4 great souvenir ideas for a backpacking trip

By Carmen Recavarren
Posted on 13 January 2017

Picking up souvenirs while backpacking is half the fun, right? Rooting around off the beaten track often turns up some proper little must-haves that will get friends talking when you get home.

There’s a slight hitch, though: clearly, when you’re backpacking, there’s not a whole of room to cram in souvenirs. And on top of that, money’s often tight. So it helps to set a few ground rules before you go shopping.

First, keep it small. That one’s obvious. Second, be a conscious traveler and keep it local – only if you’re actually in China should you buy Made in China! And third, think about the future. Is this something you’d want proudly display for many years to come? Is it the kind of thing you can turn into a quirky collection? If not, leave it on the shelf, or at least walk away and have a think before buying.

Collections are particularly good idea if you’re on a multi-destination trip. One little oddity doesn’t have much impact on its own, but stick it with ten same-but-different ones from various countries and something magic happens. It gives you a really nice, colourful display that’s guaranteed to start conversations about your travels years down the line. And that’s the point, right?

Here are a few ideas to get you started…


Don’t pick up the ordinary ones. Go for something quirky, handmade or not originally meant to be a keychain: a tiny glass animal from Venice, a Dala horse from Sweden. When you get home, make them into a keychain for your housemates/ parents/ spare keys, so whenever you hand them out, you have a shot of memory to get nostalgic over.

You could even buy a souvenir magnet and make it into a keychain – then you can stick it to the fridge, making it very easy to find when you need to give someone a spare key (you know, if you decide to drop everything and head off for a few days).

Hostels - Keychains
© Copyrights: Joe Shlabotnik

Charm bracelets and necklaces

Tokens, pressed pennies and little coins, shells, Scrabble pieces, bottle tops – anything goes. They’re all cheap – often free – easy to carry, and they make great souvenirs. You’ll find penny presses at sights all over the world, so you can collect them as you go, then drill a hole in each charm and hang it on a chain as a necklace or charm bracelet. It’s a souvenir that grows as your trip does, and because it’s wearable it can stay with you forever – it doesn’t just have to sit gathering dust on a shelf.

Hostels - Charm bracelets and necklaces
© Copyrights: Stacey Jane

Business card tin collection

Yawn? Yes, maybe. But as you start working more than travelling – it could happen – you’ll need somewhere to put your business cards, so start a collection of little tins to keep them in. Such a nice way to keep your younger self alive as you stroll through life. Whip out your card tin and you have a conversation starter, a way to connect with the business world, which goes beyond ‘so what do you do?’.

Hostels - Business card tin collection
© Copyrights: srgpicker

Local art or fabrics

If you want something bigger and bolder to take home, one way of getting around the space problem is to go for something that starts small and gets bigger. Think local canvases, which you can roll up small then frame when you get home, or local fabrics, which you can fold into the bottom of your backpack ready to be turned into cushion covers, throws, tablecloths or even clothing. The only thing to be wary of is weight – if you’re going for fabrics, buy towards the end of the trip.

Hostels - Local art or fabrics
© Copyrights: Gisela Giardino