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Substainable Travel: How to Find the Best Local Souvenirs

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I love to bring back souvenirs from my stops on the Old Continent or in Latin America. It feels like adding a few days to my trip – in a way, extending my escape. I often use it as an excuse to surprise my loved ones! Discovering local crafts or foodie specialities through independent shops is a real pleasure for me. It’s a great opportunity to chat with the craftspeople and learn more about their daily lives.

And that’s what makes the difference. You remember a handmade bag you bought from an artisan at the Saturday market much more than a plastic figurine you bought for 2 euros in a souvenir shop identical to all the others ones, don’t you?

Challenge yourself to the idea on your next trip. Say goodbye to useless trinkets; choose travel souvenirs that you will actually enjoy and find useful. Here are a few of my most helpful tips to help guide you find the best sustainable travel gifts or souvenirs… for yourself or for others!

How can we be more sustainable when traveling?

In addition to zero-waste efforts, buying local souvenirs from small businesses is a game changer when it comes to eco-friendly travel. It’s not just about authenticity and supporting local artisans, whose knowledge is often passed down from generation to generation. It’s also about the social impact and environmental carbon footprint of outsourcing from abroad, including transport and packaging, as well as fair wages and working conditions.

Tourism is an economic driver in its own right. Carefully choosing where to spend your money and anticipating the price in your travel budget is a great way to make a real difference on the local economy.

Typical Portuguese ceramics. Coffee from a fair trade plantation in Colombia. A woven blanket from Mexico. Olive oil from a gourmet shop in Barcelona. Or a tote bag with the logo of the restaurant that marked your stay in London.

These are all great examples of souvenirs that are both responsible and fun to buy. And the best part? These unique souvenirs will truly brighten your everyday life when you return home and immediately transport you back to where you got them. That poster made by a Marseille artist will be the perfect companion on your living room wall!

Substainable travel: buy less, but better

Instead of filling your suitcase with mass-produced souvenirs that are likely to be tossed in the bottom of the drawer, opt for quality memorabilia that lasts. No one needs so many magnets, bottle openers, bobbleheads and other such trinkets!

Get advice from the staff in gourmet boutiques. Ask the waiter at the restaurant for his favourite shop. And ask the barista serving your morning cappuccino for her favourite local brand.

For the same total price, you’ll get fewer items, that’s for sure. But we all know the saying that less is more… and that’s true for travel souvenirs too! Each of these items will tell a story, be a reminder of an encounter and act as a beacon of your adventures in the country you loved.

Imagine drinking your morning coffee with the beans you bought from that little speciality café in Amsterdam. Think of that special moment when you open that bottle of wine you bought direct from the producer in a vineyard in Tuscany. Or better still, impress your guests with appetizers served on a beautiful serving plate “oh that old thing? I found it in a small market in Aix-en-Provence.”

Guaranteed to impress!

Experiences are the most vivid souvenirs… and they take up no space!

Even more than material purchases, the best travel souvenirs are the activities and experiences you offer yourself. You simply can’t put a price tag on that kind of memories. And in my case, the best ones involve my taste buds!

I will always remember the wonderful evenings spent in restaurants with my loved ones, my friends, my partner, but also with my wonderful colleagues. Like the time I had the chance to dine with my father at Sehnor Uva, an incredible restaurant and wine cellar in Lisbon. The owners are from Quebec too and we had the opportunity to chat with one of them while waiting for our meal. An unforgettable evening!

Food lovers and curious palates should take a moment to get to know the country’s culinary specialities. Chances are you’ll easily come across cooking classes, workshops and tours entirely focused on eating. You will be able to taste the delicious typical products of the regions you visit and meet the passionate and dedicated farmers along the way.

  • Vineyards
  • Coffee plantations
  • Farmers markets
  • Oyster farms
  • Salt marshes
  • Olive groves

Even beyond gastronomy, there is no shortage of memorable travel experiences and ideas.

What do you bring home from a trip: the best sustainable travel souvenir or gift ideas

If your goal is to find travel souvenirs that you can incorporate into your daily life, while supporting local economies and meeting like-minded people on your travels, here are some items to consider. At various price points, too!

  • A bag of coffee from a local roaster
  • Merchandise from a shop or restaurant that you particularly liked: a cap, tote bag, T-shirt, etc.
  • Delicacies and food souvenirs such as oil, jam or spices
  • Clothing, accessories, jewellery or handbags from a local label
  • Decorative items such as ceramics, stationery or textiles
  • A book from an independent bookshop or museum
  • Beauty products such as lip balm, essential oils or hand cream
  • A small poster or postcard from an artist
  • A bottle of wine from a winery you like

The comments and contributions expressed are assumed only by the author. The recommendations, intentions or opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Transat AT Inc. or its affiliates. See terms of use of the Air Transat website.

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