This Is the One Beauty Product I Buy on Every Trip

I am a firm believer that people either fall into one of two categories when it comes to travel: Those who always check a bag, and those who never do. Personally, I'm firmly in the latter category. And while it's usually a struggle to fit everything I want to bring in my carry-on suitcase (and one personal item-the personal item is key), I can usually make it happen thanks to packing cubes and sheer willpower. While closing my bags usually involves quite a bit of physical strength (raise your hand if you, too, sit on your rolling suitcase to close it… every time), I always try to leave room for just one particular item. Instead of buying traditional souvenirs, I always treat myself to a small, travel-size perfume after a particularly memorable trip.

I started doing this after I realized smelling the type perfume (Marc Jacobs' Daisy, $29) I had purchased years back, after a trip to London while I was studying abroad, instantly brought back memories of that time if my life. Whenever I'd smell it in a store, or notice someone else was wearing it, it's all I could think about. Experts say smell is the strongest sense linked to memory, so logically the effect made sense to me. Still, though, I'd always be surprised at just how many memories popped back in my head every time I'd catch a whiff of it, without fail. Ever since then, whenever I go on a particularly great trip or even just one that leaves me with a bit of extra time in a duty-free shop at the airport (Heathrow is the best for this), I buy a travel size perfume. Now, Jo Malone's Peony & Blush Suede ($70) reminds me of my first press trip as a freelancer-something that I never thought would happen after I quit my full-time editorial job. Marc Jacobs' Daisy reminds me of my time studying abroad in The Netherlands and spending weekends traveling to different places.

Admittedly, this isn't exactly the cheapest habit in the world, given that conversion rates are often not friendly to the U.S. dollar. This is why I try to keep the habit to a once yearly treat for the most part. It always gives me a little boost to buy myself a gift, and that certainly never hurts considering that most trips home are not quite as exciting or pleasant as the outbound trips. Plus, this is a souvenir I actually use. T-shirts get thrown out. Art winds up never being framed. But perfumes? I always use them-and for long, long after the trip is over. Plus, as someone who has quite a few full-size bottles of fragrance from my time as a full-time beauty editor, having smaller, carry-on friendly fragrance is always helpful for those trips where I'm not going to be purchasing a new scent. And in case you're wondering, duty-free airport purchases come after security, meaning there's no need to fit it in that tiny, plastic bag for toiletries that, if you're anything like me, is almost always filled to the brim with products already.

So next time you go on a trip and are wondering what to purchase to remember your travels by, consider purchasing something you'll actually use and will jog your memory in the most effective, scientifically-proven way. Maybe it's a candle or lotion instead of perfume. No matter what you choose, I can guarantee you leaving the extra room in your carry-on is worth it.