Europe Thoughts

Is it worth it to buy souvenirs?

I bought a much cheaper version of something like this last time I was in Vienna
I bought a much cheaper version of something like this last time I was in Vienna

Fancy hotels often make you pay for stuff since they think you can afford it. The upshot of that statement is that I’m currently at the Intercontinental Berchtesgaden with a 256 kbps connection; I’d have to pay for more. Since I don’t really have the bandwidth to upload the pictures I’d like to for the trip report, I thought I’d share some thoughts I’m playing around with in my head. I’ve been trying to answer this question for myself: Is it worth it to buy souvenirs?

I started pondering this as we wandered around Salzburg. There are tons of shops that sell souvenirs and take home things – not to mention the museums, street vendors, etc. At the Mozart museum, I was really tempted to buy a 10 Euro music box for M. But that got me to thinking – what is a souvenir worth?

The Christmas & Easter in Salzburg store (closed at the time) is full of....eggs
The Christmas & Easter in Salzburg store (closed at the time) is full of….eggs

If you think of a souvenir as a simple value proposition, it’s really a terrible one. The markup is crazy, but beyond that, most souvenirs don’t have much use. Take the “Christmas and Easter in Salzburg” store we walked by. Look at all those eggs! They are expensive but also essentially useless except for three weeks a year. Which, having typed that out, actually makes them more useful than most souvenirs.

There are plenty of souvenirs for sale at Salzburg's weekend market
There are plenty of souvenirs for sale at Salzburg’s weekend market

As I was pondering all this, with M in tow, I started to think of souvenirs a little bit differently. I’ve said it many times on this blog, we take these international trips to experience and enjoy different cultures. Souvenirs, while generally empirically useless, serve as physical reminders of those trips.

Jess and I bought a ceramic spatula holder from Amalfi on our honeymoon – every time I see that thing I remember our trip. We’ve bought little else on our many trips since. My parents still have a music box I bought them from Vienna over 15 years ago. Maybe that has value for them?

On our way down to Amalfi after hiking from Praiano - 5 (!) years ago
On our way down to Amalfi after hiking from Praiano – 5 (!) years ago

So I guess ultimately the tough thing with souvenirs is determining their sentimental value and then correlating that to their actual monetary value, or at least what I’d be willing to pay. I’d like some way or some thing that I can use to show M this trip we took. Or I’d like to have something that reminds me of what SHE was like when we took this trip. As a parent, every moment is precious, and I don’t want to chance forgetting unique ones. Having some token to remember this trip by might be worth more than the money it’d cost to purchase it.

I’m not sure I’m expressing myself well and if I’m being honest I don’t even know if I’ve fully formed my opinions on the matter. Eventually we’ll be in Vienna and I’ll be surrounded by souvenir buying opportunities – so I’m trying to figure it out for myself before then.

I’d love to hear people’s thoughts and ideas. Are souvenirs a complete waste of money, or do you find value in them? Do you buy them, or do you find other ways to remember your trips (we scrapbooked two or three trips back in the day, now: zero time)? Sound off!

Update: bought this bad boy for 7 Euros today. I’ve got a fever…and the only prescription…is more cowbell!

In case the SNL reference wasn't clear, that is a cowbell
In case the SNL reference wasn’t clear, that is a cowbell

Update 2: Totally forgot about our go to souvenir, wine! Three bottles bought and packed. Huzzah.

Just an average joe trying to fly his family for less

12 thoughts on “Is it worth it to buy souvenirs?

  1. I used to collect shot glasses. This when I was back in college it made a ton of sense. Now I have probably 50 shot glasses that are now super useless However, for a big international trip, I would consider buying something small that doesn’t take a lot of room but also serves some functional use. Nutcracker?

  2. I’ll tell the best souvenir you can buy: a reall good camera. Spend a few grand and learn how to use it, and you’ll have the best memories without them taking up space and dust on your shelf.

  3. I’ve been collecting turtles for many years now. It’s neat to have one from all the places I have visited. I guess if it’s something small and have meaning to you- it’s worthwhile.

    1. As for N- she has everything she “needs.” If anything- we buy her things that will occupy her on the flight/car ride for now. Picture frames are cute though- so you can out a photo of the trip as a souvenir.

  4. That’s a hard one! Sometimes I buy a lot, and then they just got lost somewhere never to be seen again. Then I don’t buy and really regret it when I look back at pictures and realize I’ve totally forgotten a trip. Pictures are definitely the most important for me, but I think buying ONE meaningful souvenir, even if more money, but just one, and knowing that it’ll be placed out somewhere or put to use, instead a load of cheap souvenirs that just get tucked away, is the way to go. The trouble is when you visit multiple countries! Like should you buy M a German dirndl (the local outfit) or a tiny violin to commemorate Mozart and Austria!

    1. Haha we thought about the dirndl…but way too expensive for one time usage. Maybe we’ll make her wear one when she’s a fully grown teenager

  5. We buy one small item in each new place we visit that we can use as a Christmas ornament. Not necessarily something designed as an ornament. Then for a month out of every year we get reminders of the fun we’ve had traveling. Costs $5-$15 per trip.

  6. One time I was telling Kuau I had never been to Taiwan. Mom and Dad replied that I most certainly had. I didn’t believe them. Then Mom went to their souvenir cabinet and pulled out a souvenir plate with our family picture on it. I kind of had to admit there was no reason she would have that if we hadn’t been there.
    In conclusion, the best reason for buying souvenirs is the possibility that you’ll be able to prove your daughter wrong one day

  7. My husband and I just took a month-long trip and mostly did not buy souvenirs. We took lots of photos and snagged some extra postcards. The only shopping we did on the trip was getting art prints from local artists in a few galleries we visited. These will serve as a great reminder of our trip and also be something special to display in our home. I completely ignore the t-shirts, shot glasses, magnets, and other such things.

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