Vacation season is looming, and if you’re lucky (and planful), you already have an amazing trip scheduled. The destination’s been chosen, the flights and hotel are booked, and the daily itineraries are almost solidified. It feels like you’re fully prepared, right? You’ve even started packing!
But if shopping is on your vacation agenda (it’s always on mine!), do you know your shopping strategy? Yes, it’s great to stumble upon stores while sightseeing, collecting trinkets and memories of your trip – but wouldn’t it be nice to know what you’re looking for, have a budget in mind, and be able to bring your treasures home without worry? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, read my top five tips for shopping on vacation.
HAVE A BUDGET (& A PLAN)
Any time you’re shopping, you should have a budget. If you don’t have an idea of how much you want to spend in total, then you should at least know your thresholds, aka what you’re willing to pay by type of item. Will you pay $100 for a cute bracelet or $1000? Is a gift for mom a $25 purchase or is it $200? Spending on vacation can be very emotional, so thresholds can help keep you in check. If you do find yourself contemplating an out-of-budget decision, take a breather. Get all the relevant information, and then plan to visit the shop later in the trip or even see if they can arrange a sale once you’re home and have a chance to ponder. And also have a plan for when to shop – set aside time in your itinerary to wander those amazing neighborhoods. It’s better than feeling last-minute pressure to get a gift, and then defaulting to candy from duty-free at the airport! (Check out more of my every day shopping tips here.)
Are you traveling to a destination with different currency? Keep abreast of exchange rates and bank/credit card conversion fees. After all – wouldn’t it be nice to know what the $75 overseas purchase really costs you before you buy it?
PRE-SHOP (WHAT'S THE DESTINATION KNOWN FOR?)
If you’re an avid shopper, it’s useful to find out what your destinations are known for, especially if the price on vacation trumps any deal you’d be able to get otherwise. Do your research, or else your ‘deal of the trip’ might be something you could have ordered online from home. (For example, click here for a quick article on souvenirs to buy in Europe.)
MEMORIES CAN BE USEFUL
Mementos of amazing vacations can be just that – mementos. But if it means that they sit in a drawer and only get pulled out when you’re cleaning, then maybe they’re not the best memories of your trips. Instead of an evil eye keychain from Istanbul or a 3” rendering of the Eiffel Tower, how about getting something you can use?
I often buy jewelry on vacation, and (oddly enough) shoes. I wear bracelets almost every day, so they are precious reminders of specific trips that I get to enjoy regularly. And a certain designer I like is much cheaper to purchase in the UK than in the US, so I buy shoes (or a bag) when I’m at his shops in London. And even a refrigerator magnet from Dubai is special to me – it recollects an amazing time, and holds the grocery list, too!
YOU GOTTA LOVE IT (NO RETURNS!)
I can’t stress this one enough – you have to love love love what you buy on vacation, because you can’t return it. And even if you think you can, check first – many retailers that operate globally do not allow returns in the US on items purchased outside the US. So if you’re contemplating a purchase that may get returned, contemplate harder.
DON’T GET WHAT YOU CAN GET AT HOME
It may be tempting to buy something you need when you’re on a trip and time is on your side – but if you can get it at home, don’t bother. It will save you any hassle of bringing it back, and it saves precious space in your suitcase for true treasures that you can only find at your destination.
Do you have any tips that make shopping easier on your vacations? Let me know in the comments!