If shopping holidays are your dream come true, check out these handy tips from Leila George.

1 Baggage allowances

This is something most of us don't think about too much until it's time to hit the road back to the airport and you realise you can't do up your suitcase unless you have four people sitting on it, and once it's zipped, you need a forklift to get it into the cab.

If you're prone to extreme shopping (a friend of mine bought nine pairs of shoes in the first three days of a month-long trip last year), investigate baggage allowances before you go. Middle Eastern airlines Qatar, Emirates and Etihad have generous allowances on some routes and fares, but there are lots of conditions. For Kiwis and Aussies, Hawaiian Airlines offers two bags of up to 32kg each per person travelling to Hawaii/North America.


And if you're travelling in the US in November, make sure you plan for a day of shopping madness the day after Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday of the month) when Black Friday happens - the start of the Christmas shopping season when major retailers have massive sales.

2 Outlet malls

American outlet malls are more like outlet towns, and a must for any bargain hunter. The only one on Oahu is Waikele Premium Outlets, not far from Honolulu. Here you'll happily fill up one of those suitcases with the likes of Coach, Kate Spade, Michael Kors, Barneys, Polo Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and more.

There are also a couple of Nordstrom Rack outlets in Honolulu, one at Ward Village and one at Waikiki.

On the mainland, you'll find the Citadel Outlets not far from Los Angeles Airport. Karmel Shuttle offers packages that will transport you from any hotel in Anaheim, the LA area or the airport and take you to the enormous outlet complex, which houses almost any store you can think of, from Disney to DKNY. You can store your luggage in the VIP Lounge while you shop, then repack before catching your flight. Visit karmel.com and citadeloutlets.com

3 Street markets

It can be a lot of fun visiting the big street markets in Asia and shopping around for the perfect pair of shoes or a new handbag - once you get used to the bartering, that is.
Some advice here: If you like something a lot, buy it, because unless you're really paying attention, you'll find it hard to locate it the stall or even the street again. Also, remember bartering can get out of hand - likely, you're arguing over what amounts to a latte or glass of wine back home, so decide how much something is actually worth and try to pay that, rather than squabbling over a few dollars.

Two of the markets not to miss are Bangkok's Chatuchak Weekend Market, which is visited by more than 200,000 locals and tourists each day and sprawls across several streets; and Hong Kong's Ladies Market in Kowloon, which is a 1km stretch of stalls selling clothing, accessories, souvenirs and more.

Another spot to shop in Bangkok - and where it's okay to barter - is the famous MBK Center, an enormous mall with more than 2000 stores over eight floors selling clothes, accessories, handbags, luggage, furniture, electronics and more. Fashion is found on MBK's lower floors, while electronics are mostly on the third and fourth.

4 How to access your cash

Even the money experts have trouble with this one. Herald personal finance columnist Diana Clement says she sometimes goes around in circles about this, and says whichever way you go there are "gotchas".

"I have been thinking of getting an ANZ card for travel because you no longer pay ATM fees in Australia and some other Asia/Pacific countries," she says. ASB and BNZ, however, charge $7.50 per ATM withdrawal, Westpac $3 and Kiwibank $6. This is on top of currency conversion fees.

"On both of my most recent trips overseas I got cash from small exchange houses in Auckland. There are some in central Auckland and south Auckland that have better rates than the banks and don't charge a conversion fee. I did notice when I was doing my conversion that the No 1 Currency and Western Union shops were quite reasonable.

"If you pre-book through places like Travelex the prices are okay. But if you try to change money at the airport it is often expensive. So, if you're getting cash, you're probably best off with little exchange houses in Queen St and suburban centres than the banks or the airport."

The best option, she advises, is to change cash with your friends if they have some. "That way you both get the best rate."

She warns to be wary of loaded-for-travel or OneSmart-style cards as they can be expensive, and says that in a few years she might look at using Bitcoins for international exchange when she travels.

A handy tip to note is that when paying by card, if you're asked if you want to pay in local currency or your home currency, always go for the local currency. Otherwise, you'll pay an extra conversion fee, which might be only a few per cent, but which adds up.

5 Shop sustainably

In these times of fast fashion, it's easy to get swept up in the frenzy of bartering in the Asian street markets and spending up a storm at cheap department stores in bigger economies. This is one place that it's easy to step back and think about where your money is actually going. If souvenirs or clothing are cheap, are they authentic or mass produced in a factory in a different country? Isn't it better to shop thoughtfully and ethically, taking home something well-crafted where the money has gone back to the actual makers and local economy? The same could apply to food as well - perhaps shop at farmers' or city markets, rather than supermarkets if you have the option. Also consider supporting fair trade, organic and eco-friendly goods and services, to reduce your carbon footprint where you are able. Here's a handy website for finding ethical fashion: baptistworldaid.org.au.

6 Be savvy at duty free

Did you know it's better value if you buy your duty free this side of the Tasman? That many countries will give you some of your tax on purchases back at the airport if you've spend over a certain amount?

And that at Singapore's Changi Airport passengers in transit travelling on Singapore Airlines, SilkAir and Air New Zealand are eligible for a Changi Dollar Voucher (CDV), valued from S$20 ($20.50) for shopping and refreshments. It can literally pay to keep an eye out for nifty deals at airports across the world.


In the US, states are responsible for deciding their own sales tax rates. This ranges from zero (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon) to 7.25 per cent (California). On top of that, counties and cities can add even more. If you're planning on big ticket items, choose your state wisely.