Souvenirs for everybody! Yay!

Do you like to bring home little gifts for family, friends, your hairdresser, your friendly mail carrier, etc., when you’ve been overseas? I love giving presents. Love it!

If you love to give gifts, too . . . and if you’re watching your travel budget (who isn’t?) . . . here’s my favorite tip:  go shopping for souvenirs in a local grocery store. Not only is it fun to see how the locals shop, but more often than not, you can find the same exotic chocolate bars you saw in a touristy gift shop for half the price in the supermarket.

You’ll find candy, cookies, jams, and all kinds of foods you’d only come across – maybe – in the expensive imported section of a store back home.

Not into sweets? I bought a jar of hot, fancy mustard in a grocery store in Amsterdam for

Dad would have loved this one, I think!

Dad would have loved this one

my father on one trip. He loved it! Generally speaking, I’d stay away from things in jars and bottles for two reasons: the extra weight and the chance of breaking in my suitcase. But in the case of the mustard, I just knew my dad would get a kick out of it – so, what the heck?

But if you don’t mind a little extra weight, you’ll find interesting condiments, spices, oils, even canned foods. If you have ever had canned tuna in Italy, I don’t know why it’s so much better than ours – but it is. (Anyone heading over soon who was thinking of getting me a present?)

Or you could check out the teas, coffee beans, even things like dried soup mixes. I was really tempted to buy some yummy-looking packaged soup kits in a market in Romania, but didn’t. In retrospect, I wish I’d picked a couple up for a soup-making buddy who might have enjoyed the challenge of using the packets, despite being unable to read the directions!

Another place to look for gifts is in a pharmacy-like store. Most actual “drug stores” in Europe really are strictly for medicines and healthcare items. But if you go to a store like Boots in the U.K., you can look for unique cosmetic and personal items that you don’t see at home.

Pick up lip balms, soaps . . . I even found cute miniature polka dot emery boards in a Boots in London. If handing someone a lip balm seems a bit cheap, well, throw a few of your finds in a tiny gift bag when you get home and you’ve created a goodie bag that will make someone smile.

Speaking of goodie bags, my favorite place to load up on gift bags, ribbon, tissue, etc., is the Dollar Tree. Keep a supply of different size bags on hand and you’re always ready to go.

Baci means "kisses" in Italian

Baci means “kisses” in Italian

I believe that even if a gift wasn’t expensive, that’s no reason not to make it look like it’s, well, a GIFT. Tie a ribbon around a couple of Italian chocolate bars or a bag of Dutch licorice and you’ve taken an inexpensive little souvenir and made it look special.

Shop wisely, present attractively, and remember that it truly is the thought that counts. People are delighted to be remembered, and giving gifts should be a joy – not a financial burden.

About katemahar

Freelance writer and event planner by trade . . . mother/daughter/sister/friend . . . passionate traveler . . . compulsive reader
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2 Responses to Souvenirs for everybody! Yay!

  1. When I’m abroad I love going to local grocery stores to buy typical food to bring back home! My family loves it even more when I come back with everything I bought… In my last trip to Italy my friends and I had to buy another suitcase to pack all the pasta, condiments, sauces and Parmesan cheese we bought. It looked so delicious we couldn’t resist!

    • katemahar says:

      That’s so much fun! One of my favorite little Italian finds is Day Gum. It’s a small packet of gum that has kind of a strange herbal taste, but makes your mouth feel really clean and fresh!

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