3 Reasons to Take a Hop On Hop Off Tour

A hop on hop off tour can be a great way to get a quick feel for a city.

 

You know what they are—they’re those big, red double-decker buses you see in every quintessential London travel brochure. But they’re not only in London. In fact, just about anywhere you go you can find double-decker buses offering tours around town, from Rome to Paris and Montevideo to Massachusetts. But these days hop on hop off—or hoho—tours don’t only come in the form of buses. In some places, they  may be trolley cars or small tourist trains. Regardless of what form of transportation come in, hoho tours can be a great way to see a city, especially if you’re short on time.

So what exactly are hoho tours you ask? Well, they’re exactly what they sound like—tours that let you get on and off at various stops around a city. You can get on and off as often as you want within a certain period of time—usually one or two days. Or, you can choose to ride the entire route without ever getting off.

Here are three reasons why you should consider taking a hop on hop off tour on your next vacation.

hop on hop off tour

Affordable

One of the best things about hop on hop off tours is that they’re often a very affordable way to get around. If you were to take a taxi to the same sites, you’d likely pay through the nose. And private tours can quickly add up, too. If you’re in town for just a day, a 24-hour ticket is all you need. But if you’ve got a few days to spare, consider purchasing the 48-hour ticket, which usually comes at a discounted rate for the second day.

Pro Tip: Consider buying your ticket online in advance from a tour operator. You’ll often find them at a bit of a lower rate.

Highlights

Hop on hop off tours are specifically designed to help you see all of the best sights a city has to offer. The tour operators know the exact places people want to see and make sure their guests get to see them. This is particularly useful if you find yourself in a place where you’re simply not sure what sights you need to see. If you’ve got limited time, at least you know you’ll have covered the main attractions, and if you’ve got a bit more time, you can get a feel for the best places to return to later in your stay. And most hoho tours provide headphones so you can listen to an audio tour in the language or your choice explaining the sights as you pass by.

Most hop on hop off tours offer a few different routes to help you make the most of your schedule. If you play your cards right, you may even have enough time to check out all of them. On a trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, I purchase a 24-hour ticket at 10 a.m. I was able to do two routes the first day and catch the 9:30 a.m. bus the next day for the third route. Sure, had I opted to hop off I would’ve had to pay a taxi to get me back the rest of the way because my ticket had expired by then, but it was still a great deal.

Pro Tip: Visit the website for the hoho in the city you’ll be visiting and download a route map. You can plan your stops in advance to make the most of your time. If you’ve got the time, ride around once to everything in, and on your second loop around, hop off at your favorites stops.

hop on hop off tour

Easily Accessible

Whether you’re staying in the heart of downtown or near a major attraction, you can usually find a hop on hop off tour stop nearby. In many cases, you an even find stops very near to cruise ports. This makes them an ideal alternative to shore excursions. In some places, like Boston, hoho tours are even tailored to cruise guests, offering an abbreviated version of the usual route so you can see all of the top sights during your short stay in port.

Five Misconceptions Tourists Make When Traveling Abroad

Collaborative Guest Post


When you travel abroad, it’s easier than you think to make the wrong assumptions.

 

Whether that’s about the people you encounter, the attractions you visit or general mistakes about traveling, misconceptions can hamper your experience somewhat.

To ensure you don’t make the same mistakes as many others, check out our list of common misconceptions tourists make:

Five Misconceptions Tourists Make When Traveling Abroad

Everyone will speak English

In popular tourist destinations, it’s likely you’ll be able to talk to everyone in English. But head further away from the hubs, and you’d be wrong to assume locals will always understand you.

It’s good to learn a few key phrases in the local language to use in these instances. It’s also a great way of showing you’re willing to immerse yourself more than the average tourist.

No-one will try and rip you off

Unfortunately, tourists can be a target for petty criminals. Assuming everyone is your friend won’t end well. Common tricks used to fool tourists abroad include paying for demonstrations, slow counting cash, fake police, and phony charity petitions. For more scams you could fall victim to, check out Rick Steves for the warning signs.

Misunderstanding the country they’re visiting

Not knowing London’s Big Ben refers to the actual clock inside, not the entire clock tower, or assuming everyone in Paris wears a beret – there are a lot of ways a tourist can misunderstand the place they’re visiting (here are some of the most common misconceptions according to The Odyssey Online).

Five Misconceptions Tourists Make When Traveling Abroad

It’s dangerous to head off the beaten track

There’s a temptation to stick to the well-traveled routes of many tourists. Whether it’s a fear over safety or a general lack of knowledge, it leads people to seeing the same sights and attractions. Instead, you should be brave and venture off into the unknown somewhat. It’s how you’ll have the best experiences as a tourist abroad, rather than the same memories as everyone else.

They’ll be covered by insurance if they leave items behind

You get on the plane and realize you’ve left your camera behind. You left it with the hotel concierge for safekeeping, but forgot to head back and pick it up before you left for the airport. Think your insurance will cover you? Think again.

Insurance typically won’t reimburse you for belongings you’ve left behind – no matter how valuable they are to you. Insurance covers you for things like luggage delay, car crime, bag theft, water damage, and pick pocketing, according to TINZ.

What mistakes have you made as a tourist? Share your misconceptions with us.

Five Misconceptions Tourists Make When Traveling Abroad

5 Best Destinations for a Summer Romance

Guest Post By Roxana Oliver

If you’re looking for romantic vacations that involve long strolls on the beach, dreamy sunsets, and candlelit dinners, but you want to go somewhere different than France or Italy, here are some ideas for you.

 

Places on this list have love in the air and a special atmosphere that will wake up the romantic in you. Book your next romantic getaway in some of these destinations.

summer romance

Buenos Aires, Argentina

If you’re looking to spice up your romantic trip with some amazing nightlife and some culture, Buenos Aires is perfect for you. You can learn how to tango (also known as the dance of love), try some exotic food, and enjoy velvet seats at the opera or ballet. Visit the Palermo neighborhood for some shopping, and take hand-in-hand strolls in parks. Plan your visit during spring and summer to experience an abundance of flowers and perfect temperatures for a romantic vacation.

summer romance

Greek Isles, Greece

Nothing screams summer romance like the crystal blue sea, warm sun, amazing food, and rustic mountains of the Greek Isles, also known as the Cyclades. Greece is famous for having some of the most exquisite islands in the Mediterranean. Don’t miss visiting Santorini and Naxos, the most famous of the islands. On Santorini, you will experience an unforgettable sunset lighting up the white stone cliffs, and on Naxos’ sandy beaches you will spend some of the happiest days of your life. If you want some extra privacy, make a reservation in the late summer or early fall to avoid the tourists.

summer romance

Wellington, New Zealand

Your search for romantic places might as well end here. If you and your partner enjoy hiking and exploring together, then you’ve found your paradise. You can stroll along the mysterious hills and promenades and through the green valleys. Make sure to visit Wellington Botanic Garden and share the wonders of nature with your loved one. Also don’t miss the trip to Martinborough, a nearby town, and visit the more than 20 vineyards to sample some amazing wine. The best thing about this place is that you can enjoy this picturesque scenery on horseback. So charming!

summer romance

Sydney, Australia

The best things in Australia are its beautiful beaches and romantic sunsets—and Sydney has a lot of those. Australia has so many things to offer, and to fully enjoy its beauty, you will have to get out of the city. Explore Sydney’s surrounding natural wanders, dream underneath the stars with your loved one, and soak up the sounds and smells of wilderness. If you don’t want to go by car, opt for a bus charter, and explore the Sydney surroundings. If you leave your car at home, you can have a glass of bubbly and devote all of your attention to each other. Honestly, try to think of something more romantic.

summer romance

San Sebastian, Spain

Spain is a romantic place in and of itself, but San Sebastian has something special. This small coastal city near the French border is ideal for hiking, sunbathing, and enjoying the sun with your better half. For the ultimate romantic experience, book a hotel with a private terrace to get front-row tickets for sunset watching, or dine at one of the many restaurants facing the bay. You can even take a trip up to Monte Igueldo to catch the best view of the city. If you’ve ever heard the old saying, “Love comes through the stomach,” then try some of the Basque specialties with your partner while enjoying a rustic setting.

summer romance

Romance 101!

If you think that only Paris can offer a complete romantic experience, then you’re wrong. These destinations have some interesting and romantic things you can do with your partner that will make you fall in love with each other over and over again. So, book your hotel, and spend unforgettable time with your loved one.


Travel Benefits for Mental Health

Author Bio: Roxana is a travel enthusiast and lifestyle consultant from Sydney, and she loves to write about her adventures. She is all about the healthy lifestyle, loves to run with her husband and dogs, and has fun cooking exotic meals for her family. Being a typical Aussie, she often hits the waves and loves beaches and sunshine! You can find out more about her writing by following her on Twitter and Facebook. She is also one of the editors at High Style Life Magazine.

Travel to the United States without a Visa using ESTA

Guest post by Josh Hobson and Sophie Jones

Applying for a visa can be a lot of work.

 

Traveling to the United States can be a chaotic experience. When planning a holiday, there is so much to consider, including where to go, where to stay, when to go, which airline to fly with, and applying for visas. Fortunately, one of those considerations can now be taken off that list for many travelers. You guessed it. It’s the visa. Now, citizens of more than three dozen countries can travel to the United States without one under the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP).

What is VWP?

The VWP was created to boost tourism into the United States, helping to decrease wait times at airports. Through the program, travelers from any of the participating countries can enter the United States without a visa. They need only complete an electronic system for travel authorization (ESTA) application.

What is ESTA?

ESTA was launched by the US government and is ideal for anyone entering the United States by boat or plane for a short stay. Simply complete the online application available through the US Department of Homeland Security website at least 72 hours prior to departure. If you’re traveling with a group, you can submit an ESTA application for up to 50 people.

Simple and Cheap

An ESTA, unlike a visa, is very easy to obtain. Applications are completed solely online, the applicant will receive a response within minutesalthough some cases may take up to 72 hours. Not only is the ESTA a time saver,  it’s also cost-effective, at a mere $14. A trip to the embassy to file paperwork—not to mention the costly fees and long wait time—are a thing of the past. Bare in mind that to apply for an ESTA, you must hold an electronic passport.

Who Can Apply?

You may be wondering who can apply for the ESTA. There are 38 countries that are eligible for the ESTA program,  including Spain, the United Kingdom, France, Malta, and Chile. The program is intended for tourists, businesspeople, and those with a flight that connects through the United States.

Basic Needs

Anyone entering the United States under this program can remain in the country for up to 90 days before they have to leave. The ESTA is valid for 2 years and holders can enter the US as many times as they like during that period.

Important Information that You Must Consider

Even if your ESTA is approved, you are not 100 percent guaranteed entry into the United States. Officials at the border have the ultimate say about who can enter the country. Your application may be rejected. If so, you must apply for a conventional visa.

For more useful information about ESTA, check out this video

Author bio: Josh Hobson and Sophie Jones are students in Liverpool. They created www.estaform.org  to provide awareness about this wonderful program. Reason? Josh was stranded in Mexico one summer when his visa expired. Luckily, someone explained the ESTA program to him, and he was allowed back into the country. Who knows, maybe it’ll save you, too.

Brazil Travel: Know Before You Go

There are a few things you should know before planning a trip to Brazil.

 

I thought traveling to Brazil would be as simple as booking an airfare and getting on a plane. I quickly realized there is much more to it than meets the eye. Here are four things you should know before planning a trip to Brazil.

1. Astronomical Airfares

Expect to pay a pretty penny for your flights into Brazil. In fact, it could set you back more than a grand, depending on where you’re flying in from and the time of year. I got an amazing deal on a cruise, which was great since I had to spend every extra dime I saved on a high-priced airfare. The worst part? It’s three flights and 30 hours of flight time each way.

2. Difficult Documentation

You will need a visa to travel to Brazil. And it, too, will come at great expense and a lot of legwork. In addition to your passport, you’ll need to provide a bank statement, tax information, a letter of employment, photos, proof of your travel itinerary, a letter to the embassy, and more. It took me several weeks to gather all of the information. You’ll need to either send your package directly to the embassy or hire a third-party to do it for you. While there is even more expense involved in hiring a third-party, it’s well worth it. The company will vet all of your information to be sure it’s accurate and handle all the details on your behalf. With courier and processing fees, you could may more than $200.

3. Expensive Excursions

If you’re planning to take tours or cruise ship shore excursions in Brazil, they won’t come cheap. Many day trips cost significantly upwards of $100. Half-day trips come in a bit lower, but really comprehensive tours can even cost more than $300 depending on the area.

4. Seasons Change

Brazil is located in the southern hemisphere. And while this may seem obvious to most, it’s easy to forget that the seasons are reversed for those of us from North America or Europe. So , if you’re hoping to take advantage of the summer months, you’ll want to head to Brazil in January or February. This is actually ideal if you’re from the northern hemisphere and looking for a winter escape.

Do you have other advice for people traveling to Brazil? Share your ideas with the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

3 OCD Travel Tips for Your Next Trip

I have OCD and not in that fad way that people say they have it.

 

I have severe OCD and have since I was a child. This is a huge challenge when it comes to traveling. I have to overcome a lot of obstacles when it comes to packing, flying, and safety, to name a few. But I’ve persevered and have a number of travel tips to share as a result. These are my top three OCD travel tips.

1. Touch Nothing

Airports, cruise ports, bus depots, and train stations are some of the worst places to pick up a bug. If you want to avoid a virus on your vacation, steer clear of touching handrails, door handles, pin pads, and pretty much anything else. I know this is practically impossible, but it can be done. I have no shame, so I wear gloves everywhere. Once I’m comfortably seated in my personal space, I clean the entire area with wipes or Lysol spray before removing my gloves. But I’m pretty bold and realize that’s not the most practical solution for most people. For a more reasonable option, carry a bottle of hand sanitizer in your pocket and splash a little on your hands every time you touch something that could carry germs. You’ll be glad you did.

2. Organize Your Affairs

If you’re anything like me, triple checking you have your passport, money, and other paperwork in order simply isn’t enough. Print off all your trip vouchers, tickets, and confirmation details and sort them by date in a small, plastic organizer envelope. Toss your passport and currency into the front pocket so that you have everything in one easy-to-access place. This envelope is the only thing that matters for your entire vacation. As long as you have it, you have everything you need. As you tick flights, tours, and other events off the list, toss out the paperwork for those items on your itinerary to make your load a little lighter.

3. Take a Picture

Are you one of those people who can never remember if you’ve locked the door or turned off the oven? For someone with OCD, worry over whether or not you unplugged the iron can ruin an entire trip. Do yourself a favor and snap a few pics just before you leave the house. Take one of the oven, the front and back doors, electrical sockets, or anything else that might otherwise cause you concern. A quick peek at the pictures is the perfect reminder that you did, in fact, turn off the TV.

Pro tip: Try to get a part of your travel outfit in the picture. That way, you’ll know for sure it was taken the day you left the house on your vacation.

As a bonus, a few years ago, a dear friend of mine took three months off work to travel through Asia. Before she left, I made her the ultimate OCD travel kit. She used every single item in it and has often encouraged me to share its contents with the world. So, here goes…I hope you find it as useful as she did.

  • Tissues – for drying tears after a sad farewell, blowing a congested nose due to poor airplane ventilation, or opening doors without touching germy handles
  • Gloves – to wear while boarding the plane so you don’t catch a virus touching all the seats, overhead bins, and trays with your bare hands
  • Hand sanitizer – to clean your hands before every meal
  • Wet wipes – to clean off your tray and other surfaces or wipe off your hands after eating
  • Toilet seat covers – need I say more?
  • Tide to Go – for accidental spills
  • Laundry detergent packets – to rinse undies, tees, and socks
  • A book – to pass the time on public transit or if your in-flight entertainment is out of service (a great distraction from turbulence, especially if your MP4 player/eReader/phone is dead)
  • Mini Lysol spray – for disinfecting surfaces, such as airport chairs that double as a bed (you may not be allowed to carry this through security if it’s in am aerosol spray can)
  • Expanding towel tablets – for drying up unexpected spills
  • Travel toilet paper roll – for when there’s no other choice

These are some of the things I always have in my carry-on. What other items would you add to my ultimate OCD travel checklist? Share them with the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group, along with any other OCD travel tips you might have.

3 Tips to Take the Chaos Out of Holiday Travel

‘Tis the season for holiday travel.

 

Can you smell it? That’s mom’s turkey roasting in the oven. Oh, and is that pumpkin pie for dessert? You can taste it, can’t you? But none of that matters if you never make it home for the holidays. Remember that movie with that woman who’s trying to get home for a festive dinner with her family but her flight gets canceled? She’s stranded at the airport and tries to rent a car instead, but there are none left. You don’t want to be that person, do you?

holiday travel

Follow these handy tips to make sure your holiday travel plans go smoothly.

1. Check in with Mother Nature

No matter how you’re getting to where you’re going, the weather plays a very important role. If there’s a snowstorm, accidents happen on highways, causing traffic to back up. Flights get rescheduled—or worse. And even the most reliable trains and buses get delayed. Be sure to start checking the weather and road reports days in advance of your planned holiday travel schedule. Have alternate plans in place in case of a service disruption with your preferred mode of transportation.

2. Find Out if There are Any Gift Guidelines for Your Flights

There is nothing worse than finding out at the security gate that the bath bubbles you bought for your Auntie Sandra aren’t allowed in your carry-on…and don’t even get me started on that cap gun you thought would be so cool for your nephew. It may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised some of the things you’ll forget in the holiday travel chaos. It’s inevitable that something will slip through the cracks, like that bottle of whisky you got for your pops. Save yourself the grief and check the TSA for holiday packing tips. Find out what you can—and cannot—bring on board the plane, as well as any gift-wrapping guidelines.

3. Leave Plenty of Time

Set your alarm an hour earlier than normal…and don’t hit the snooze button. And if you simply can’t resist falling back asleep, set your clock an hour ahead and have the alarm come on at your regular time. Do whatever you need to do so that you’re not racing against the clock. Nothing good ever comes of it: You forget things, get sweaty running around like a chicken with your head cut off, and feel frazzled. It’s not the best way to start the holidays. You’ll be irritable before you even arrive, and we all know spending time with family can be frustrating at the best of times—no matter how much we love them. But perhaps the biggest reason to leave yourself a little extra time is that you won’t have to drive like a maniac to make up for lost time. At the end of the day, the most important thing about holiday travel is that you arrive alive.

These are just a few help holiday travel tips. What other advice do you have for fellow travelers? Share your ideas with the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

3 Reasons Why Everyone Should Try Solo Travel

Everyone should try solo travel at least once in their lifetime. I truly believe this with all of my heart.

 

For many people, the concept of traveling alone is terrifying. Many people fear they’ll get lost or mugged. Others simply worry they’ll get bored. But if you plan carefully and use common sense, you have nothing to worry about. Solo travel is perfectly safe and extremely rewarding. So what makes it so great?

Check out these three reasons why you should give solo travel a shot.

solo travel

1. Time for Self-reflection

How many times have you wished for a little peace and quiet? These days, we all have so many demands on our time and we’re so connected that it’s almost impossible to hear yourself think. One of the best things about traveling by yourself is that you can be as connected—or disconnected—as you want to be. Read a book. Write in a journal. Sit at a café and watch the world go by. Enjoy the silence, and think about all the wonderful things in your life. There’s nothing better than being alone with yourself for a few days to put things in perspective.

2. A Shot of Confidence

Nothing boosts your self-esteem like doing something that you didn’t think you could. Getting on that plane, train, bus, or boat is just step one. Now imagine zip lining through a tropical rainforest, taking a cooking class in Cambodia, or sleeping under the stars on the African savannah. These are all things you can do on your own, and each one is like a shot of adrenaline in the form of pure confidence.

3. You Did It Your Way

Like Frank Sinatra, I like to do things my way. The most beautiful thing about solo travel is that you don’t have to compromise on anything. No one is going to tell you what to do. If you want to sleep until noon, there’s nobody nagging you to get out of bed. Have a hankering to eat breakfast for dinner? What’s stopping you?

This is by far my favorite reason to travel on my own…of course, that could be because I’m an only child and usually get things my way. Regardless, how often do you get to do whatever you want whenever you want? Take advantage, and if you get bored or lonely, just chat up the person next to you in line for your morning coffee or join a tour group.

solo travel

Go ahead, give solo travel a try. You don’t have to go away for a month or even a week. One weekend is all you need to know if it’s right for you. You may come home a whole new person, or you may find out you really do prefer to be part of a team. Either way, at least you’ll have grown as a person and learned a little something more about yourself.

Have you tried solo travel? What advice can you offer others? Share your ideas on the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

 

3 Tips for Choosing a Vacation Destination

With so much world to see, how do you choose a vacation destination?

 

My bucket list is at least a mile long. Israel, Bali, Myanmar, Peru, Portugal, Russia…these are just a few of the places I’m dying to visit. But I’m open to traveling just about anyplace, which means I have a terrible time choosing where to go. Each year, I can only get to three—maybe four—countries. So how do I decide which ones to visit?

Here are three tips to help you choose the perfect vacation destination when you’re not sure where you want to go.

Decide What’s Most Important: Date, Budget, Destination

When you’re searching travel sites for vacations, there are a few different ways you can filter the results: date, price, and place. So before you even begin your search, decide which of these is most important to you. Are you a sun seeker or a skiier? Do you like farms or cities? If you have a specific type of activity you like to do or part of the world you want to see, narrow your search using those details. Otherwise, if you’re open to any destination, your best bet is to base your decision on date and price.

Perhaps, you can travel any time of year, but you only have $1,500. Sort your search by lowest to highest price. This way you won’t end up flipping for something with a hefty price tag that’s out of your budget. You may be surprised by what you find. There are plenty of times I’ve booked a trip someplace I didn’t know I wanted to go because I found a smokin’ deal. But beware…You know how they say not to try on a wedding dress that’s out of your budget because you’ll fall in love and nothing will compare? Well, vacations work the same way. Don’t look at river cruises if you’ve got a Carnival cruise budget—no offence to Carnival. It’s just a lot cheaper than other options.

If you know you only have four days of vacation time, and you can only take days off in September, filter your search by date and number of days. You’ll weed out a bunch of options that don’t apply to you, making your choice for a vacation destination easier. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found the right place for the right price but then realized it was at a time of year that simply wouldn’t work for me. Talk about disappointing.

Who is Your Travel Companion?

Even though you may be open to all sorts of different places, your travel companion may not be. Consider the types of things the person you’re traveling with likes to do. Does this person like to shop? Then New York City might be the perfect escape. Or maybe your companion really likes animals. You might decide to take a safari together.

There are three people I typically travel with: my mother, my husband, and my best friend. Each one has completely different tastes. So when I look at my bucket list, I think about which vacation destination is right for each person. For example, my mom loves charming seaside villages. A river cruise through France is perfect for her. My best friend? She’s all about the shopping. Vegas or LA are the best types of places for us to hit up together. My husband is a bit more adventurous. For our next trip together, we’re thinking an ATV drive through Machu Picchu, for example.

There are many items on my bucket list that don’t interest my regular travel companions. For these places, I’ll either convince one of them to cave in and go with me, or I’ll look for other options. I might join a tour group, or I’ll simply hop on a place all by myself.

How Do You Like to Travel?

Do you like to create your own schedule while you drive along vast highways? Or do you prefer to let someone else do the driving? Maybe you like a mix of both. These are important factors that can help you narrow down your vacation destination.

If you like to be part of a large group, start your destination search with a look at what tour companies have to offer. If you like being on the open ocean, then look at different cruise lines to see what they have available that interests you. Don’t bother looking at dates and rates for tour or cruise vacations if they’re not your style, but you might want to use them as a jumping off point for planning your own vacation.

There are times when I like to plan every part of a trip—train tickets between towns, bed and breakfasts in little villages, entry fees for attractions. And then there are times when I’m super busy and like to let someone else do all the work. Get a stack of vacation magazines and brochures, and simply start leafing through the pages. See what’s out there that catches your eye. You’ll likely be inspired by a few different itineraries or images. You can either book directly with the company that made the brochure or start booking your own plans based on the itinerary you found.

Want more great ideas for the perfect vacation destination? Follow Wanderlust Wayfarer on Twitter, where we’re constantly sharing cool places to go and things to do around the world.

5 Tips for Finding the Perfect Souvenir

Everyone wants a souvenir that will remind them of the fantastic time they had on vacation.

 

But finding the perfect token to represent your travels is harder than it sounds. You want a keepsake that brings a smile to your face every time you see it. But I bet more often than not you end up with something you found in the hotel lobby as you were rushing to flag down a taxi to the airport. When we don’t find the right thing, we tend to settle for anything. And when we get home, we toss it aside and forget about it all together.

As you’re flying, driving, or cruising to your next destination, consider these five tips to help you choose the best souvenir.

souvenir-doll

1. Collectibles

One of the easiest ways to avoid getting bogged down in the search for the perfect souvenir is to start collecting a specific type of object. Key chains, magnets, postcards, spoons, and shot glasses can be found in pretty much any place you visit. They’re small cheap, and easy to pack. My personal favorite: thimbles. That’s right…thimbles. I’ve been collecting them since I was 12, and I have one from just about every place I’ve ever been, which means I have hundreds and hundreds of them. They’re super small, can be found pretty much anyplace, and usually cost less than $2—unless you’re in Norway, where they cost $20. I also love “I ❤” shirts, which you can often snag for only $5 to $10. I plan to make them into a quilt one day…as soon as I make a friend who can sew.

souvenir-magnet

2. Destination

What is the place you’re visiting best known for? Canada is infamous for maple syrup. And let’s not forget about Belgium and its delicious chocolates. Do a quick Google search to find out what people in the area are known for producing and bring that back as a memento. And don’t worry too much about how much you’ll have to spend on your destination-dependent souvenir. You’ll find a range of prices, from cheap knockoffs to handcrafted keepsakes. It all depends on how much you care about authenticity.

When I was in the Black Forest, I shelled out a couple hundred dollars for a traditional cuckoo clock made by a local wood carver. But a few weeks later when I was in Istanbul, I bought a pair of $10 mosaic glass lanterns that were probably made in China. I love them all equally despite their varying levels of authenticity, and I think of happy times whenever the clock strikes the twelve or I flip the switch on one of those lamps.

souvenir-lantern

3. Budget

How much do you want to spend? Give yourself a budget and stick to it. This will help you decide what’s really important to you and what’s not. If you want to put the majority of money toward your actual travels, you may have a more limited budget. A key chain or magnet may be right up your alley. But if you’re all about authentic reminders of the places you’ve been, you’ll want to set aside a loftier budget.

One of my favorite things to do is find an article of clothing made by a local designer. I try to minimize the amount of money I spend on any other items so I can put my money toward one fabulous piece. To aid this endeavor, I avoid chain stores that I can find back home and only venture inside one-off boutiques. In the end, I probably spend less overall because I’m not buying a bunch of stuff I don’t need. I focus on that one item.

souvenir

4. Size

If you’re like me, you don’t have a lot of room in your suitcase to bring things home once you’ve packed all of your gear. So, size matters. Consider how you’re getting your special souvenir home. If you want something you can tuck into the side of your suitcase, a shot glass is perfect. But if you’re open to paying for shipping or are willing to lug around an extra bag for the rest of your trip, it can open up a whole new world.

I can fit two or three thimbles in my change purse, so they are the ultimate keepsake when I’m looking for something small. But remember that cuckoo clock I got in Germany? I was too cheap to pay shipping and duty charges, so I made my husband lug it all over Germany, Switzerland, and Turkey. I won’t be doing that again.

souvenir-eiffel

5. Use

Before you buy that neon fiber-optic Eiffel Tower ask yourself what you’re going to do with it when you get home. I know, you’ve always wanted a pair of wooden clogs from Amsterdam, but maybe a clog key chain will do the trick. A good souvenir is something you will cherish forever. It fits your décor or is a perfect addition to your wardrobe.

I know you’re dying to know what I did with that cuckoo clock. Do I cherish it, or has it been tossed aside? Before I even considered spending a single penny, I knew exactly where I would display it in my house. It’s the first thing you see when you walk in the door. Now that’s money well spent.

souvenir-clog

Over the years, I’ve had my fair share of buyer’s remorse. I just had to have that sailor hat with my name embroidered on the side from Disneyland, even though I only wore it for the three days I was in the park. And don’t even get me started on that olive oil shampoo from Greece that dried out my hair. You win some, you lose some. But nowadays, I try to follow these five tips to make sure I come home with a souvenir that’s right for me.

What types of souvenirs do you look for? Are you someone who buys gaudy knickknacks only to regret it when you get home? Or have you finely honed your souvenir shopping skills? Share your stories with the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.