• Heather Holcombe

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Vacation Shopping


Summer is here, and travels are in full swing for a lot of Americans. It's also a time when many of us like to shop while away from our usual options. If you're like me, pretty items often catch my eye while I'm traveling. My favorite thing to buy on trips is art. It's flat, easy to pack, and also a great reminder of a particular location. We've bought several pieces from local artists abroad in Bath, Venice, Montreal, Paris, etc. - and I love them all! But before you stock up on tchotchkes (put down that giant resin seashell!), I thought I'd offer some quick shopping tips.

Think twice:

My rule is to stop and think twice before I buy any tchotchke while traveling. Why? Because we're not just in a different environment when we're on vacation, we usually have a different mindset (Is vacation-brain a thing?) and are on different schedules, possibly affecting our regular judgment. That could mean that an item you love in (a carefully styled) seaside village boutique might not look so great to you once you get home.

So before you buy that resin seashell you're admiring, ask yourself the following three questions:

  • Do I need it? A good rule of thumb for travel shopping is to stick to items that you genuinely need. For example, a locally made apron can remind you of a destination and be useful back home in your kitchen. I try to buy things that remind me of a particular trip, but that are also useful!

  • Will it match? Ask yourself if it will match your interior style back home. Just because you like the look of something doesn't mean it will fit your home's aesthetic. Remember that shops and boutiques are carefully styled places designed to entice you into buying. Just because it looks good in a shop doesn't mean it will look good in your home.

  • Can I buy it at home? Here's a cautionary tale. While traveling in England, a friend of mine bought porcelain coffee cups that matched plates she'd purchased on a previous trip there. Her husband dutifully packed them carefully into their luggage (no easy task) and brought them home. A few months later, my friend came across the very same cups (the very same brand) in a Durham, NC Home Goods! They'd gone through the trouble of packing those cups into luggage when they were already 15-minutes from her home. Try to buy something you're not likely to find at home.

I hope my tips are helpful to you for travel shopping! One last piece of advice - is the price of the item fair, or are you overpaying as a tourist?