Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Fri June 19 2015

Opinion Home | Far-Sighted Field Notes

  • Rosalind Cummings-Yeates | June 19, 2015 11:00 PM ET

    The Top 5 Most Appreciated Souvenirs

    The Top 5 Most Appreciated Souvenirs

    If you travel frequently, you know that there are only so many T-shirts and key rings that you can gift to family and friends before they start dodging you on your return. Face it, tacky souvenirs are rarely appreciated and show just how little thought you put into shopping for them. If you really want to bring loved ones a tiny piece of your travel adventures, consider the destination and what it's known for.

    Select mementos that reflect the culture and supply some genuine insight into the place. I've discovered that it's not how much money you spend but how much consideration that you give when choosing souvenirs that wins people over. Based on my expert souvenir shopping over the years, here are the winners for most appreciated:

    Authentic Food

    People love to eat. It doesn't matter where you travel to, every place has specialties that will intrigue and amuse the peeps back home. Search out items that are unusual and that can't be easily purchased where you live. When I traveled to Macau, the most popular souvenirs were the famous Lord Stow's egg tarts and almond cookies.

    Obviously, the egg tarts weren't going to survive the 17-hour flight back home so I settled on the cookies. Although Macau almond cookies are denser and more textured than the crumbly versions offered in American Chinese restaurants, I wasn't completely sold until I found almond cookies blended with shredded pork.

    Now that wasn't a flavor you could find just anywhere. My friends were impressed with this strange treat and raved about the savory and sweet taste. For the less adventurous, local candy, tea coffee, sauces and jams are also good choices.

    Handmade Accessories

    I'm a huge fan of supporting local artisans when I travel and a great way to do this is to purchase handcrafted accessories from them. When I visited Stockholm, I grabbed up handmade wool socks from local designers. They were decorated with whimsical Swedish designs and thick enough to ward off frostbite. My brother wore his for months in the arctic bluster that is Chicago.

    Also consider hand-crafted jewelry, scarves, purses, ties, hats and belts. These are pieces that everybody can use, just pay attention to personal preferences and style. If your dad never wears ties, he probably won't wear the embroidered one you brought from Latvia.

    Local Art

    If you know any art collectors, getting them a small print or sculpture will probably make them really happy. Browse local galleries or visit artist communities for the best offerings. I like to scoop up pieces that showcase the destination’s landscape or people. In St. Croix, I scored watercolors that highlighted local school children that my artist friends love.

    Don't be afraid to buy the unconventional. I've also purchased art etched on banana leaves, molded from volcanic stone and painted on shells.

    Traditional Clothing

    This can be tricky but so rewarding if you know a person's style. My most treasured garments are richly embroidered saris from New Delhi and a bright yellow silk shawl from Rome that my uncle brought me from his travels. I've given bohemian friends woven shirts from Guatemala and flowered Hawaiian dresses from Kauai that they wear all the time. If you know someone who appreciates ethnic pieces, head to local markets and shops and look for basic items that they can incorporate into everyday wear.


    If all else fails, a bottle of the local spirits is always a good bet. A visit to a local winery where bottles often boast creative labels and unusual blends will provide lots of options. If there is a national drink, a kit to mix it up makes a wonderful souvenir. Bottles of mezcal from Oaxaca, Mexico inspired a battle over who would claim the biggest one among co-workers. When I was in Brazil, I purchased several bottles of cachaca, the foundation for the national Brazilian cocktail, caipirinha.

    Needless to say, the bottles proved to be the most popular souvenirs ever.


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Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Far-Sighted Field Notes

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Rosalind Cummings-Yeates is a journalist, author and blogger who specializes in travel and culture topics. She loves guiding readers through the richness of various cultures and discovering the essence of a destination. Her travel and culture blog, Farsighted Fly Girl, offers travel insights through the music, food, art and history of various countries and cultures. Join her on the journey at www.Rosalindcummingsyeates.
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