Some of my trips are relatively last-minute, others are booked more than six months in advance. If you have the luxury of time, here are some of the things to consider when planning an itinerary.

Souvenir: a thing that is kept as a reminder of a person, place, or event.

When I was young, I thought the word memento was spelled momento. It made sense to me; the object was a reminder of a special moment.

In the Global-Amazon-Prime-Almost-Anything-You-Want-In-Two-Days world we live in, buying something made in Paris, Tokyo, or Cape Town perhaps isn’t as unique as it once was. Still, acquiring souvenirs on your journeys can be a very fun aspect of your trip. If you remember what it felt like to ride your bike over cobblestones to the shop where you bought those bike socks with Pisa’s famous tower on them or the taste of the espresso the leather shop in Florence served you while you were picking out that pair of boots, those are successful souvenirs.

So how do you make sure you bring home something that’s meaningful instead of a piece of junk you will wrap up for next year’s White Elephant Gift Exchange? Here are some of my tips.

JanTips11. Buy items you will actually use. When I’m making pasta I don’t like to put the spoon I’m stirring it with on the counter. And I’m a fan of Edvard Munch. So this “Scream” spoon rest was a great find. Cheesy? You bet. But every time we use it, Husband and I end of chatting about our trips to Oslo. Ditto with the chopsticks we bought in Japan. Using them to eat take-out on the patio transports us right back to Tokyo.

2. Buy smaller items. Smaller souvenirs take up less space in my luggage (and my house when I get home). Earrings and scarves are favorite items of clothing to buy. (Confession: there’s been a leather jacket or two from Italy, too.) Both can reflect the culture where they were made. And souvenirs don’t always have to be purchased. I picked up a shell in Australia with whorls that look like my and Husband’s initials. It’s on the library windowsill and reminds me of that day on the beach when the world on the other side of the glass is covered in snow.

JanTips23. Buy local items you can’t get online. Not only are you supporting the local economy, but you end up with something truly unique. I can’t order the proprietary mix of spices I bought from a fourth-generation spice trader in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar on Amazon.

4. Buy something that evokes a memory. My bonus daughters (my term for my two lovely stepdaughters) bought me a small painting of La Sagrada Família (Gaudi’s amazing church) when we were in Barcelona together. Is it by a famous artist? No. But every time I look at it I’m reminded how wonderful it was to take them on their first trip to Europe and how much fun we had strolling along Las Ramblas that day.

JanTips35. Avoid buying something obviously a souvenir. I’m not one for a bag that says Paris a hundred times all over it. Especially when the label inside says Made in China. (Confession: I couldn’t resist buying this Mao cap in Beijing marked Made in Vietnam. A teenaged cousin loved it!)

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