Why You Should Shop for Homeware While Travelling

Why You Should Shop for Homeware While Travelling

Charmaine Kon by Charmaine Kon on Oct 26, 2016
Why you should care

Shopping for homeware or furniture overseas can mean beautiful and unique pieces for affordable prices.

While a run to Ikea for your new console table seems to make most practical sense; a one-of-a-kind, intricately carved wooden table from a memorable trip to Bali is just that…one of a kind.

Besides finding truly unique gems from around the world, there are so many advantages of shopping overseas! Not sure where to start? We got you on that too.

East west home interior

SOURCE: heidipribell.com

The Case for Shopping While Travelling

  • Unique: With different pieces collected from around the world, you’ll give your home a unique, eclectic mix that gives it character! It’s too easy to copy and paste an Ikea showroom, but it won’t feel like home.
  • Memories: Instead of fridge magnets and t-shirts, homeware like plates, art, and mirrors make good souvenirs that will always remind you of a certain place and time. Plus, the pieces in your home will make great conversation starters with guests.
  • Collection: Instead of buying seasonal items like Christmas décor during Christmas, collecting various items from your travels throughout the years means you’ll have more options.
  • Cheaper: Shopping at homegrown stores overseas means no mark-ups or import fee. Plus, depending on where and how much you buy, as a tourist, you can claim taxes, making your purchases even cheaper.
Parisian hallway interior

SOURCE: Elledecor.com

How to Shop While Travelling

1 Read Up

We say this a lot, but we can’t help it because it applies to a lot of things: research. If you’re travelling to Indonesia, for instance, research on the country’s natural materials. As Indonesia is rich with rattan, buying a piece of furniture made from rattan ensures that you’ll get a quality product at a good price, made by artisans experienced at crafting that material!

Doing your research also helps you avoid gimmicky tourist products like overpriced “antique” items that were really just mass produced. Nothing wrong with the latter; you’ll just want to know what you’re buying before you drop your dollar.

When doing your homework, also find out when the country or city holds its biggest sales, e.g. Black Friday, end of financial year sales, festivity sales, etc.

2 Ask Questions

If you find yourself eyeing a product without much background information (like at the flea market), ask the seller about the make or manufacture of the product, specifically the ‘who’, ‘how’, and ‘from what’ questions.

Besides that, ask for recommendations from a local. Superficial internet researches will bring you to touristy areas while a local might point you to a hidden neighbourhood gem that sells quality products for non-tourist prices.

3 Shop Around

Shop around to get a better idea on prices and to make product comparisons. We know how tempting it is to buy the first set of porcelain plates from a big brand store like Pottery Barn, but you might just find something similar for cheaper at a smaller, local shop.

painted plates west elm

SOURCE: westelm.com

The same goes for flea market or thrift shopping – walk around to compare similar items instead of buying the first item you see. This reduces the chances of buyer’s remorse.

4 Bring Your Passport Along

Some shop owners ask for passport identification to match with your credit card details. Just in case, bring your passport along when you’re out shopping so you won’t miss out on a good find!

5 Buy First, Organise Later

If you think too hard about where you’ll put a rare find like an antique jewellery box, you’ll end up going home empty handed. Worst case scenario is you’ll find yourself one day needing a jewellery box and having to run to a local store to buy a generic one. So if you find something rare, beautiful, or that simply speaks to you, get it. You won’t find it hard to make space for such a special piece.

Vintage jewellery box vanity

SOURCE: marissa-webb.tumblr.com

Impulse buyers beware, though! If you’re known to hoard, then ask for opinions from friends shopping with you. You don’t want to spend unnecessarily on a 100th lavender candle.

6 Package Your Items Well

Ask the store if they provide special packaging for international travel. Even if they don’t offer packaging services, you can ask them for advice on how to protect your new set of glassware, or ask them how they transport it.

Alternatively, buy bubble wrap to protect your fragile items and layer them with soft items like clothes.

7 Make Luggage Space

Make luggage space for homeware you intend to buy. That means not packing your suitcases to the brim on your way there or even buying more luggage space beforehand. Last minute luggage space purchases can be really costly.

If you’re buying something really big like a sofa or a table, ask the store about shipping services.

8 Declare Items at Customs

Avoid buying things that contain animal products such as leather, feather, and especially ivory. Besides customs possibly not letting them through, these products might not have been ethically made.

Since you’re shopping overseas (sometimes with language barrier) or at places like markets, it might be more difficult for you to get information on an item’s ethical production.  If you’re unsure of the make of your items, declare them at customs to be safe.

Where to Shop While Travelling

Besides the obvious stores and malls, that is.

  • Markets and street stalls: this is where you’ll find handmade, one-of-a-kind items from smaller businesses.
  • Antique or thrift shops: for vintage and pre-loved items with a good story. Remember what we said about conversation starters?
  • Warehouse or factory outlets: you’ll find past season items for affordable prices.

Cover image from lonny.com.

Why you should care

Shopping for homeware or furniture overseas can mean beautiful and unique pieces for affordable prices.

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