How to Shop Smart When Traveling
I enjoy milling about a crowd at a market. There’s a certain energy walking amongst vendors and discovering talent in the unlikeliest of places. Going to an area’s shopping plaza the locals patron and discovering new and unique wares, I always feel as if I’m discovering the heartbeat of a place. I encourage anyone on vacation to seek out where the locals hangout-the food, the art, the cadences of various languages being spoken, even the clothes. There you will find the heartbeat-definitely one of the arteries. Enjoy imagining you're a local. I know I do and I’m not the only one who does this. Many have relocated for doing just that. For now, I'll just settle for a piece of the locale-that something that will fit with my decor at home as well as inside my luggage, that piece that will take me back to those fond memories. Here is my list of how to shop smart while traveling.
1. Depending on where you are though, sometimes outright buying something isn't the smartest thing to do. Comparative Shopping is a thing everyone should practice. Even on vacation. ESPECIALLY on vacation. There's a reason why there are so many shops with just about the same things. You are meant to compare. There's nothing wrong with practicing comparison shopping while vacationing! So many people get off to their vacations and go bananas. I've actually seen people get off cruises at first dock and buy up everything at port. I’m not saying it's a terrible way to shop, but for the conscientious shopper we all strive to be, shop around. Do you run the risk of missing out? Sure, you do. For every item you see at one shop there are probably a dozen others offering the same thing but at various prices. Most times, they’re at more reasonable prices. You may find something better.
2. My advice to any traveling shopper, take time out to scope the vendors out and what they're selling. Get advice from locals about where to shop. Who better to know where the best places or items are? I've made a habit of talking to locals about what they love most about where they live. Every time, I get the best recommendations and tips. Sure it's a bit difficult connecting with people over small talk but it gets easier. And you know what? Nothing beats that human connection because there’s always something I’ve missed in my internet research. The concierge, the host or waiter at a restaurant, a host where you're staying, even vendors have friends they want to recommend. Locals are a great source to tap into.
3. Have an idea for the special items or what makes the place you're visiting special to you. I'm not opposed to the occassional souvenir. Red chile ristra earrings anyone? Or a cowboy boot magnet? However, do not feel beholden to the typical tourist shopping trends. Magnets, t-shirts, spoons, mugs are great but travelers aren’t limited to the typical souvenirs. There’s room to be more creative. Say hello to my collection of Seafood Utensil Set I got at a cute Seattle shop. I still don't regret foregoing the red chile earrings for the geometrical patterned teal and cream sweater made with recycled threads. Every time I wear that sweater, I think of my week in Santa Fe. All in all, it was a great find. I wonder how much wear would I have gotten out of this Chile earrings?
4. Depending on where you are, Haggling is another great way to get what you want for the price you want. Be prepared to walk away. Have a number in your mind of what you’re willing to pay and hold to that number in your mind. Then, low-ball it by what you’d love to pay but make sure it’s reasonable. After all, you want to be taken seriously. Just believe in yourself and practice that poker face. For the most part, haggling works.
5. Take time out for shopping. When you set aside an allotted time specifically for shopping, anxiety is alleviated or at the very least diminished. As with any vacation, we try to squeeze in as much as we can leaving no room for a wind down. Trust me, you don’t want to rush your shopping. You end up spending more.
So, have a plan. Do comparison shop. To find the cool stuff scope out where the locals hang out. Think about what you’re interested in taking home and what you’re able to carry back with you. Also think about customs and what you’re able to bring back with you. Then, ask yourself when you can fit shopping into your vacation. If you’ve considered these, you’re ready to get your shop on.
Lastly, will purchasing this piece remind you of this amazing trip and the experiences you've had? Please comment below of some of the “souvenirs” you’ve brought back from your travels?
Be on the lookout for the second part of the Shopping While Traveling series.