Many travelers love layovers that are just long enough to do a bit of shopping. After all, since the shops there are exempt from (most) taxes, everything is so much cheaper. Right?
Well, the truth is that duty free shopping isn’t all it’s made out to be. Firstly, they're not exempt from all taxes. Secondly, depending on your currency and your country’s cost of living, even tax free products in another location may turn out to be more expensive.
Ultimately, if you are saving money, you're not saving that much of it. And, if you're splashing out on a vacation, on Exuma rentals in the Bahamas or villas in Crete, small savings may not be the first thing on your mind.
However, shopping at the airport is a great idea nonetheless. There are many reasons to get some shopping done while you wait for a flight or a transfer. Here are 5 of them.
1. Relieve the boredom
The first, and most obvious, reason, is that waiting in the airport gets very boring very quickly. The worst part about traveling is the “hurry up and wait” experience. You rush to get to the airport early so that you can wait to check in. You hurry to check in and get through security and immigration, so you can wait in another part of the airport. You hurry to board your plane so you can sit on the runway. And so on ad infinitum.
Your time in the airport stops being so boring if you use it to shop for things you've wanted for a while. It’s a good opportunity to try tech gadgets, like noise cancelling headphones or the latest iPad. You can check out the latest fashion and get some great new outfits. If you're in a different country already, you'll find stuff that you can’t get at home. This is the perfect way to get over the boredom and enjoy your transit.
2. Avoid sales crowds
Sales can be wonderful. If you time your shopping well, you can end up spending 50% less on clothing, technology, and more. You have to be willing to wait in long lines, though, and risk the very real possibility that everything you want is sold out before you get the chance to even look.
The good news is that airport outlets have the same sales at the same times. However, whereas people will rush to shop in cities themselves, the only people at the airport sales are those who are on their way somewhere. You get to avoid the crowds and are much likelier to find your ideal deal.
3. Save time at your destination
Shopping in a different city can be a wonderful experience. You get to see stores you may not have back home. You experience first hand the famous shopping streets that define fashion around the world.
But not everywhere has amazing shopping streets, even if they have some fabulous stores you don’t get elsewhere. And not everyone loves spending time shopping. If you only have a short time in a location, you don’t want to spend that time shopping anyway.
Shopping at the airport gives you the opportunity to go to those stores you won’t find elsewhere, without wasting time that could be spent on the beach, climbing mountains, or trying your hand at a new language.
4. See to your travel needs
Aside from saving time and avoiding crowds, the airport is the perfect place to do shopping for another reason. Travelers who do not yet have everything they need for hopping around the globe can find just about everything they need at the airport. Airport stores cater to their most common clientele – travelers. You can get everything from neck pillows to new luggage, all in one convenient location.There are many odds and ends you won’t have thought about before leaving on your travels. Portable phone chargers can be lifesavers. And if you've forgotten to bring some basic toiletries, this is your chance to get what you need before getting to your hotel.
5. Actually take your time
When you go shopping, in general, you have a list of things you need to buy. You want to get them as quickly as possible, as shopping itself can be a bit of an ordeal.
But most people don’t leave all their shopping for the airport. You're shopping because you're there, not the other way around. And that means you can spend time actually assessing your options. Compare those noise cancelling headphones before picking which ones you want. Try on all the scents, rather than just one or two. Spend time choosing the perfect gifts for your demanding family.
Because airport shopping is basically bonus time, you can use it in whatever way you like. Try on clothing you cannot afford, just to see how fabulous you would look in it. See what the rich and famous are picking up for themselves.
Shopping is best when there’s nothing else you need to be doing. Instead of settling on things you don’t really want, you get to find exactly what it is you do want, or if you want anything at all.
One last hack I should mention is taking some of that extra time to do a price comparison with online retailers in your own city. If you find the perfect gadget and know it’s the one you want, go online to see if you can get it cheaper. Then order it in the knowledge that it’s exactly what you want. The same applies to clothing – you get to buy it at its cheapest, knowing exactly how it fits and the correct size.