How to Find Meaningful Souvenirs When Traveling

Skip the future clutter and bring home only the best mementos.

Woman looks at coffee mug or tea cup in kichenware shop, picture
Look for useful items that can become everyday essentials in addition to reminding you of your trip.
frantic00 / Shutterstock

"Want to bring home extra mementos? You can always buy another suitcase! It can be cheaper than shipping." —AAA Travel Counselor Mary Nicol.

Know the rules.

Before you shop in a foreign country, check U.S. customs regulations regarding dollar limits and prohibited or restricted items. Generally, you can bring back less than $800 worth of merchandise duty free, but fresh food and certain furs are restricted. "Any run-of-the-mill souvenirs are probably OK," Nicol says. For full details, visit

Buy local.

Seek out items handmade in your destination. (Ask a local to recommend a specific shopping street or artisan.) Buying one-of-a-kind items will support the region's economy, and your keepsakes will possess a strong connection to the place.

Buy not so local.

Mass-produced items such as magnets and postcards from your various travels can make for a fun collection, especially when displayed together.

Include your loved ones.

Thoughtful souvenir gifts are cherished. Nicol and her husband gave their moms hand-stitched decorations. Says Nicol, "When they display them, they can say, ‘Our kids got this on their honeymoon in Slovakia!' "