It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like … Shopping

Shopping and travel are two great American pastimes, and are often best enjoyed together.

According to the Travel Industry Association of America, shopping is the most popular activity during domestic trips, and is included in more than 30 percent of all such trips. Of course, the holiday season affords the ultimate opportunity to combine these two pleasures.

A recent survey from leading online travel provider Cheap revealed that 57 percent of domestic travelers would consider a holiday shopping vacation.

The following are tips to enjoy big-city glamour with a holiday shopping vacation that won't break the bank:

· Consider the 'Burbs: You don't have to stay in the heart of the city to be a part of the action. City-center hotels are extremely expensive at this time of year, whereas significant savings can be found in the outlying areas.

Headed to New York City for a Fifth Avenue extravaganza?

Think about a stay in White Plains, N.Y. An easy train ride away, you have affordable access to the great shops of Manhattan without paying top dollar to sleep next door. This leaves more in the kitty for the big things — like big gifts.

· Tricks for Getting a Four-Star Stay at a Three-Star Price: To score great deals, consider using an online travel provider; complete packages often include flight and hotel, and that means significant savings.

This makes travel planning an easy one-stop experience, with added options such as car rentals and tickets to entertainment venues at your fingertips on the site.

· Add Outlets to Your List of Shopping Hot Spots: Big-city holiday splendor is truly a must-see during a shopping vacation. Elaborate displays, window designs and overall extravagance are all a part of the city's vibrancy. But it's also worth it to check out neighboring outlet centers, which can offer great savings to bargain-hunters.

The Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas, for example, are only 30-minutes from the famed Las Vegas Strip, and provide an inexpensive "shoppers shuttle" for easy, round-trip transportation. Other hot spots, such as Chicago's Gurnee Mills Outlet Mall, which is a great alternative to the city's Magnificent Mile, is accessible by rental car.

And there are great outlets in this region just a car ride away — to Reading and Hershey, and to Flemington, N.J.

· Give the Gift of Travel: Give your loved one an early holiday delight by inviting them to join you on a shopping vacation. You'll see firsthand which gifts catch their eye, taking the guess-work out of even the most particular individual.

More importantly, the trip itself becomes a gift that the both of you can share together — and that's priceless.

Ultimately, the season of giving is just that: an opportunity to think of and give unto others. With the right planning, a holiday shopping vacation can make finding that perfect present an affordable, enjoyable and memorable gift to yourself.

After all, it's not that easy to come up with eight great gifts — and the gelt for it. 



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