Don’t fret because you have three hours to kill before your plane takes off. Avid shoppers know that some of the most unique — and often best priced — shopping can be done in airports around the world. The trick is to focus on local goods and purveyors (no point stocking up on American-made cosmetics in France). Below, a few great items we found in some of our favorite airport emporiums around the world.
In Hong Kong International Airport, the Airport Skymart is almost as bustling as Causeway Bay (albeit much cleaner and brighter). There’s a “downtown pricing guarantee,” which means that you won’t be gouged at the myriad electronics and gadget stores, although we’re not sure if the Chanel and Van Cleef & Arpels stores are offering any bargains.
Best bets: For lovely silks made in Hong Kong, check out the goods at Shanghai Tang, where you can also snag sophisticated silver-filigree picture frames lined in vivid silk (they pack flat and look fantastic on the mantle). Aji Ichiban, a candy store that would make Willy Wonka proud, stocks tropical-flavored gel candies and unique sweets from China.
London’s Heathrow International Airport has always been a great spot to stock up on British specialty items, from perfume at Jo Malone to shirts and ties at Thomas Pink, but come 2008, shopping the airport will get even better when Harrods opens a two-floor mega-store in Terminal 5. The airport also has excellent special offers and discount vouchers.
Best bets: Until the super-Harrods opens, you can make do with the mini-Harrods for their well-know tote bags and other branded gifts. For an even more British keepsake, stop in at Liberty for a signature-printed scarf.
You expect major airports to have major shopping, but don’t underestimate the little guys. Take Halifax Stanfield International Airport, on Canada’s Atlantic Coast. Drop by the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation’s airport outlet to stock up on local libations like Grand Pre ice wine, Lunenburg County blueberry wine, and Glen Breton Rare Canadian Single-Malt Whiskey.
Best bets: For a complete feast, stop at the Clearwater Seafood location for fresh lobster ($16.99 CDN per pound), boxed or bagged, to take home.
Paris prices got you down? Wait until you’re ready to take-off from Charles DeGaulle Airport to buy your French-branded souvenirs. Totes and leather bags by Longchamp are usually available, and don’t forget great gifts for friends at home — cosmetics and French CDs — at 30% less than U.S. retail prices. Glamorous sunglasses are on offer at the Solaris shop, and as this is Paris there is an excellent vintner with a fine selection of wines and champagnes.
Best bets: The Galeries Lafayette store has a good selection of stylish French accessories — scarves, bags, costume jewelry — at duty-free prices.
In the USA, Portland International Airport will cure you of the I-can’t-remember-what-city-I’m-in-anymore blues. The airport has a dazzling range of Oregon-based retailers, including locally based Nike. The pre-security shopping area is so excellent that even non-flying locals shop here. And did we mention that Oregon doesn’t have sales tax?
Best bets: The Oregon Pendleton shop for classic Northwestern comfort clothing, and Made in Oregon, for chocolate-covered hazelnuts and locally produced wines.
Rome’s Fiumicino Airport has more than 130 shops, many with Made in Italy as their theme, including a Ferrari Store, Gucci, Prada, and more wallet-friendly Benetton.
Best bets: At the aptly named Italian Food you can purchase authentic Italian delicacies that have been cleared for takeoff. Look for tomato paste in tubes, parma ham sliced and shrink-wrapped, and bubbly Prosecco among the spoils.
What do Madison Avenue, Champs-Élysées, and Singapore’s Changi Airport have in common? They all offer some of the best shopping in the world. How about the only airport-based Chloé in the world, plus Gucci, Prada, and Cartier. You can find just about anything here, from foot massages to luxury items like a $50,000 diamond ring and a $10,000 lap top.
Best bets: The gently priced and highly imaginative kids’ toys at Kaboom!
Most travelers to Southern Africa traverse Johannesburg International Airport. On your way home, after you’ve made it through security, make a bee-line to what the airport refers to as a “Shopping Safari.” Shops here range from truly duty-free gems (especially Tanzanite) to local sports-team gear to traditional crafts.
Best bets: The Out of Africa store. Almost all the handcrafts you’ve been eyeing on your trip, from 6-foot wood giraffes to Ndebele beaded dolls, are on offer here at better-than-retail prices.