There is an inevitable travel truth. Your friends, family, and distant relatives you see once a year will expect souvenirs, no matter where you go or how long you’ve been gone. Yes, you could get the go-to keychain or magnet for Aunt Cindy, but why not give a gift that says I love you more than what this generic store has to offer?
Give gifts specific to the country you’re in
This is a great way to introduce your friends or family who might not be familiar with that specific culture. My favorite is giving small bottles of alcohol or food that is particular to the country I’m visiting. The soju I sent from Korea was a huge hit, as was the sangria from Barcelona. You’ll be able to find small bottles for a very affordable price in markets or shops. Try sending home food as well! I know my friends and family really appreciated the dried squid and bug larva they received.
Check out the local markets
It seems that every foreign country I visit has markets I could spend countless hours and dollars in. Markets are a great place to look for the perfect souvenir. Not only are the options endless, you can barter down the price of almost any item you desire; scarfs, bracelets, and wine toppers are great market finds.
Some of the best photo-ops are from foreign lands. Have a photo you think would make a great postcard for loved ones? Turn it into one! A photo you took and transformed into a keepsake will mean much more to the recipient. (Try Snapfish!)
When you visit new destinations, chances are you will go to a few specialty shops or museums. Often times, these places will hold demonstrations on how their product of expertise is created and sold and then give you some free samples. While visiting Florence, I strolled through the Old Pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella. The ancient-yet-modern pharmacy turned shop offered free samples of candles, perfumes, and teas they manufactured. They made wonderful (free!) gifts for friends and family at home.