I remember as a child, a trip overseas meant finding a present for your teacher and a small token gift for everyone in your class. Back in the days when it wasn’t common to travel overseas from Australia, gifts were a good way to include your friends in the experience equally and soothe your teacher about missing school. As time passed, it became hard to decide who you would buy something for and who wouldn’t make the cut. Immediate family members? Close friends? Kids of said close friends? It can be a never-ending cycle of gift-giving if you don’t draw the line somewhere.
Fast-forward to traveling with my own children; I can’t help but notice how much more expensive those trinket-type tokens of friendship are. Suddenly, $20 for 25 class keyrings and pens has blown out to $50 or $60. Add on top of that the friends and family gifts that add up, it’s easy to spend a few hundred dollars and an entire suitcase full of other people’s souvenirs. Looking through this week’s Monday Merch Meeting, I was gazing through the Pins in particular as something I might have previously purchased a few of for friends as a little token of my love, but at $9.99 plus tax a pop, these little babies are now an expensive option to take back for the folks at home.
In recent years, I have pared right down, only picking up special, unique gifts for a handful of people, usually when I come across something they will really love, not simply for the sake of giving them something. I find it much more meaningful to find something special and buy it with someone equally special in mind, not just ticking off a gift list. Some people get it, travelers themselves, they know what a pain and cost it is to be buying for everyone. Others are not so understanding, clearly gritting their teeth through false smiles, feeling entitled to a piece of my vacation. It’s one of the few changes I have made as an adult that has shown me the true colors of those around me.
Of course, the guilt is always there. I would love to bring something back for everyone, I really enjoy giving gifts in general, but the impracticality outweighs the want for it. In some ways, it makes me sad; this was once a tradition that I loved, a gesture of generosity that included the people you love in your experience abroad. I fondly remember choosing a unique mug from the shops within Disneyland for my teachers, the younger me deciding on the most extravagant and flamboyant one I could find, usually packed with characters and 3D molding. I would present it to them with such pride upon my return, usually with my class as my audience while I spoke of our adventures at news (show and tell) time.
I wonder if I am the only one who has made this transition or if the times we live in have changed this part of traveling for others too. Having to save long and hard for that extra pair on Minnie Ears I will collect on each trip, who has extra money to be spending on something for everyone? Not to mention everything I buy I inevitably want to keep for myself; who doesn’t need another trivet?
Do you still manage to bring home a series of gifts for friends and family? I’m curious to know if you do it because you can or because you feel somewhat obligated to. In turn, how do people respond when you don’t have something for them upon return? And if you have given the tradition away, do you miss being able to spread the joy? Lastly, what is your go-to souvenir to pick up for people at home?
Perhaps it doesn’t feel as pressing when you are visiting the parks domestically; maybe this is a pressure more so reserved for international travelers when the expectation is greater? Let me know your thoughts on this one in the comments below.
Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.
Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.