Travel Shopping For Gifts And Souvenirs

International Travel And Bargain Opportunities

Vanilla in Mexico, jade in Central America, salmon in Alaska, macadamia nuts in Hawaii, paprika in Hungary, these are just a few of the items that we look for when traveling. Taking advantage of these bargains while traveling provides an opportunity to bring home not just memories but really good quality items at often remarkable savings.

Think Outside The Box

While it’s easy to shop for many of the notable local speciality items in tourists areas, the real bargains come from thinking outside the box. While visiting places ask yourself “where do the locals shop ?” Chances are you won’t find them standing in line at Hilo Hatties in Hawaii to buy macadamias or the waterfront Alaska gift shop to buy their salmon (Tip for buying salmon – look for the Wild Alaska Salmon & Seafood Company). Local supermarkets and street markets are treasure troves of unique local products and an excellent way of seeing how locals shop.

Macadamias In Hawaii – In Hawaii the Mauna Loa plantation is famous for being the largest grower and packager of these gems, but it is far from the best place to shop. What the locals know is that the drug chain CVS has special sales on Macadamias every few weeks and if you know about CVS coupons it’s possible to save 50% when buying Macadamia Nuts

Distilled Spirits In USVI Duty Free Shops – Duty free liquor in the United States Virgin Islands has for decades been one of the things to buy. Besides being duty free, Americans can bring back four or five liters duty free when going home. Unfortunately, retailers serving the tourist trade along with the local government have been taking advantage of the USVI’s reputation. They’ve been profiteering more and more in recent years with the result of many tourist shops being almost on par with U.S. prices. Want to save from 25% to 30% over those “duty free” shops? Go where the locals shop. Pueblo is the USVI grocery store chain where you can buy duty free and be given one of those six bottle cartons too.

Mexico For Tequila, Vanilla* and Silver – America’s neighbor to the south has some shopping opportunities that shouldn’t be passed up when you visit. Mexico is deservedly famous for silver, onyx and pottery with prices often too good to pass up. Two additional items that are always a good deal are vanilla and tequila (check U.S. duty free exceptions before you buy).

*In shopping for vanilla don’t be tempted by those large, cheap bottles of vanilla available in many gift shops. They may not contain real vanilla extract, and sometimes may contain something that could hurt you. That “something” is coumarin, an extract of the tonka bean that imparts an intense vanilla aroma and thus makes it smell like the real thing. Coumarin was banned as food additive in the U.S. in 1940 because of moderate toxicity. Pay attention and make sure you know what you are getting.

Local Spices, Pepper Sauces and Speciality Foods – From Thailand to India, Hungary to France and all over Latin America there are lots of unique speciality items to shop for. Don’t pass up an opportunity to bring home Hungarian Paprika or Greek Oregano or maybe French Pate**.

**Pate and a U.S. Customs Oddity – It seems that the U.S. Customs policies regarding bringing back Pate and Foie Gras as well as other packaged meats is somewhat poorly defined. One policy declares that “Cooked poultry meat or poultry meat products will be inspected by U.S. Customs & Border Protection. Items appearing to be “thoroughly cooked throughout will be allowed entry. Items that do not appear thoroughly cooked throughout will not be allowed”.That leaves deciding if it is allowed up to the individual agents and their understanding about an items being thoroughly cooked throughout. Another entry appearing on the USDA and Customs websites states, “If the declared meat product is packed in hermetically sealed containers and cooked by an acceptable commercial method after such packing to produce articles that are shelf-stable without refrigeration it can be allowed entry into the U.S. if intended only for personal use.”

Some Economies Can Represent Exceptional Opportunities For Bargains While Traveling

While traveling in much of the Western world you will see currency values ebb and flow on a regular basis but usually not so much as to represent major savings. There are some world economies that do in themselves provide buying opportunities however. Places where Euros and Dollars are really strong allow you to travel less expensively and shop for some real bargains.

Vietnam and its neighbors, aside from being eager to accept U.S. Dollars offer options to do serious shopping for bargains. Locally made items demonstrate great values along with made to order clothes and some unique manufactured goods.

Other countries that have been struggling to recover from a recession or have been forced to devalue their currency are also opportunities. Over the past decade countries like Argentina, Greece and the Philippines have offered great travel opportunities on a limited budget.

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