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The Best Travel Tip Ever: Look But Don't Buy!

Updated on October 9, 2014

Souvenirs Travel Home

Source
Market Square: Gdansk, Poland - ©Georgene A. Bramlage
Market Square: Gdansk, Poland - ©Georgene A. Bramlage

Look, But Don't Buy!

Why is "Look, but don't buy!" my number one travel tip? This became my motto because of my observations and experiences during several trips to my ancestral Poland.

Primarily, following my tip makes packing for the bulk of your trip, but especially the homeward trip light and easy. Following this tip avoids damaged or ruined purchases and disappointment. But it can lead to getting significant mementos home.

This lens focuses on visual exploration and paying attention to the thousand-and-one souvenir items competing for a traveler's attention. "Window shopping" becomes an educational experience. A close Israeli friend once told me that you could tell more about a country from exploring its material culture in malls, markets and gifts shops than by haunting museums.

However, this exploration also leaves an opening to decide what you really have to buy and carry home, or might be able to buy from an online merchant once at home. I'll also show, from my personal experiences, how you can substitute small, lightweight memorabilia for heavier, cumbersome and breakable objects.

Taking a long hard look can increase your powers of observation and also leads to memories. Strengthen memories with business cards, easy-to-pack pamphlets and postcards, and your own photos. Keep a travel diary.

He who would travel happily must travel light. Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Photo: Krakow Airport - ©Georgene A. Bramlage

When you visit Poland....

Leave your shopping list at home! Go with the flow. Have fun looking and appreciating this country's ethnic crafts. Enjoy the color and vibrancy of the local markets and market squares. Take pictures and buy postcards; collect teabags, soup packets, and chocolate bars. Keep a travel diary; use business cards as reminders of where you've been, what you've eaten and what pleases you the most.

My Reminders of Poland

Polish blown-glass Christmas ornaments bought here in the U.S.  The house reminds me of architecture of Beskid mountain houses.
Polish blown-glass Christmas ornaments bought here in the U.S. The house reminds me of architecture of Beskid mountain houses. | Source
One of several sets of costumed dolls - baby-doll style - bought in a Cepelia shop.  This couple is dressed in the Lowicz-style from central Poland near Warsaw.  Items like these can be wrapped in sweaters or tee-shirts and placed in the middle of a
One of several sets of costumed dolls - baby-doll style - bought in a Cepelia shop. This couple is dressed in the Lowicz-style from central Poland near Warsaw. Items like these can be wrapped in sweaters or tee-shirts and placed in the middle of a | Source
This Madonna, most probably carved of larch wood, was made by and purchased from a woodcarver in the village of Chocholow.  Small statues like these are easy enough to carry, wrapped in tissue, in a camera bag or backpack.
This Madonna, most probably carved of larch wood, was made by and purchased from a woodcarver in the village of Chocholow. Small statues like these are easy enough to carry, wrapped in tissue, in a camera bag or backpack. | Source
Wycinanki is the Polish word for paper-cut designs. They have been used to decorate the interior of Polish homes since the early 19th century.  They re easy to find in gift shops and ethnographic museums.  The more complex they are, the more expensiv
Wycinanki is the Polish word for paper-cut designs. They have been used to decorate the interior of Polish homes since the early 19th century. They re easy to find in gift shops and ethnographic museums. The more complex they are, the more expensiv | Source
Packets of soup of types hardly seen in the U.S. with instructions written in Polish make great little gifts for friends and relatives.  They are especially nice if the recepients are both Polish and have a sense of humor.
Packets of soup of types hardly seen in the U.S. with instructions written in Polish make great little gifts for friends and relatives. They are especially nice if the recepients are both Polish and have a sense of humor. | Source

Lightweight and Inexpensive Mementos

Easy-to-pack and sure-to-please friends and relatives, especially those with a sense of humor.

  • My sister hates to travel, but enjoys knowing what I do. She also, like most of us, has enough stuff. So, I collect for her items typical to Poland like sugar packets which really do vary in different countries, tea bags, small pieces of chocolate often served with a cup of coffee, napkins, and complimentary bottles of local toiletries.
  • I love Boleslawiec Polish pottery but it is too heavy and cumbersome to pack for the trip back home. There are plenty of importers and wholesalers in the U.S. with selections just as good as those at the various factories. If you want a memento, why not look for a tablecloth (!) in a typical pottery pattern? I've never seen one for sale in the U.S., but did buy one at a Polish factory outlet store. Most factory store also have larger than life items on display. These make great pictures, especially with you in one.
  • Amber is everywhere, but specially in Gdansk and Krakow. Because so much of amber jewelry is in the silver setting, I prefer to buy in established stores around the marketplaces in Gdansk and Warsaw, and the Cloth Hall (Sukiennice) in Krakow. It is possible to buy amber from home, but I do believe the selection, and at times, the prices are greater in Poland. And you can always wear your purchases home or tuck them, wrapped in tissue, at the bottom of a camera bag or backpack. It pays to read up on buying amber before you do so.
  • Lapel pins make great souvenirs for yourself or gifts for friends and relatives. Most museums like the Warsaw Uprising Museum have a lapel pin of their logo. There are also pins of crossed American and Polish flags as well as those commemorating the Solidarity Movement. Here is also an internet source of unusual Polish Patriotic & Religious Lapel Pins.
  • Polish Paper Cuts (Wycinanki) pronounced Vee-chee-non-kee means 'paper-cut design'. No one seems to know just when and how this folk-art form began in Poland. One speculation, among many, is that this was one way of bringing beauty to peasant cottages by cutting colorful scraps of salvaged paper with sheep shears. Two well-known modern styles of paper cutouts are the symmetrical Kurpie cutout and the complex and multilayered forms from the Lowicz area. If you find ones that you like and can afford, place them flat between papers and layers of clothes near the bottom of your suitcase.


Reproduction of Our Lady of Czestochowa

(Public Domain)
(Public Domain)

Poland: Travel Guide Overviews - These have sections near the back of book about what crafts and souvenirs are available.

Poland (Eyewitness Travel Guides)
Poland (Eyewitness Travel Guides)

DK Travel (April 19, 2010)

 

Easter Decorations

 "Cepelia", ul. Piotrkowska
"Cepelia", ul. Piotrkowska

Cepelia Polish Arts and Crafts Shops

Operates approximately 60 shops and oversees about one dozen cooperative shops throughout Poland. At times, online presence is weak.

Begin your adventure in learning about Polish handcrafts in the "Cepelia" shops, tremendous places to begin learning about and searching for Polish goods. They are easy to find and sell among the best of Polish handcrafts and arts to the public. But unless you want tablecloths, wooden eggs or sculptures, be advised that Cepelia does have an online shop. and you can order from home. Because they are usually linked directly to the craftspeople, prices are steeper than items of lesser quality found from street vendors.

From the "Cepelia" website

"The purpose of the Foundation "Cepelia" Polish Arts and Crafts is to protect, organize, develop and promote folk and artistic handicraft and art and art industry. The Foundation has taken steps to ensure the conditions for the creation of new values and the cultivation of traditional material culture of the Polish nation, preservation of cultural identity of the nation, and participates in the creation of contemporary Polish culture.

Company "CEPELIA" Polish Arts and Crafts carries on business in the retail, wholesale, and export of folk art and folk handicrafts and arts.

Visitors can buy textiles, paintings, sculptures, ceramics, wicker, went, jewelry, leather goods, textiles, lace, trimmings folk art, furniture, and memorabilia. On the market there are also private stores using brand "CEPELIA."

Photo: Easter decorations at "Cepelia", ul. Piotrkowska - Lodz. Permission of Giulia via Flikr

Do you collect Polish pottery?

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Polish Pottery

Polish Pottery shop in Port Townsend,  Washington.  With permission of Janusz Leszczynski Photography
Polish Pottery shop in Port Townsend, Washington. With permission of Janusz Leszczynski Photography

Polish Baltic Amber

Tricks to buying Polish Baltic Amber Jewelry

There are numerous stores and market vendors in Poland selling Polish Baltic Amber jewelry.

The "trick" to buying amber jewelry is to check the settings or fittings and for necklaces and bracelets, the material beads are strung upon. If the settings are silver, reputable dealers will deliver a certificate stating so along with the jewelry. High quality silk or beading cord will last infinitely longer than elastic ro cotton cord.

Shopping While Traveling

Do you like to shop while traveling?

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Shop for the very best from Poland without leaving the comfort of your own computer.

Here are links for web sites that sell wonderful items that are either too heavy or too breakable to carry home from a Polish trip.

Polish Souvenirs: Ideas of items to collect

Do you collect:

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Let me know what you think about this lens and my travel shopping philosophy. - I am listening.

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    • GeorgeneMBramlage profile image
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      Georgene Moizuk Bramlage 2 years ago from southwestern Virginia

      Hi Lorelei Thanks so much for taking time to read this travel hub. Your thoughtful and gracious comments are very much appreciated.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 2 years ago from Canada

      I was holding my breath at every photo on your article. I love the beautiful old country items and would love to see these shops in person. Delightful and you did such an amazing job of displaying them.

    • GeorgeneMBramlage profile image
      Author

      Georgene Moizuk Bramlage 3 years ago from southwestern Virginia

      @Grasmere Sue: Oh, yes! Those wonderful, portable and lightweight beer mats! I have a whole shoe box full of them!

    • Grasmere Sue profile image

      Sue Dixon 3 years ago from Grasmere, Cumbria, UK

      I still pick up local beer mats on my travels. Free, lightweight and a reminder of happy days when I get home.

    • GeorgeneMBramlage profile image
      Author

      Georgene Moizuk Bramlage 3 years ago from southwestern Virginia

      @sousababy: Hi, Thanks for stopping by this lens - one of my favorites - and taking the time to read and comment upon it. Happy New Year!

    • sousababy profile image

      sousababy 3 years ago

      Yes, travel light and don't be a slave to the camera either (I finally learned to "take in" the culture of various places).

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      I'm with you on souvenirs - photographs are the best ones for me, not lots of stuff to carry home.

    • GeorgeneMBramlage profile image
      Author

      Georgene Moizuk Bramlage 4 years ago from southwestern Virginia

      @Anna2of5: Anna, Thanks so much for visiting and your great comments. Much appreciated!

    • profile image

      Anna2of5 4 years ago

      Good ideas really. As I get older, I realize the importance of business cards as ways to find the shoppes I like on Facebook, or Pintrest, then I can visit them online whenever I want- they appreciate the free exposure as well. I don't collect spoons or thimbles as storing and dusting is So not my thing. Postcards are nice in moderation, and when in college a Hard rock t-shirt from London was the ultimate gift for a couple friends of mine. So that Had to happen. :D. Good job here, so glad you were featured today, or I might not have found you here.

    • GeorgeneMBramlage profile image
      Author

      Georgene Moizuk Bramlage 4 years ago from southwestern Virginia

      @BillyPilgrim LM: Thanks for visiting and for your comment! Yes, they are great tips to follow!

    • BillyPilgrim LM profile image

      BillyPilgrim LM 4 years ago

      Great lens...need to follow those tips now!x

    • GeorgeneMBramlage profile image
      Author

      Georgene Moizuk Bramlage 4 years ago from southwestern Virginia

      @anonymous: Hi...thanks for stopping by. I, obviously, think it's a good philosophy, but admittedly a little difficult at times :+)

    • tfsherman lm profile image

      tfsherman lm 4 years ago

      True confession: If it's a bead, I'll buy it.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      It's a good travel shopping philosophy. Thanks for sharing. I will try to follow it next time.

    • GeorgeneMBramlage profile image
      Author

      Georgene Moizuk Bramlage 4 years ago from southwestern Virginia

      @tfsherman lm: HI! I agree beads are "good" and very portable. Thanks for visiting and commenting....much appreciated.

    • GeorgeneMBramlage profile image
      Author

      Georgene Moizuk Bramlage 4 years ago from southwestern Virginia

      @Rosaquid: Thank you for visiting and for liking my simple souvenir ideas! Lightweight and fun :+)

    • Rosaquid profile image

      Rosaquid 4 years ago

      I love to receive mementos such as bookmarks or postcards of beautiful sights from my traveling friends. The idea of sugar or tea packets as souvenirs is wonderful! Thanks for sharing.

    • GeorgeneMBramlage profile image
      Author

      Georgene Moizuk Bramlage 4 years ago from southwestern Virginia

      @Camden1: Thanks for visiting, commenting and liking this lens. It was fun to write. We did that with our kids as well and when they set up housekeeping each had a nice nucleus of ornaments with which to begin.

    • Camden1 profile image

      Camden1 4 years ago

      We always buy Christmas ornaments for each family member whenever we travel. Then we can remember each special trip when we decorate our Christmas tree. And the kids will each have a wonderful collection of Christmas ornaments when they have their own homes.

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