Shopping is a big part of traveling on vacation. My wife and I do more than our fair share of supporting local economies. Here’s what comes back with us, along with what doesn’t.
Shopping in Port
Here are a few things we make it a point to buy:
- Britain is our shopping paradise. The outdoor antique markets in London and other cities are a favorite. We have brought back china, sterling silver, crystal and linens. I’ve bought a top hat. (actually two!) We also stock up on magazines for the flight back.
- We are people who enjoy cooking. Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world. It’s priced by the gram in the US. The famous Boqueria market in Barcelona has hundreds of food dealers, many selling spices. They have saffron in small boxes at affordable prices.
- Like Switzerland, they are known for chocolates. They are great to eat while on vacation, yet they are also great to bring back as treats and souvenirs.
- Did I mention we are foodies? Most German department stores have a gourmet supermarket, often non the ground floor. They often carry black truffles packed in small jars. Truffles are usually associated with Italy and France. They can be prohibitively expense elsewhere, but aren’t badly priced in Germany. They are served shaved on top of certain pasta dishes or included in truffle omelets.
- Balsamic vinegar is one of Italy’s gastronomic treasures. Yes, you can buy it at Trader Joe’s back home. In Italy you find the artisan version, usually in very small bottles, some sealed with wax. It’s thick, syrupy and delicious.
- Like Italy, France has a great food heritage. Many items you might consider bringing back will get you into trouble with US Customs. This includes their raw, unpasteurized cheeses and certain sausages. Skip those. Foie gras in sealed tins should be fine. They often sell it at the airport, but it’s better priced at supermarkets.
- Portugal does many things well, including pottery. You fall in love with a pattern or design. They box it up for you. It became our carry on luggage. It’s a useful reminder of our trip that isn’t expensive.
Here are few things that we pass up.
- Unless it’s an unusual local brand, you can buy scotch, vodka and gin back home in the states.
- It’s the same logic. The top vineyards sell their wine on allocation through distributors. You might be surprised to learn the best labels aren’t even available for sale at the vineyard. Lesser priced wines still deserve a lot of thought. Wine is heavy and fragile.
- Food items that spoil. You won’t get them past Customs.
- The risks are too great. If it turns out not to be the genuine article, you don’t want to be faced with another trip to South America to return it to the store.
Shopping on Board
Although I always say shipboard shopping could be much better, we do spend money in the shops.
- Duty Free Liquor. Generally speaking, the prices are really good. They hand it over the night before you arrive in your home port. If you drove to the pier, it’s easy to put into your trunk and take home.
- Logoed clothing. We have favorite ships. We buy things like polo shirts to wear around town. It’s a good conversation starter.
- Autographed books. Often there’s a celebrity speaker on board. They usually have a book for sale after their lecture. We find getting a book inscribed for a friend is a great holiday gift!
We are passionate shoppers and good consumers. We shop even on vacation.