The very first trip away that I did to Melbourne last year was a big learning experience for me in many ways. There of course was the fact I was traveling by myself and had to work it all out as I went along. There was also the truth that just because you carry a camera it does not mean that you need to be held to your face everywhere you go.
But one of the biggest lesson’s I learned was that souvenirs are not always such a great investment. At the very first place I visited, as I was leaving I went through the gift store (a lot of tourist attractions do not give you to many options on this front) and saw many little trinkets all relative to what I had just seen. I had this thought then and there that I should get a souvenir from each place that I visited.
In theory this seemed like a good idea, collect a range of small things that you can use to remember your trip and the places you visited. So this is just what I did, I came home with a collection of nine key rings (including, Melbourne Zoo, Melbourne Aquarium, Eureka Skydeck, MCG, Crown Casino, Cooks Cottage, Old Melbourne Gaol, a Melbourne Tram and Shrine of Remembrance) along with at least two post cards from each attraction.
When you look at this small collection of 9 key rings and all up 19 post cards, you are probably looking at around $60 or more that I spent just on souvenirs. This was just in one single 7 day trip. When it came time that I was getting started on my first trip overseas, it did not take me long to realise something had to change. If I continued to buy souvenirs like I had in Melbourne I would have multiple issues in not just getting through the trip, but probably getting home without spending an absolute fortune. Just look at some of the challenges
- Cost – My first trip overseas was 39 days, if I spent at the same rate as the 7 days in Melbourne I would have spent somewhere in the region of $330-$340 on souvenirs alone.
- Weight – While one key ring or one postcard may not be heavy, when you have 10 or 20 key rings they start to add to the weight of your luggage a bit. Postcards are fairly similar but not quite as bad.
- Excess Luggage – While I was well under the limit when I left home, along the way if you start buying souvenirs, books more clothes, not only does your suitcase end up very full, but also much heavier. Which of course often can lead to excess baggage charges from airlines.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to souvenirs though is that this does not need to be this way. There are ways to get great low cost or even Free souvenirs, most of the time and leave the more elaborate souvenirs for when you really see that it is a must. Here are my favourite souvenir options when traveling now.
- Photographs – Unless you are still using a film camera, then you will find that you can get a great range of souvenirs for practically nothing, but a little time. This is my favourite way to get a great collection of souvenirs that actually mean something to me. Plus if you already own a camera it is free. There are a lot of options for what you can do with the photos once you have got home was well, from print individual photos to creating photo books and putting them online.
- Postcards – While I also mentioned the problems with postcards above, they can be a great alternative to a photograph. For whatever reason sometimes a photograph just does not capture the scene like a postcard may be able to for you. Sometimes the time you are in a location isn’t right the lighting it off, or your camera just may not be able to get the sort of shot you want. In this case a postcard can help you capture the memory. Prices range anywhere from 25cents up to $1 or more. However it can be a cheap price to pay to get that memory.
- Inspire items – Sometimes you just may not be able to help it you will find that there is something that you see in the way of a souvenir that you just really do want. In cases like this sometimes you need to just do it. The general idea it to not see something that you just must have in every location that you stop at.
Overall though the idea is to find that images, memories and stories are the most important souvenirs that you can bring home from your travels. They generally do not weigh anything and will be more important to you in 5 or 10 years time then the key ring that broke a week after you got home.