Going Native: 3 Rules While Shopping on Vacation

Older Women Shopping on Vacation

The beach, the sunshine, the margaritas…it’s all so alluring. That plumeria-scented soap, that six-pound box of chocolate covered macadamia nuts, the gauzy halter dress, all of them can be the vehicles that transport us back to the “land of no responsibilities.” We can almost forget we have a pile of laundry and several weeks-worth of mail awaiting us once we get home. And that’s often the subconscious motivation for shopping when we’re in a favorite vacation spot.

But it’s always good to be at least a little bit practical when shopping on vacation so you don’t end up buying things you really never will wear. A few practical rules can save you money and closet space. When you apply them, what you do end up purchasing will connect you back to that carefree oasis just as well, if not better, than something useless.

There are really only 3 basic rules to keep in mind when shopping on vacation.

1. The item should be wearable at least part of the year when you return home.

Unless you plan to relocate to or visit your vacation paradise regularly, it’s likely you experience different climatic conditions where you live. So just think about what time of year you might actually be able to make use of that embroidered smock top or pareo, or that fur lined parka. At least one of the seasons you experience in your hometown should match or be similar to that of your vacation spot.

Pareo Shopping2. The color palette suits you and the rest of your wardrobe.

The native flora of any locale is usually what informs the colors and styles there. Just be wary of the level of color saturation in any garment. In tropical environs you’re going to see a lot of very bright and saturated colors. In cooler climates, you’ll likely see a lot more neutrals, warmer, or more complex colors. Wearing anything near your face that is significantly brighter—or paler—in tone than what is typical of the rest of your wardrobe can make your skin look washed out, particularly when you no longer have a tan. If you want to play it really safe, look for something in one of your eye colors.

3. The item has some “evergreen” value.

What that means is beware of kitch; cowry shells and puka beads tend to have a short shelf life. Many a garage sale table has been filled with such trinkets. Ask the locals about things that might be a little out of the ordinary and about up-and-coming local artists and designers. And as always, buy the best you can afford. Jewelry, which is also easy to transport, is a good option. A fine piece made by a local artisan or even a pearl necklace can give you years of pleasure and will likely become a family heirloom.

Now, of course, there are some legitimate reasons for shopping on vacation that have nothing to do with practicality. You’re given a pass if the item:

  • Reminds you of one of the best times in your life

  • Is a thing of beauty in and of itself

  • You’ve enjoyed the local cuisine so much you can no longer fit into the clothes you brought with you

If the last one pertains to you, maybe you do want to relocate! Happy vacationing!


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