DEAR HARRIETTE: When going abroad, is there still an expectation to bring back souvenirs for friends and family? I feel like I have never appreciated a keychain or refrigerator magnet, but I do not want to offend anybody. -- Tchotchkes, Dallas
DEAR TCHOTCHKES: This is a great question. Remember when cheesy T-shirts were popular, the ones that said some version of “My friend went to --, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt”? That was a cute gimmick.
You are right that many impulse tourist gifts end up being a waste of money. Why not think differently? Take a lot of pictures on your journey. Send specific images that would be of interest to certain people. If someone loves flowers and you visit a beautiful garden, send that photo. An art lover might appreciate an image of a famous museum or work of art -- if you are allowed to photograph it. You could also purchase postcards of the art that you see.
If you happen upon a gift item that seems perfect for one of your loved ones, by all means get it. The way you can protect yourself from hurt feelings of others who didn’t receive something extra is to have a photo for everyone. You can also save it for their birthday.