No rulebook exists for what makes one souvenir better than another. That said, something labelled by others as a souvenir will likely fail to resonate with you over time. While this does not discredit gift shop mementos entirely, it does suggest that you should reflect on your purchase. To help, ask yourself the following questions.
Does the Item Remind You of Your Experiences on Vacation?
Gift shop souvenirs represent the place—a flag, local animal, map, mug and so on. Such gifts prove where you’ve been, but they do little to recall events that occurred.
Similarly, some souvenirs lack originality; you can find the same goods back home. In the moment, the souvenir might speak to your experiences, but once removed from that context, it will lose some of its emotional value.
Can You Use Your Souvenir?
The best souvenirs become more than trophies on your mantel. They are objects that you assimilate into everyday life. Whether a special piece of jewellery, a shirt or something more irregular, its presence preserves the memory. However, something consumable (i.e. alcohol) limits the lifespan of your souvenir. Instead, reserve such items as gifts.
Admittedly, the notion of utility contradicts an earlier point: not to pick a souvenir available back home. You’ll have to weigh both sides—originality versus function—and decide which means more to you.
How Easily Can You Transport the Souvenir?
You should never spend a fortune acquiring a souvenir. This includes both its retail price and baggage fee. Ideally, you want to pick something that will not be cumbersome to bring home. Likewise, it must be something you are legally allowed to take. For example, no capturing wildlife as pets or transporting illicit goods.