, particularly if it is an item you need anyway. That sweater you bought in Rome when the weather turned cold will bring back wonderful memories of your time in ‘the Eternal city’ and keep you warm for years to come.

If you prefer gifts that are tasteful rather than tacky, drop into a museum gift store where you will usually find items that reflect your destination without being touristy.  If you are travelling in a developing country, consider buying something made locally. Hand-stitched shawls or an original artwork created by a local artist not only look good, these souvenirs also support the community you are visiting.  Purchasing items such as these contributes to the social good that travellers can bring to a destination.

Opting for one special item instead of a handful of knick-knacks can make your holiday dollar go further, even if it seems like a larger financial outlay at the time. Trinkets are often discarded or forgotten when you get home. Something special you were longing to buy or a unique item that brings back memories of a moment on your trip is usually a more worthy investment. High quality goods usually last longer than typical souvenirs too.

If you aren’t sure what to buy at your destination, get creative and think outside the square. Turn a beautiful piece of Thai silk into cushion covers when you get home or collect kitsch postcards and have them framed on your return to Australia. Also, try to avoid promising to bring back something particular for friends or family members. You will probably spend most of your holiday going from one shop to another, trying to track it down. If you do want to bring gifts home for others, opt for something you can choose yourself. You will often find the perfect gift in the most unlikely place. Even supermarkets can yield surprisingly good finds such as cute packets of Japanese sweets or tins of fragrant tea. Whatever you do, don’t wait until you get to the airport. It’s one of the worst (and most expensive) places to buy souvenirs.

When you arrive back in Australia, remember to declare any items you have purchased which are food related or made of wood, etc. More often than not, you will be allowed to keep them but you must get them inspected first. While it can be fun hunting down unique holiday mementos along the way, don’t waste too much time shopping. Memories are the best souvenirs of all. 

Want to travel smarter and save money? Check out our tips for flying a low cost airline, keeping your luggage safe, visiting Europe in peak season, getting a great car hire deal, avoiding travel scams, saving money at the airport, staying at an Airbnb, finding cheap five star hotel deals, catching public transport overseas, staying safe in a big city, getting the best round-the-world airfares, making the most of a five star hotel stay, travelling during low season, visiting a theme park in peak season, packing a carry on bag, visiting a wine region, planning a romantic getaway, early morning flights, visiting the Great Barrier Reef, multigenerational travel, travelling in a motorhome, buying the best souvenirs, going on safari, visiting the Eiffel Tower, travelling with pets, holidaying with adult children, travelling with teens, and sleeping on a plane.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.