Eveline Harvey is nzherald.co.nz's travel editor.

How to beat shopper's remorse


On the wall of my home is a red goat-skin lamp in the form of a lizard.

I choose to ignore the fact that I'm still waiting to have him wired up so he serves his proper purpose, mainly because I think he's adorable and, having lugged him across three continents in my hand luggage and had him approved by customs agents at Auckland International Airport, I'm happy to wait a little longer until I find the perfect spot for him.

You see Fernando, as I've dubbed him, is that rare thing: a bulky and unusual item brought back from holiday which I still think was a good purchase almost a year and a half on.

Poor Fernando's not in good company. Most of my other large purchases from Morocco and further afield lost their novelty factor soon after I'd carried them back to my accommodation in whichever city I'd found them.

That was the case with the tagine dish I decided I had to haggle for at a dusty outpost on the way to road's end in the Sahara. Don't get me wrong, I love my tagine pot, but the hassle of getting it from the north African desert to New Zealand was, in retrospect, not worth it.

It's authentic and pretty to look at, but I would be lying if I said I had used it more than a few times since engineering its epic world journey. And I've since seen some equally lovely pots in a Ponsonby Rd shop, much to my chagrin.

The tagine pot was an error of judgment that crept up on me. It was the memory of multi-coloured lead light lanterns in Istanbul's Grand Bazaar (which I'd refrained from buying) that convinced me, even before setting out for Morocco, that I needed a Moroccan lamp ... but a tagine pot?

Perhaps it was the vibrancy of the Moroccan markets and the expert patter the proprietors employed to sell their wares.

Maybe I thought owning a piece of earthenware from the nation I was having such a superb holiday in would remind me of fragrant mint tea and revitalising harira soup every time I looked at it.

I'm not sure. What I do know is that I broke my own rules set years ago to try to minimise incidences of tourist shopper's remorse.

After buying a miniature didgeridoo in Australia, which I never learnt to play, I narrowed my list of preferred holiday buys to three sub-groups: small artworks, clothes and jewellery.

Sticking to this plan has served me well. Jewellery doesn't take up much space and can be worn as often as you like upon your return to remind you of adventures past.

Likewise, clothing tends to last a while and there's a satisfaction to be gained from telling someone inquiring about your new leather jacket that it was bought in Italy or Argentina.

There will always be items which we fall in love with on our travels. A half-tonne Bavarian cuckoo clock for the hallway or a hand-knotted silk rug the size of Eden Park may be unique, but need to be carefully considered.

Most instances of tourist shopper's remorse can be avoided through a little planning. If the country you're visiting specialises in a particular product you've always fancied, read up beforehand so you know how to sort the wheat from the chaff upon arrival.

If the item is big, factor the potential freight and shipping costs into your decision. That hand-painted vase may be beautiful, but will you still think so when you've paid the equivalent of a second plane ticket to have it sent back to your house? Try never to buy big-ticket items on the spur of the moment. Instead, set a budget before you leave and stick to it.

Companies selling large items will often arrange shipping, but it's worth making sure their quote is competitive by contacting some freight companies yourself. The advantage of having the seller arrange freight is that all the paperwork for customs clearance will, hopefully, be in order.

As for those smaller unwanted purchases, just learn to say no. Ask for a second opinion if you find your resolve waning. A friend will usually be able to point out the folly in buying a 50-piece Vladimir Putin babushka doll.

Take a photo of the item, if you must. It will last longer and provide the basis for a great holiday storytelling session.

What's the craziest thing you've brought back from an overseas trip?

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Eveline Harvey is nzherald.co.nz's travel editor.

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