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How to Buy Souvenirs That Are Inexpensive But Still Unique

July 16, 2014
Personal Finance
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Whether you’re a frequent traveler or go on a trip only every few years, finding the right momento to remember your adventures by is an important part of the journey. Finding inexpensive yet unique souvenirs is easy if you follow this guide on where to shop, what to look for and how to get a great price.

Where to look

When looking for one-of-a-kind souvenirs, check out local flea markets and festivals. Especially at festivals, you can find souvenirs custom-made for the event. These places often have vendors trying to appeal to locals, so these items will be more authentic and still affordable. When I was in Japan, I bought several charms while visiting a local Shinto shrine. These charms are sold to anyone visiting the shrine, not just tourists.

Even small shops or stands can have interesting items. I stumbled across an antique shop in Stockholm and bought several silver buttons with the royal family’s crest on them. I then strung the buttons on chains and had a unique souvenir to wear! Keep in mind that if you’re traveling during holidays, this is a chance to find seasonal souvenirs. Many cultures have celebrations during spring, summer and fall, so find out if your destination will have something special going on while you’re there.

What to choose

Now that you know where you’re going to get some great momentos, what should you be looking for? Figurines, paper products, items made from cloth, candy—these all are ideal as they will be easy to pack and carry home due to their light weight, small size and unlikeliness to break when your luggage is tossed around.

Consider the area’s traditions and claims to fame. Sometimes the place you’re visiting is known for a food item or artistic style, which means everyone buys a sample of that item as a keepsake. And that’s OK! When I was in Sorrento, Italy, I picked up several small bottles of a local liquor called limoncello. The bottles came in fun shapes like a boat, which allowed me to pick certain ones for friends and family back home. Buying souvenirs and gifts with specific people in mind means they’ll be more likely to be used and appreciated.

If you’re looking simply for yourself, pick things that will remind you of your adventures. It’s OK if the souvenir you buy isn’t something the place is famous for—so long as it invokes memories of your travels when you see or use it.

Get the right price

So you know what you want, now how do you get it for the best price? The answer, often, is to haggle. Another thing you can do is buy in bulk and negotiate a drop in price, which works especially well if you have a lot of friends and family whom you want to buy gifts for. If you know a local, having them do the buying for you can mean a lower price than any visitor might get. Lastly, be ready to walk away from the item if the price isn’t right for your budget. Such an ultimatum could make the vendor reconsider your offer.

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Illustration by Brian Yee.