It used to be that buying a present for a loved one or your host at the airport meant you’d forgotten to do so beforehand. But travel retail destinations (aka duty-free shops) are now destinations offering coveted items at discounted prices and new things you actually can’t get anywhere else. And we mean more than just that huge Toblerone and a bottle of perfume. What started in Ireland in the 1940s has exploded into a worldwide service of tax-free shopping for curious and savvy travelers.
Duty-free’s specialty may long be cosmetics, but the food and drink offerings have become reason enough to stop in on the way to the gate. Let’s say you’re passing through Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport with no time to actually make it to the flagship Ladurée shop. Pas de problem. Now you can buy those perfectly pastel-colored cookies at the airport. What if that friend you’re visiting is a lover of all things whiskey? They probably don’t have a bottle of The Glenlivet Master Distiller’s Reserve, sold only in travel retail shops.
We all know someone who’s fond of specially-designed collectible items. So, Absolut bottles would make the perfect gift — particularly if they're only available in select airports, like Absolut Watkins and their newest Crystal Pinstripe bottle. Then, bringing a local specialty home as a present is always appreciated. Things like mole sauce from Mexico or maple syrup from Montreal are gifts any gastronome worth their salt would adore.
But when the unbridled joy of tax-free shopping wears off, travelers are inevitably left wondering: Am I really scoring that great of a deal? Well, we rounded up our favorite duty free finds, from specialty spirits to gourmet treats, whether they are travel retail exclusives or just great values. Because who doesn’t love shopping during a long layover?