Six ways to pick travel souvenirs that you will use and love
By Aimee Heckel
It’s your final day on spring break, and you want to hit the souvenir shop to find something special to bring home. You want something to hold on to — when the sand is no longer between your toes — to remind you of this vacation.
Don’t just buy anything. Too many travel trinkets end up either collecting dust on a shelf or in a throw-away pile after a few years. No more shot glasses that will just end up in a box in the basement. No more howling wolf nail clippers or snow globes or posters that you swear you’re going to frame — someday.
Here are six tips for scoring the best travel souvenirs to cheer up your house and life:
1. Avoid touristy shops, especially airport stores, where you will just find the same junk again and again. Overpriced keychains, poorly made knick-knacks, ash trays, yet another T-shirt. Look where these things are made. Most likely, they’re made in another country for cheap, and in that, actually taking business away from the local artisans.
2. Instead: Ask the locals where they shop. Seek out local craft markets for authentic, one-of-a-kind art that is also typically lower priced. Look for independent jewelry-makers and painters. If it’s an option, custom order something that will match the style of your house or wardrobe to assure you will use it.
3. Look around you. Let the local art and decor of restaurants, museums and homes inspire you. Pick an item there that speaks to you. It might be a fabric pattern; buy a stretch of fabric from the market or a local seamstress and bring it home to either sew (or have someone else sew) into a unique throw pillow or blanket.
4. If touristy shops are all you can access, consider repurposing some of the items there for more practical use. Instead of an African-print dress that — let’s face it, you probably won’t wear to work on a regular basis — buy several dresses and turn them into a beautiful African quilt for your spare bedroom. Buy a dozen postcards and instead of sending them out, frame them in matching frames and arrange them creatively above your kitchen table.
5. Turn your photos into your travel “trinket.” Check Walgreens.com for creative ways to turn your photos into memories. Our favorite: canvas prints, for only $29.99 each. Best of all Walgreens is currently running a great deal: 20 percent off photo orders of $20 or more, plus 5.5 percent cash back from ShopAtHome.com (up from 3.5 percent).
6. Wait until you get home and make a thoughtful purchase online. Companies like ClothRoads.com sell authentic, global products that support local artisans. A fine, hand-knitted Peruvian hat in cheery colors is something you can get a lot of use out of, while supporting ancient art forms and a good cause. Beadforlife.com sells handmade jewelry out of recycled materials to support women in poverty in Uganda.
Even bigger companies, such as Gaiam, sell fair-trade products from around the world, such as a handcrafted, painted bracelet made in Northern India for only $16. Save money buy using a Gaiam coupon code, such as 15 percent off $75 or more, plus 8 percent cash back when you purchase through ShopAtHome.com.
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