Blog by Beebe Cline

<< back to article list

10 Ideas for Packable Decor From Your Travels

If you are planning a big trip this summer, it's likely those carefully packed suitcases will come home quite a bit heavier than when you left. The lure of shopping for decor while on vacation is great, and the promise of bringing home a one-of-a-kind treasure is nearly irresistible. These 10 tips can help you track down authentic finds without stressing your credit card too much or overstuffing your home.
1. Remember the power of pictures. Hone your photography skills before and during your trip, and you may come away with a wall-worthy print for just the cost of a frame.

How to take better travel photos with your phone
2. Start a low-maintenance collection. When choosing an item to collect, think small, portable and easy to find. Maps — whether antique or current — matchbooks and even humble postcards can make fine collectibles. Seek the same thing in every place you travel, and you can soon have a unique collection.
3. Scoop up local specialties at the source. Whether you are shopping for market totes and vintage grain-sack pillows in France or embroidery in Mexico, try to source your finds from a market or local haunt for the best price. It pays to do a little research before you leave home so you'll feel comfortable straying from the tourist-filled areas.
4. Surprise friends with exotic toiletries with cool designs. Drugstore basics from other countries often have beautiful packaging and make unexpectedly fun (and budget-friendly) gifts for friends back home. Look for pretty soaps, creams and, yes, even toothpaste, in the corner drugstore, and make a trip to the market for interesting pantry goods.
5. Collect artwork wherever you go. My husband's grandparents did this, and after more than 50 years of traveling together, they had amassed an impressive collection of original art — and each piece had a story to tell. They were mostly small pieces by unknown artists, some vintage, some new; the point wasn't to make an investment but to buy what they loved — good advice for us all.
6. Take home versatile textiles. Fabrics are a wonderful way to bring home a bit of the spirit of a place, and they don't up too much room in a suitcase. If you sew or know a good seamstress, you can save money by purchasing fabric and having pieces made — as Houzz contributor Samantha Schoech did with the beautiful pillows made from a piece of Mexican Otomi embroidery shown here.
7. Save room by skipping the filling. Buy poufs empty and fill them when you get home, buy pillow covers without inserts and go for a light duvet cover rather than a hefty quilt. Your suitcase will thank you.
8. Give foreign-language kids' toys and books. For the little ones, look no farther than a local bookshop or toy store for affordable gifts. Picture books, alphabet blocks, flash cards and puzzles are all more charming and add to education when printed in another language.
9. Take care when buying fragile items. A few delicate items can find a safe home in your carry-on bag, but don't expect fragile items packed in checked luggage to come through unscathed. Even if you did a pro job putting it in, your best efforts can be completely undone during one security check.

If you must have that full set of hand-painted dishes, see if the shop can ship them to your home — and even then, be comfortable with the risk that they may not arrive in one piece (or at all).
10. Get to the root of what you want to bring home. Is it the object — or the lifestyle? It's easy to slip into the trap of thinking that the more things you bring home, the more of that vacation feeling you will bring home, too. Instead of overloading your suitcases and stretching your wallet, note the things you have made a habit of doing on vacation that you don't usually make time for — and commit to doing them more often when you get home.