Souvenir Shopping 101

Published: 27th October 2010
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Traveling is an exhilarating experience, introducing you to new places and cultures the world over. One of the primary activities that most travelers participate in is collecting items from the places they've visited. To help to navigate the rules of what you should and should not do when shopping for your newest souvenir, I'm including a few tips to help you on your way. Here, then, are my hints for shrewd souvenir shopping.

Not many people are aware of the fact that seashells were the first collectibles from traveling. People who sailed the sea would gather these from foreign lands. The shells were then put on display in curio cabinets or wonder chambers, which were rooms used exclusively for displaying such collections. By associating a collected object with its place of origin, souvenirs allow their owners to reminisce about their travels. One thing you should keep in mind is that when picking a souvenir, you should pick one that is found only in that particular area of the world or country. You should pick the items made in the location that you are visiting in order for your souvenir to be the most valuable.

Take for instance one of the most common souvenirs: snow globes. You will often find these in souvenir shops, airport gift shops, or cheap outlets as a promotion for a lot of different places. Now snow globes do have their own place as collectibles, but they are not a replacement for a true endemic item. While a snowglobe from Miami might depict scenery full of palm trees and citrus, it's even better to bring home a label from a cigar box or a crate of oranges.

Numerous bright, printed ephemera pieces represent so much more of the Sunshine State's rich heritage and the diverse culture, as well as lifestyle, of it's many residents. Try to buy the highest quality items on your trip that your finances allow. They should clearly relate to the place you are visiting, and the culture and history of that place.

You should also try to negotiate the prices of the souvenirs you wish to purchase. Let's look at an example where you took a trip to Russia, and specifically St Petersburg. You decided that the souvenir for you would be a Russian nesting doll matroyshka. As you shop, you find that there are many of these nesting dolls and you have no idea which one would be the best for your souvenir collection. Your best bet is to look for a doll that has been hand painted as well as a smooth varnish finish, and an authentic signature on the bottom or underside.

Find a nesting doll that features repeating imagery or themes on the stomach of each one (such as famous buildings, or seasonal landscapes). Also look for similar coloration throughout, the addition of gold leaf or gilting, and quality fabrication. These tiny details will determine the value and beauty of the doll.

When considering the type of souvenir to purchase, think about how you'll feel when you've returned from your travels, and imagine the type of object you'd like to have in your home to remind you of your holiday memories. Think about all you learned about your destination. You'll want something that can be a precious item to you for years to come. Purchasing a souvenir is a method used to link ourselves to cultures around the world, transporting a token of their society into ours.

And if you have thought ahead, you will have packed light so you will have room to bring back your mementos. But do be sure to have clothing suitable for unusually hot or cold weather. Evenings on the warmest tropical beaches can become chilly, and you'll also be in many places that are air conditioned - so take along a shawl or a sweater. If at all possible you want to pack clothing you can simply wash and wear again and again as you travel.

Walking shoes that are comfortable are also very important. Consider what you are saying about yourself with your clothing choices. Depending on what you wear, you might attract pickpockets and thieves because your clothes scream tourist. Lost luggage is a fact of travel life and locating lost bags takes an average of three days. Make sure you tell friends and family where you are traveling. Leave a detailed itinerary, including your schedule, hotel addresses and telephone numbers, with a friend or relative.

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