An Adventure is Calling Souvenir Ideas for Minimalists
International Travel,  Minimalist Travel,  Our Adventures,  USA

Souvenir Ideas for Minimalists

An Adventure is Calling Souvenir Ideas for Minimalists

Minimalism. What does that even mean? And what would souvenir ideas for minimalists include? For some, it means bare walls and only the bare necessities. For others, its about living intentionally and getting rid of excess material clutter. My husband and I live a pretty minimalist lifestyle (and I think most of our loved ones would agree!). We still have plenty of stuff, but we purge our material belongings often and like to keep things simple. We lived in a 450 sq. ft. studio apartment for the first two years of our marriage, and we never felt crowded. We now live in a two-bedroom home, and we constantly talk about how huge it feels. We still own books and board games and kitchen gadgets, but we only own what we actually use, and we really don’t have as much “stuff” as most people living the USA.

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We prefer to spend our money on experiences. We (obviously) love to travel, and we like to save our money for amazing adventures rather than material possessions.

When we look at an item in our home, we ask ourselves two questions: does this item have a purpose and does this item spark joy in our lives? If the answer is honestly yes to either of those questions, it can stay. (Side Note: If you’re just getting started with the “minimalist” process, I recommend The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo; it is an easy read that will leave you inspired without depressing you or trying to make you throw away all of your material possessions!).

So, how does this all fit into travel? Souvenirs. Most travelers purchase them. Destinations around the world are filled with shops that target tourists. Keychains. T-shirts. Shot glasses. Magnets. Picture frames. Hats. Spoons. Pins. Stuffed animals… etc. Souvenirs are a great way to remember your trip and having those souvenirs in your home can help keep those memories alive, but typical souvenirs don’t fit everyone’s personalities.

As a minimalist, we try to pack minimally for trips, and we avoid buying those typical souvenirs doesn’t work for me (anymore- I was all about these things as a kid!). If these items are right up your alley, then no judgment. I don’t fault anyone for having beautiful collections of things from around the world that make you happy, but if you’re like me and are looking for alternatives to typical souvenirs, then I do have ideas for you!

My husband and I still buy things on our trips. But our “souvenirs” go beyond trinkets and things that will collect dust on our shelves. Here are six categories that our souvenirs fit into, and I hope you’ll find some inspiration!

Souvenir Ideas for Minimalists

  1. Clothes

Clothes! I am not talking about a t-shirt with a photo of your destination printed on the front (unless that is what you’d like, of course!). I’m talking about regular, everyday clothing items that you’ll wear often after you return from your trip. As I write this blog post, my husband is wearing a gray, wool sweater that he bought last year in Paris. It is high quality, a great fit, and something that he wears often during the colder months. It isn’t obviously from Paris (a stranger on the street definitely wouldn’t know!), but we both think fondly back our trip when he puts it on. It is something that he can wear regularly, and it’s not collecting dust in the back on his closet. He actually wore that same sweater in our family photoshoot in Edinburgh.

On that same trip to Paris, we bought our baby girl a dress (we went there for our babymoon while I was pregnant with her). She wore that dress on her first Thanksgiving. Sure, we could have purchased her a dress in the USA, but that dress is so much more special because we bought it for her during a special trip, and we will cherish it forever!

Paris wasn’t the only trip where we’ve gone clothes shopping. We have done it often, and we are always so glad that we did. When we took our daughter on her first international trip to the U.K. this year, we purchased her a few adorable summer clothing items!

  1. Home Décor

If you’re into decorating your home (because I do realize that some minimalists aren’t), then consider purchasing home décor items on your trip that will serve an actual purpose in your home. This could be a piece of framed art, an artisan throw rug, or a handspun vase. Consider the color scheme in your home and blank spaces that you have on your walls or shelves (that you don’t want to keep fully blank).

Avoid buying items that you cannot envision in your space. Don’t splurge on something that doesn’t match your existing décor. Don’t buy items that you already have at home, unless you’re willing to purge when you get back from your trip.

You can also consider the holidays. We love to buy ornaments on our major trips for our Christmas tree. Ornaments are typically pretty small and easy to store, and we love pulling them out each year when we decorate our Christmas tree. Here are a few examples from our travels (the central coast of California, Paris, & London)!

  1. Kids Books

We have decided to purchase our daughter books when we travel. Look for something local and specific to your destination. Our daughter already loves to read, and we want to foster that by giving her a well-stocked library. We also want to raise a global citizen who is aware of other cultures, so we believe that purchasing books on our travels will always be a good investment for her. We can enjoy reading these books as a family as we remember our travels together.

A note about souvenirs for kids: I know that I loved to collect everything as a child. I was incredibly sentimental and would save up my money to buy all kinds of gadgets when we traveled. I do hope our daughter leans toward minimalism and experiences over material items as she gets older, but I realize that kids love toys, etc. As she grows older, we will definitely let her purchase traditional souvenirs, if that is what she likes and wants at the time. I do not see a problem with this (within reason, of course), but we will always encourage books, clothes, etc., as well.

Here are the four books that we picked out for our daughter in the U.K. (as you can see in the photos- she loves them)! The first two were purchased in Scotland (at Edinburgh Castle and on the Isle of Skye) and the second two were purchased in England (at Wray Castle and the Tower of London).

  1. Photos & Professional Photo Shoots

This may be 4th on this list, but it really is my favorite souvenir. Almost every traveler wants to capture their memories through photos. Some travelers stick to their phone cameras while other use fancier options, but everyone has the same goal: to capture their amazing memories.

Taking your own photos is a no-brainer. But consider doing something beyond just uploading them to your computer, posting a few on social media, and moving on. Print your favorites and frame them, have a photo canvas made, and/or make hard-copy photobooks (I make one for each of our major trips). Our home isn’t cluttered, but you can find evidence of our travels in every room. We love it! Here are a few examples (the wooden print is from PhotoBarn and the photobooks are from Shutterfly; neither are sponsored- I just really love their products!)

Investing in a photo shoot, whether you are traveling solo, as a couple, a family, or with friends, is the perfect way to get in the photos and avoid going home with just selfies. I am a big fan of Flytographer. They are an amazing company that works with local photographers around the world (in over 200 cities). They help you set up amazing photo shoots while you’re traveling, and they make it so easy. We used their services to book our maternity photo shoot in Paris, our family photo shoot in Edinburgh, and our family photo shoot in Hawaii, and we were thrilled with our how photos turned out. We have decided to continue to invest in professional photo shoots on future trips, especially when we travel abroad. We have a couple of more travel photo shoots planned for our family of 3, and we cannot wait!

Paris Trocadero An Adventure is Calling Flytographer
Photo captured by Kirill from Flytographer
Photo captured by Jillli from Flytographer

If you book a photo shoot through my referral link, you’ll earn $50 credit toward your first photo shoot. If this sounds like something you’re interested in, you can read more about Flytographer in this post: 15 Reasons to Book a Photoshoot with Flytographer on Your Next Vacation.

  1. Edible/Consumable Products

Purchasing edible and consumable products are a great way to bring home a little something from your trip that you can enjoy as you reminisce of your travels, without cluttering up your home or bringing home items that will collect dust.

Edible items like local chocolate, coffee, spices, or a bottle of wine are great options. One of my husband’s favorite souvenirs from our trip to Kauai was coffee from the Kauai Coffee Company. Enjoy them for a season and then move on. If you plan to purchase wine, or any other liquid beverage, considering buy these inflatable wine bottle protectors before you leave on your trip. They will protect your luggage and other packed belongings if the bottle(s) happen to break in transit.

Non-edible, but still consumable items, to consider would be soaps, lotions, or notebooks. Don’t purchase a nice bar of soap if you have ten other bars of soap sitting at home untouched, and don’t buy a bottle of lotion if you do not typically use lotion. Consider items that you already use and then purchase them while you’re traveling to make them more special. Avoid buying a notebook if you don’t ever write in them, but go ahead and buy a nice one if notebooks are something you already use. Again, just really consider what items you would purchase at home.

  1. Practical/Household Items

I’ll end this list of ideas by suggesting practical and household items. Consider the things you really need- something you’ve been meaning to buy or something in your home that you are already planning to replace, then consider purchasing it on your trip. This could be as simple as a hairbrush, a kitchen utensil, or a beach towel. I’ve already mentioned clothing, but items like warm scarves or swim suits can also fall into this category and can be used while you’re on your trip.

Mugs are a typical souvenir item that a lot of people enjoy collecting. While we do not have a mug collection, we have picked up a couple over the years that really stood out to us (we have purged our mugs to only include a matching set of 4 and 3 specialty mugs from our travels).

The purpose here to just think practically. Do you need it? Would you buy it at home anyway? Will you use it regularly? Skip the purchase if you know it will wind up in the back of your kitchen or bathroom cabinet.

 

I hope you’ve found this list inspiring- and freeing! If you want to purchase souvenirs while you’re traveling, then go for it! If you want to go home empty-handed, then go for it! I encourage you to avoid falling into the trap of feeling like you need to purchase things just because you’re traveling. We typically pick up a few things when we travel, but only things that will serve a purpose and bring us joy.

I would love to hear from you! Do you consider yourself a minimalist? How do you approach souvenir shopping?

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66 Comments

  • Jane Dempster-Smith

    We are also miniamlists. So much so that we sold everything and only have a tax file box. all that we travel with is a carry on with very limited clothes. Friends and families do not understand that experiences for us are more important than buying things. Love your article, love the idea of the inflatable wine protectors.

  • Shreya Saha

    Wow Leah, I have never known that minimalism and souvenir shopping could be linked. I try to be a minimalist and I only buy one or two magnets from the place I visit. But I guess it makes more sense to but something useful even if it is not made from there at least I can connect to the place Everytime I use or wear the product.

  • Anda

    These are some nice gift ideas, even if you are not a minimalist. I don’t like clutter, but I can’t say I’m a minimalist. I kind of like buying things (hahaha!), but not necessarily souvenirs. I love clothes!

  • Anita

    I love to bring practical souvenirs from my trips, from this list I would choose mugs. Home decor also sound interesting, I can alsways find some things to my kitchen. However, my favorite things are teas! I am so addicted and always bring teas and spirces from trips. 😀

    • Leah

      I love tea too! It’s a great way to home a treat from another culture, but it is consumable and will not take up space in your home for too long. 🙂

  • Bree

    I love this! My boyfriend is a minimalist, and one way i show love is thRough gift giving, but i never know what to give him. I love the idea of practiCal clothing, and definitely use magnets when i can as Thoughtful gifts.

  • blair villanueva

    These are great ideas! However, I personally prefer food as souvenir because I got to experience and taste the destination’s specialties. mugs only become clutter to my space.

    • Leah

      I agree that food is great! I love consumables because it won’t stay around forever, but you can take it home and enjoy it for a short time. I think some people collect large amounts of mugs, which we are careful not to do. We only pick up ones we really love, and constantly purge others so that we don’t have more than a few at any given time. 🙂

  • Yukti

    I too agree on minimalist approach in my house as sometimes it look too much cluttered with un-necessary items. From my travel I also purchase necessary or fashionable clothes from specific destination which can be used regularaly. Also buying practical kitchen gadgets or home decor stuff is also a good idea. destination photoshoot is the besttravel souvenir for me.

  • Arnav Mathur

    LOVE THIS LIST. I USUALLY COLLECT FRIDGE MAGNETS AND MAYBE A WALL HANGING SORT OF THING FROM MY TRAVELS. SOMETIMES I USUALLY COLLECT THE LOCAL DRINK BECAUSE OF THE UNIQUE SHAPE.

  • Soraya

    Yessss!!! Love this compilation. I have to admit, ive stayed clear of buying souvenirs last few years because i want to avoid clUtter too. But i have to say, i do love your ideas especially the photoshoOt one. The memories you would have looking at those beautiful photos would be such a beautiful souvenir. I also do love the clothes category – im Definitely not a fan of the standard Country tshirts either, but when you find a lovely top or dress from a local designer from the country youre visiting, it Totally adds so much more meeting to the souvenir.

  • Suma

    I like the iDea of Buying Local food items which we might enjoy, coffee and chocolates are my top pick. I personally collect frIdge magnets, Coffee mugs And shots glasses as travel souvenirS. They are economical and easy to Store. Apart from that little showpiEces that will remind me of the place and also showcaSe the Artistic TaLents.

    • Leah

      I think it is really important to choose items that will bring you joy- whether it be magnets, shot glasses, chocolates, etc. It is definitely fun to bring home items that you’ll enjoy!

  • Carla Natali

    I can see that a lot of people are becoming more conscious consumers and I couldn´t be happier about it.
    I was never a crazy consumerist but I would call myself a minimalist also but I often wonder What is the point of spending money on things that will bring nothing to your life but clutter?
    If we could only stop, breathe and consider if the thing we plan to buy is bringing us joy it would be a game changer.
    For the planet, for us and for our health.

  • Ilaria

    I consider myself a minimalist and I’m always in trouble with souvenirs! I always try to buy something useful, which I’m sure I’ll Use, but it’s not always that easy 😅 by the way, I found this post really helpful, I’ll surely remember these tips the next time I Find myself buying souvenirs. Thank you!

  • Amanda

    I consider myself a minimalist – and always want to buy a souvenier but never know what i will actually appreciate this list is great!! We love to do books for the kids, and ornaments for the tree!!

  • amanda

    love this list – i strive to be MINIMALIST, and most will walk into our house and tell me i am, but i think i still have a little work to do! kids make it so hard LOL – we typically do kids books, and tree ornaments as SOUVENIRS

  • Krist

    GReat list of ideas. I dont Buy souviners for much of the same reasons. Though sometimes i feel like im such a parth pooper As a parent in that regard. But my kids are happy to get pressed pennies lol

  • Liona

    There’s some really fab ideas here. We always collect magnets because they don’t take up much space and they’re a good visual reminder of our travels. Love the idea of Christmas decorations, never thought of that before.

  • Morgan Tyner

    I LOVE all these ideas! I am definitely a minimalist (as is my husband) and we just moved to a new city – so decorating our home with timeless travel souvenirs is a joy! I love the book idea – we have a couple from our recent extended travels in Europe. Also, clothes! Yes! To me, fashion is fascinating and it’s fun having a piece of clothing from somewhere new to keep and wear. I love bringing diverse culture into my fashion.
    Xx, Morgs*

  • Claire

    I am so far from minimalist but with some serious renovations due to start I have had a good sort out and plan to keep going!

    It’s almost addictive once you start!

    Great post x

  • Suzy

    I just had to click this link and read it when it popped up in my newsfeed as I always struggle with souvenirs! I hate clutter but love having momentos from our travels. We love the idea of getting professional photos. Everyone should do it! It’s so much better than selfies or family photos missing one of the adults

  • Katherine

    I love getting Christmas ornaments as gifts for minimalists. It’s something that they can use at Christmas time if they want, then put away for the rest of the year.

  • Francesca

    This is a fantastic list of ideas. I LOVE getting clothes when on vacation. Not only do I have to pack less, you get fun memories to wear once back! I also love the photos. Part of why I started my blog!

  • Brianna

    This is a great list of souvenir ideas! I definitely tend towards minimalist and try to purchase souvenirs with that in mind. Most of my souvenirs end up being foods and Christmas tree decorations! The clothes idea is a great one, its nice to have something to wear from a trip, even if it doesn’t have place name splashed on it.

  • Albína Mrázová

    What a great idea! I really like it as I always have an issue to buy something for people who are minimalist. And for example, getting Christmas ornaments sounds like a really great way of how to prepare more interesting decoration for Christmas.

  • Shubha Naidu

    These are great ideas and I really enjoyed getting to know a few new ones. Flytographer sounds interesting! I’m a minimalist who loves to pick souvenirs that will be filled with memories of a destination. Vinyl records are my current favourite, along with books 🙂 Thanks for some brilliant ideas.

  • Maria

    This is such a beautiful list of souvenir ideas! I especially love the fact that they are minimalist but still very classic and most importantly, easy to carry! Thanks for sharing these great ideas!

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