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Shopping Is the Worst, Shopping While Traveling Is the Best

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Shopping is the Worst — Unless I’m on Vacation

I’ve got a secret: I actually hate shopping. (Shhh, don’t tell my coworkers.) Okay, I don’t actually hate shopping, but I just don’t really do it — let alone enjoy it — with one exception. When I travel, I’m all about shopping.

It doesn’t matter if I’m halfway across the world exploring a city for the first time or just at my parents’ house for the holidays, as soon as I step outside of my zip code, shopping suddenly becomes so much more fun. It’s no longer a chore about finding what I need; now it’s a game, about exploring things I didn’t know I needed.

The reasons are multifold. For one, shopping is a great way to get to know a new place. The high-end concept stores (that I rarely set foot in at home because I know I’m not about to drop $300) are like barometers for what a particular city finds fit to enshrine as “cool.” Independent boutiques are hunting grounds for local designers and under-the-radar labels. And if I walk by a Goodwill, Salvation Army, or curated vintage shop, I’m definitely going inside.

In fact, vintage and thrift shopping is my absolute favorite, mostly because you get so much more bang for your buck. But it’s also because you can tell a lot about a place by its discards. I love combing through old knick-knacks and imagining the life an object led before ending up in a dusty old thrift store.

A store.

I’ve also realized that if something is available in bulk — whether it’s furry shoes, oversize denim jackets, or short, flared leather skirts — at a cheaper-priced vintage store located in a hip neighborhood, you know it’s about to blow up (or maybe already has). Artists and young people in the area will inevitably be shopping there, and trickle-up fashion is a real thing.

Shoppers and shopkeepers are a big part of the equation for me, too. What are they wearing, and how are they wearing it? What are they trying on or buying? While I’m not super likely to stop someone on the street and ask about their outfit, in the closed community of a boutique these conversations are totally natural and fair game.

Ultimately, the pleasure of shopping for me is the discovery. Discovering local labels I’ve never heard of that I can’t buy at home. Discovering trends that aren’t yet in New York, or a different way of styling something I already have. Discovering the treasure buried deep in some pay-by-the-pound vintage bin. Discovering the artisans and small business owners I never would have known about if I hadn’t wandered into that shop. And being able to bring a piece of that discovery home with me, where I can wear it again and again, or display it my house? It’s worth carrying the extra weight in my suitcase on the way home. Cory Baldwin, shopping editor

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Mall of America. It’s a place you’re intrinsically familiar with, like Disneyland or Texas, even if you’ve never actually set foot in there. However big you think it is, think bigger. Stats on the mall are both staggering and patriotic; it is the size of nine Yankee stadiums or 347 Statues of Liberty, and could fit each of Mount Rushmore’s busts in its individual wings.

However traditional you think it is, think again. While on one hand it’s a place where the decades-old Great Steak and Potato Company still exists, on the other it’s a forward-thinking, environmentally friendly phenomenon.

And however you think you can conquer it, you probably won’t. At 5.6 million square feet, with one loop on one floor clocking in at over one mile, it’s a shopping bonanza that’s massive by design but somehow doesn’t feel completely overwhelming.

And yet, it’s so much more than a mall. Here, you can buy a mattress, massage, manicure, or text messaging plan from any carrier. You can get married in its Chapel of Love, load up on armfuls of baby clothing, and later become an AARP member, experiencing the full spectrum of life under its skylight-lined roof. You can spin upside down on rides, swim with sharks, or get a shave while just-bought jeans are hemmed at an on-site tailor. At Mall of America, it’s all an indoor dream come true.

While you can’t expect to experience everything in one trip, if you follow our guidelines, you’ll shop, drop, and hopefully leave in time for your connecting flight.

Check out the whole guide here >>
Just One Thing
JFK and Cary Grant Both Loved This Perfect Sweater
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J.Press Shaggy Dog Sweater, $196

J.Press’s Shaggy Dog Sweaters are iconic, beloved by the likes of John F. Kennedy, Cary Grant, and, well, me. I’ve been pining for one of these sweaters for years, but the retail price ($245) isn’t exactly affordable.

That doesn’t mean they’re not well worth it, though. The sweaters get their “shaggy dog” appearance from brushed Shetland wool that comes from sheep in the Shetland Islands in Scotland. (The wool is so good — incredibly warm and not weighty — that Canada and the US now breed Shetlands too.)

The raw material still has that itchy how-soon-can-I-get-this-off wool texture, though, but the brushing is what gives it a softer feel. Best of all, the sweater is now on sale for $196. I won’t be caught in another polar vortex without one. —Cam Wolf, menswear editor

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