Beyond T-Shirts and Key Chains

You can't go wrong with baseball caps, refrigerator magnets, beer mugs, sweatshirts, T-shirts, key chains, and other local logo merchandise. You won't go broke buying these items, either. But do try to look for items actually made on Aruba rather than imported from China.

Budget for a major purchase. If souvenirs are all about keeping the memories alive in the long haul, plan ahead to shop for something really special—a work of art, a rug or something else handcrafted, or a major accessory for your home. One major purchase will stay with you far longer than a dozen tourist trinkets.

Add to your collection. Whether antiques, used books, salt-and-pepper shakers, or ceramic frogs are your thing, start looking in the first day or two. Chances are you'll want to scout around and then go back to some of the first shops you visited before you hand over your credit card.

Get guarantees in writing. Is the vendor making promises? Ask him or her to put them in writing.

Anticipate a shopping spree. Pack a large tote bag in your suitcase in case you need extra space. If you think you might buy breakables, include a length of bubble wrap. Don't fill your suitcase to bursting before you leave home. Or include some old clothing that you can leave behind to make room for new acquisitions.

Know before you go. Study prices at home on items you might consider buying while you're away. Otherwise you won't recognize a bargain when you see one.

Plastic, please. Especially if your purchase is pricey and you're looking for authenticity, it's always smart to pay with a credit card. If a problem arises later and the merchant can't or won't resolve it, the credit-card company may help you out.

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