What Kind of Souvenir Shopper Are You?

080723_souvenir_Seamus_Murray_flickrF.jpgAny old souvenir can remind us of where we’ve been, but to qualify as a valuable keepsake it should have the power to transport us to another place and time. Luckily, this sort of sentimental quality isn’t reserved for only rare or expensive mementos. After all, an item’s real value isn’t how much it cost, but the memory attached to it. How we go about deciding which objects are worth holding dear depends on who we are both as shoppers and travelers. Does your souvenir style mesh with any of these shopping profiles?

Talk travel: “Do you have a favorite souvenir from your travels?”
Love to shop? Review top stores around the world

The Conscientious Consumer

Shopper profile: You take the adage “think global, buy local” to heart when searching for a special reminder of a place. Authenticity is key for you and you are keenly interested in the origins of your purchases. You’re partial to shopping experiences that allow you to interact with independent artists and vendors, and you make a habit of seeking out local markets and craft fairs.

Souvenir wish list: One-of-a-kind handwoven, handcrafted goods by area artisans; local spirits or food products

Tip: Be sure to inspect items carefully. Always ask questions to ensure that you’re not purchasing a mass-produced knock-off shipped in from elsewhere.

Talk travel: What should I buy in… Alaska? | Moscow? | New Orleans?

The Pragmatist

Shopper profile: You love that traveling introduces you to both small and large innovations which haven’t yet made it to your corner of the globe. Anything you can use on a daily basis back home, including clever gadgets, makes for a good souvenir. For example, a uniquely designed julienne peeler could hold a special place in your heart and cutlery drawer. Cooking with it at home would instantly remind you of an afternoon spent solo in the housewares section of the Zurich department store Jelmoli.

Souvenir wish list: Unusual (to you) items that fill a practical need

Tip: Research local specialty shops before you go and don’t be afraid to ask salespeople where it is they shop.

Talk travel: “Have you used something today that you brought home from a trip?”

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The Savvy Bargainer

Shopper profile: Up for a challenge, you make a bee-line for a destination’s most bustling souk, bazaar, or marketplace. You feel at home in these often chaotic shopping environments because you relish the chance to negotiate for a good deal. Confident and cool-headed, you often devote an entire day to scoping out what’s available before making any large purchases. You have no qualms about walking away if you feel you’re not being offered a satisfactory deal.

Souvenir wish list: Unique items purchased for a sum well below the often inflated tourist prices

Tip: Study a phrasebook in advance so that you can clearly communicate with vendors. Research local shopping customs before you go to be sure that haggling for a lower price is expected.

Talk travel: “What souvenir do you regret not buying?”

The Collector of Classics

Shopper profile: Splurging on a well-made, iconic item that symbolizes a destination’s culture or boasts its own history is your idea of a quality souvenir. Shopping for these often higher-priced goods can involve looking through glass cases, taking a private studio tour, or using the services of a skilled tailor. The purchase can almost feel like the trip’s raison d’etre; you’ll research the purchase well in advance and may even consult with a local specialist on your arrival.

Souvenir wish list: Something sparkly from Tiffany’s in New York; an intricately woven rug in Turkey; a tailored suit in Hong Kong.

Tip: Always try to make big-ticket purchases with a credit card—you’ll automatically have a record of the purchase and it will be easier to dispute the charge should it be necessary.

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The Collector of Kitsch

Shopper profile: Classy purchases like the ones mentioned above might mean you have great taste, but they certainly don’t scream “fun.” On the other end of the spectrum are kitschy, glaringly tacky souvenirs that are easy to collect and display. Look where your sense of humor has taken you! A glance of the bobble head hula doll in your rear-view mirror during your morning commute is enough to get you through the day.

Souvenir wish list: Anything that you can collect across multiple destinations–it’s a bonus if it moves, makes noise, or lights up

Tip: Flying home? Don’t pack snow globes in your carry-on; they’re not allowed by the TSA.

Talk travel: “What is the silliest thing you’ve bought on a trip?”

The Smart Scrapbooker

Shopper profile: You know that sometimes the best souvenirs are merely items picked up along the way from the places you pass through. Longtime Fodor’s member tomassocroccante reminded fellow travelers of this lesson recently in a conversation on our Forums: “Years ago a chef at the restaurant where I worked asked me to bring him something from a trip. Anything, he said, a matchbook, etc – nothing purchased, just something from the country, for good luck. That got me to start noticing some of the freebies that make good souvenirs for their authenticity. Funny sugar packets, advertising items, takeaway menus, etc.”

Souvenir wish list: Restaurant matchbooks, business cards; anything that can be pasted later into an album or kept for safekeeping until a return visit.

Tip: Pack a plastic sandwich bag in your suitcase to keep cards organized.

Talk travel: “Do you have a favorite souvenir from your travels?”
Love to shop? Review top stores around the world

Photo credits: (1) photo by Seamus Murray; (2) photo by Jim Snapper; (3) photo by Chris Watson.

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