12 Things to Buy Duty-Free at the Airport
It’s nearly impossible to board an international flight without passing by the duty-free shops at the airport. And you can find some good deals if you know what to keep an eye out for.
What is duty-free?
If you’ve ever flown internationally or through an international terminal from home, you’ve likely seen or strolled through the brightly-lit consumer paradise of a duty-free shop. According to CheapFlighs.com, duty-free shops at airports, “sell products for which duty (local import tax or fees placed on goods by government entities) is not included.” Normally, this allows travelers to save money on liquor, tobacco, fragrances, cosmetics, luxury items, and candy as they prepare to leave the country where the goods are being purchased. Note: when you bring your duty-free haul to the register, the cashier is going to ask to see your boarding pass to verify travel out of the country. Travelers leaving the United States for at least 48 hours may shop duty-free. Find out 10 things to do on your airport layover.
How much can I save when I buy duty-free at the airport?
How much you will save when buying duty-free at the airport all depends on the country, the currency exchange rate, and the products you buy. In Europe, for example, “The duty-free shops are not only duty-free but tax-free as well, meaning that V.A.T. (value-added tax) has not been added to the goods,” according to CheapFlights.com. This can save you up to 25 percent on your duty-free purchases, depending on the country. If you’re looking to save a buck, check out these 15 free things you can do to pass time at an airport.
Both Alexis Kelly, a travel editor at Fodors, and Paul Eisenberg of TravelingDad.com agree that Cadbury Chocolates are a prime duty-free shopping target when traveling internationally. Kelly says that she stocks up on Cadbury, her candy obsession, “when coming back from the British Isles because their chocolate just tastes better,” while Eisenberg fancies stocking the office candy bowl with elusive mini Cadbury sweets to make co-workers happy. Of course, Cadbury in the United States has been different from the United Kingdom version since 2015 so passing up the chance to bring some home would qualify as a travel mistake you should avoid.
Kelly doesn’t just line up at duty-free for her Cadbury sweets! When traveling home from Paris a couple of years ago, she spotted a sweet duty-free deal on Longchamp Bags at Charles de Gaulle airport. The savings were significant enough that the Fodors editor bought three bags from the French-owned company! But even a duty-free deal on Longchamp can’t compete with these secret travel deals.
Travel writer Jason Greene heads right for the shelves of duty-free liquor when flying internationally. Being a connoisseur of scotch, Greene always seeks out a sale but admits to usually coming away with a bottle whether there’s a deal on his favorite scotch or not. If you’re a nervous flier, don’t miss these 6 facts to help you stay calm while flying.
Greene also uses duty-free shopping at airports to scoop up some unique last-minute gifts for his kids. He says that his son, “Collects snow globes and if I wasn’t able to pick one up while venturing around a city, duty-free usually comes through for me.” While souvenirs and trinkets tend not to present the best value at airport duty-free shops, they may check the “unique gift” box on your shopping list.
Things not available at home
Yes, Cadbury cannot be sourced in its European form in the United States but there are other things sold in airport duty-free shops that are not available at home. Specifically, the foreign candy aisle of duty free, which is always fun to peruse anyway but when you have the chance to stock up on something delicious like a Crunchie bars, strange flavor varieties of familiar candy, and curious shapes and packaging sizes like the massive Tic Tac box filled with dozens of miniature Tic Tac boxes, you should gleefully fill up every corner of your carry-on bag with duty-free treasures!
Greene says that his vacation destination will often dictate the type of duty-free purchases he makes. “If I’m in South America or in the Caribbean, I always buy coffee,” Greene notes, adding that, “Coffee always makes a good gift and I’m a fan myself, so my carry on bag will be overstuffed with beans.”
CheapFlights.com recommends buying your fair share of Swiss chocolate at duty-free because, “If purchased anywhere outside Switzerland, it is typically taxed, so buying it through duty-free is also a great deal.” Chocolate will surely delight a young child on a plane but here are more secrets to flying with kids.
According to Duty-Free Addict, a free travel club helping duty-free shoppers find the best deals on all kinds of products from liquor to jewelry, Grey Goose is cheaper in Japan than Australia, and the Singapore Changi Airport duty-free is more expensive than Dubai Airport duty-free.