Stuck at the airport? Things could be worse. (Depending on what airport, anyway.) Although we are ideally in airports only as long as we need to be in order to catch our next flight, sometimes there is no getting around an extended layover, or even a long wait on those days when you zip right through the security line. (HAHAHAHAHA! That one cracks us up, but we hear it still happens.) It might be tempting to sit and drink the whole time, but we find that the most fun formula is two cocktails-plus-shopping. The alcohol lowers your spending inhibitions, and shopping keeps you from getting so intoxicated that they won't let you on your flight anyway. Everybody wins!
So we have compiled a list of some ubiquitous favorites, along with a list of suggestions by airport, for how to best spend your money when you literally have nowhere else to go.
It's Your Duty Duty-free is far and away the most fun airport shopping. High-end beauty and cosmetics, plus wine and spirits? Um, okay. Sign us up. This works out best for international travelers, but you can still shop limited selections in U.S. airport duty-free stores. Just ask the assistant what is allowed for purchase for those traveling domestic. Newark Airport has a super-friendly duty-free staff who will go to great lengths to dig around for that special mascara you NEED RIGHT NOW...or so we hear.
Brookstone Presents for you, presents for whomever you are staying with at the other end of that plane ride, useless gadgets that will stay in your carry-on bag forever -- Brookstone has it all! They do come in very handy if you have forgotten your flight pillow or your headphones; Brookstone is also great for those of us who lose a charger on every single trip they take. You know who you are.
L'Occitane Yummy-smelling things for men and women. A little pricey, maybe, but L'Occitane products are high-quality and will make that long plane ride in dry, gross, germy recycled airplane air that much more pleasant. Your seatmate(s) will find you very exotic, what with your fancy French cosmetics. Our carry-on toiletry bag always has at least one, one-ounce L'Occitane hand cream and a nail and cuticle cream, both in classic Shea butter. (The scent is light and won't offend the Olfactory Police should you be seated next to them.)
Airport Directory Is it weird that there are airports we are dying to go to, if only to shop? Like Charles de Gaulle in France (they have a L'Occitane!), Dubai and Hong Kong look super-awesome. In the meantime, here are a few favorites you might find while you are zipping around the contiguous Lower 48 states.
Chicago O'Hare Possibly one of the most annoying airports in America, O'Hare's saving grace is its high-quality shopping. They have good food and drink, too. Two good stops:
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• Field Museum Store: Only awesome if you love science, cool toys and gadgets, and history! Others need not apply. When visiting folks with kids, or when you forgot to get your own a souvenir, the Field Museum Store is a great place to pick up something cooler than a crappy, "I Heart _____" mug. • Hoypoloi Gallery: All manner of art and knickknacks can be found at Hoypoloi Gallery; you could spend all day in here, so don't miss your flight. Set an alarm on your phone or something. The Dr. Seuss stuff is very cool, and they have everything from fine pieces to funky pop kitsch.
Seattle-Tacoma (SEA-TAC) For an airport of its size, it's got plenty to keep you busy, and most of the good stuff is right around the Central Terminal and Terminal C. (The duty-free is tucked away in D.) Taste a quick flight of wines at Vino Volo and then move on:
• The Body Shop: Total mindless fun, and tons of their stuff comes in mini-sizes which are perfect for travel. They also do great 3-for deals, allowing you to choose three products for a set price. • ExOfficio: Cool, somewhat-overpriced clothes that are aimed at frequent travelers and outdoorsy types. Not overpriced once you realize how much use you'll really get out of their clothes. • Butter London: Get a manicure, or just pick up the latest colors in the nail polish collection. Their manicures are "water-free," and totally sterile. You're picking up enough germs on the airplane, anyway.
Atlanta If you are one of those unfortunate souls who have to fly Delta a lot, you probably already know Atlanta is a great airport for shopping. (Probably because your connection was cancelled or delayed.) Regardless, you could be stuck in worse airports on the East Coast. Atlanta makes a strong fashion showing with stores like Lancôme Beauty Lounge, Bvlgari, MAC Cosmetics and Salvatore Ferragamo.