Life Travel Say goodbye to tacky souvenirs and look out for these treasures instead

Say goodbye to tacky souvenirs and look out for these treasures instead

The key to finding the perfect souvenir is knowing where to shop. Photo: Getty
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We’re all guilty of buying tacky holiday souvenirs at one time or another, only to toss them in a drawer out of sight once we’re home. Look beyond main-street tourist shops and dig a little deeper for regret-free travel mementos you’ll want to look at every day.


Versatile and practical, a piece of fabric from a cherished holiday is unlikely to be a regretful purchase. Depending on its size, you can use it as a curtain, bed throw or picnic blanket … the only dilemma you’ll face will be fitting it into your luggage.

Some brightly coloured kilim cushions will make you think of that sunny sojourn every time you relax on the couch – the sturdy, tapestry-woven fabric also makes a great floor rug or sofa throw. If you find a heavy rug you love but know it’s too cumbersome to lug onto the plane, you can often have it shipped home – rug sellers are used to it.

Dream destinations for textiles: India, Turkey, Iran, Tibet

Handcrafts Shirley Meisels
Photo: Shirley Meisels

Local handicrafts

Before you hit the road, do some research on the local specialties of your destination. What is the region known for? Think traditional espadrilles in Spain or a woven palm-leaf bag from that tropical island escape.

Dream destinations for local handicrafts: South Africa, South-East Asia, Peru, Chile
Tip: It’s worth checking with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection before filling your suitcase with market finds, as there are certain restrictions on what can and can’t be brought back into the country. This is particularly important if your items contain wood, feathers, rawhide, animal horns or bones.


From a richly glazed vase to a dainty tea set, a handmade piece of pottery can be a lovely reminder of a faraway place or a weekend adventure. Visit local markets, artisan co-operatives and secondhand shops for your best chance to come across a unique piece.

If you trust yourself enough to pack them safely on the way home, a pottery purchase can be a handy addition to your home. Colourful cups and bowls are the perfect mix of useful and ornamental – use them to hold pens, rings and other trinkets.

Dream destinations for ceramics: Morocco, Japan, Portugal, Mexico, southern Italy


Artwork Emma Blomfield
Photo: Emma Blomfield
Locally made artwork is a great souvenir – not only is it often a one-off piece that you won’t find anywhere else, there’s also the feel-good factor of knowing you’re supporting local artists. Seek out lesser-known art markets off the beaten track – who knows what you might uncover?

Choose a piece that catches your eye immediately, whether it be a bright watercolour or a moody monochrome photograph – the most important thing is that it takes you back to your happy place every time you look at it.

Dream destinations for artwork: Outback Australia


What could be a more personal holiday memento than a picture you’ve taken yourself? Snap away as much as you can on your travels and do an edit when you get home, choosing the best ones to have printed and framed.

If you’re having difficulty picking only a few favourites, turn them into a fun collage. Short on frames? Hang them along a piece of twine with small wooden pegs or display them on a cork board using colourful pins.

Photos L Weatherbee Design
Photo: L. Weatherbee Design Studio

Edible delicacies

With taste and smell being the strongest of the senses, bringing back a memorable flavour from our travels might just be the quickest way to transport back to a more relaxed moment in time.

Look for gourmet goodies with packaging that will last long after the use-by date, like sweet tea tins and beautifully labelled glass jars that can be reused to hold knick-knacks.

Visit food and farmers’ markets to discover locally made goods that you’ll be able to transport, such as oils, vinegars, spices and salt.  You’ll be reminded of your little seaside shack every time you sprinkle Fleur de sel onto your morning avo on toast!

Dream destinations for edibles: Jordan, France, Italy


Souvenirs tumbleweed dandelion
Photo: tumbleweed and
Whether it’s a beaded necklace or an intricate golden headpiece, jewellery needn’t merely be worn when you return from your travels – framed or draped over a vase, it can also become a decorative item that adds character and soul to a home.

Dream destinations for jewellery: South-East Asia, East Africa, Middle East


Bringing back a piece of history from a country you love can add a feel-good touch to any room of the house, and browsing second hand markets and antique shops for treasures will add a fun dimension to your journey. Even small finds can make a big impact at home when they’re put on display.

Dream destinations for antiques: Argentina, France, Spain, Britain, US

– Samantha van Egmond on Houzz