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11 Souvenir Ideas That Aren't T-Shirts

Bring a meaningful piece of your vacation home with one of these 11 cultural souvenir ideas.

A mom and her baby wear bright floral outfits while standing on a sandy beach in front of the ocean.

As you travel and explore the world with your children, you'll most likely want to buy a souvenir to remember each trip by. There are so many different souvenir ideas, but we're here to tell you to skip the $5 t-shirts (unless you absolutely love them). The price may be cheap, but t-shirts are a dime a dozen! Instead, here is a list of 11 ideas for cultural souvenirs that will be kept for many years to come. They may even turn into family heirlooms!

87% of poll responders said they buy vacation souvenirs.

1. Artisan Toys

Support local tradespeople by skipping the store-manufactured toys and buying a handmade artisan toy! Not only is each toy 100% unique because they are hand-carved, hand-painted, or hand-sewn, but you're supporting local toy and dollmakers in their trades. (Plus, they often can double as beautiful home decor for your kids' nursery or bedroom making them one of our favorite souvenirs for kids.)

2. Cookware

As you visit local eateries, you might notice that their cookware and serving dishes look different from what you have in your kitchen. If there's something that catches your eye because of its utility or artistry, make the investment to bring one home as a functional souvenir idea. We have a Brazilian mortar and pestle and a beautiful Polish spoon rest that we put to work in our home kitchen.

3. Traditional Clothing

Chances are, the booth next to those $5 t-shirts at the local market is selling pieces of traditional clothing, which is a much better way to spend your money! One-of-a-kind clothing that doubles as walking artwork is a great souvenir idea for kids and adults. There was nothing cuter than seeing the faces of wedding guests when our two little girls wore their traditional Mexican dresses with hand embroidery to a friend's Mexican wedding. (And once again, you're supporting local craftsmen.)

Two sisters hold hands while wearing beautifully embroidered dresses from Mexico.

4. Jewelry

Almost 7 years after eloping to New Zealand, I still think about a jade necklace I decided to not buy in Queenstown. Jewelry is a great souvenir idea because it's often small which makes it easy to pack and bring home (no need to rearrange your whole suitcase for a strand of saltwater pearls). Jewelry is also a popular family heirloom and something many people look forward to inheriting from parents and grandparents. It will have sentimental value to you as it reminds you of your vacation and sentimental value to your kids as it reminds them of you.

5. A Bit of Nature

Sand or seashells from your favorite beach. A pressed flower from a forest walk. A rock from the mountain you summited. A major part of vacations is to get away from the daily grind and relax, and there's nowhere better to relax than in nature. Bringing home a little bit of the beauty you enjoyed is a great souvenir idea (that's often free). Just make sure that you abide by local laws and are respectful of local customs.

6. Souvenir Photos

Did you spend a part of your family's summer vacation exploring an underground river on a guided tour? Oftentimes, photos are part of the experience and proof that you did something once-in-a-lifetime. What's even more special about souvenir photo packages is that you're actually in them, so they're personal to you and your kids. (Bonus points if you get a local picture frame to house the photo.)

Little girl holds out a bag of Arare (a Hawaiian snack of soy sauce crackers).

7. Food & Drink

What's always packed in my suitcase after a trip to Hawaii? A Costco container of Arare and chocolate-covered macadamia nuts. If you have a local food or drink you love to eat while on vacation make sure that you stock up before you go home. Just make sure you look up the rules on declaring these items if you're traveling internationally. It's always a nice treat to break out the food souvenirs when you're in a bit of vacation withdrawal.

8. Beauty Products

Regional or international, no matter where your summer vacation takes you, there are beauty products specific to each place you visit. So, if there is a beauty product that your vacation spot is known for (face creams, salt scrubs, or makeup lines), be sure to add some to your souvenir list. They make great souvenir gifts for those not on the family vacation and a great souvenir gift for yourself.

9. Home Decor

The cultures you visit while on vacation will have some unique if not vibrant styles of artistry. From wallhangings to paintings from statues to rugs, don't skip out on the home decor items when you are souvenir shopping. Home decor souvenirs will add a new depth to your home. We like to buy ornaments from our travels to decorate our Christmas tree with, so small home decor is always an option if you're limited on luggage space.

47% of poll responders said they buy decorative souvenirs (houseware, artwork, collectibles, etc.)

10. Books

As a book-loving family, we always check out the local books available for purchase. Picture books often tell local cultural folklore and include artwork from local artists. My kids love reading stories from places we visited and it seems to help them remember the vacation longer. Revisiting family vacation spots through stories is what makes books another great souvenir for kids.

11. Collectibles

Do you have a unique collection of items that's special to you? Then adding to it from your travels is a great souvenir idea! I have a collection of miniature tea sets. Every time we travel, especially out of the country, I keep an eye out for a new piece that I can add to my collection. Souvenir shopping for a piece to add to your collection is a great souvenir idea because each item will be unique and come with a great story of where it was made.

Hopefully, this list sparks your imagination so that when you're souvenir shopping on your next vacation you buy something that's more meaningful than a $5 graphic tee with your destination screen-printed to the front. Cultural items are meaningful and unique which is what makes them such great souvenir ideas for kids and adults.

Need some ideas?

Our poll responders showed 87% bought vacation souvenirs. Here are some of their favorite souvenir purchases.

~ “Souvenir photograph with grandparents.”

~ “I like anything that is locally made. Lately, I’ve been getting wooden magnets in our travels.”

~ "Christmas tree ornaments"

~ "Since I had my daughter I make sure to get a photo frame from the destination and put a photo from our trip in it.”

- Brittany from @mosaicthelabel

~ “My favorite souvenirs from beach destinations are seashells.”

~ “My daughter gets to pick something unique to the place but will also get a keychain and pencil (since they can be found everywhere and it’s a tradition from when I was little).”


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