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Avoiding That Empty Down-To-The-Last-Dollar Feeling With Savvy Souvenirs To Preserve Sanity (And Cash)

Free Always Sounds Good, Too

Bob Heim, Destinations Editor

We’ve all faced it in our travels one time or another. Being in panic mode, hastily checking out the gift shops at the local airport in order to franticly pick out last-second somethings in quantity for those at home. Gifts that don’t look tacky, are made in countries of origin other than where you are, and perhaps excessively priced. For wallet-watching older couples heading back to Long Island from an enjoyable vacation, that scenario doesn’t have to be. Not with some souvenir savvy that can save dollars as well as such headaches. From this writer, here are some suggestions that will surely place you and those on your obligatory gift list, in a happy frame of mind.

In the first place, think free-for-the taking. Yes, free. How good is that? Wherever you visit, there are mementoes for friends, relatives and co-workers easily found to tuck away and later distribute at home. Give thought to pausing at your destination’s tourist kiosk locations, for instance, not only to have questions answered and grab complimentary literature, but to snag colorful posters and other freebies, as well.

Be mindful of the fact that there are a great many things representative of your trip and easily pocketed to please the back-home crowd. The local restaurant you’ve been to might be more than happy to allow you to take one or two of their attractive beverage coasters that clearly prove that you were there. Coins or bills left over before plane boarding, will, or course, generate interest when attesting to stays, but maybe, too, will a souvenir chip from the local casino, or shells from a pristine beach after you,ve made sure that they are squeaky clean. (Use a waterproof magic marker and inscribe with the where and whens.)

Your destination’s post office holds another treasure trove of goodies in easily obtained postage stamps reflecting a country’s historic milestones, tourist appeals and so on. Consider purchasing blocks of four stamps or more and placing them in a small frame also representative of the place you’re visiting. It makes for a nice touch when passing them on.

When you head to the local market, make it a supermarket. Find out what kinds of foodstuffs you are permitted to bring home. Teas? Condiments? You’ll be surprised how inexpensive a jar (or two or three) of locally produced taste treats, can be. And how well-received they will also be as gifts back on Long Island. And here’s a thought. Empty cans. This writer recalls carrying home a cola can from Israel that bore identification in Hebrew. It later served nicely as a pencil holder on my desk. Cans of Bahamas Goombay Punch, an island soft drink that still bears the attractive cartoon face that helped make it so popular, is but one other example.

To also save your dollars in buying souvenirs, or whatever the local currency is called, find out if haggling is acceptable with local vendors. If you’re buying more than one of a kind, ask for a discount for that very reason. If you haven’t haggled before, a few suggestions are in order. You are not obligated to match what that fellow tourist is paying. Attempt to pay the same thing charged a local. Figure in your mind what YOU think it’s worth, not what vendor does. Moreover, don’t be embarrassed by it all, and be prepared to walk away. Chances are costs will drop when that occurs.

In contemplating about gifts to be bought in duplicate for those at home, think of luggage space that may be required for them. You might opt to have the merchant ship them for you (at a price), but your souvenir gifts need not be lumpy, fragile, or difficult to handle. Think of how little space colorful bits of fabric, placemats for instance, can be. CD’s of local instrumental music, books to satisfy youngsters and adults, can also be counted on to say “I was there” in a big yet small size way, too.

No, you don’t have to squirrel away those in-room plastic pens and tiny shampoo containers as reminders of a great time. Be creative about your souvenirs, save your money, and enjoy.

Bob Heim, president of a Communications and Marketing
Company that bears his name, has been a travel writer and
Public Relations specialist since 1957.

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