Shop­ping up a storm State­side

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence -

AF­TER fork­ing out plenty for clothes, cos­met­ics and hand­bags over the years — shop­ping in out­lets as di­verse as Is­tan­bul’s Grand Bazaar and a fake-goods com­plex in Shang­hai — it was a shock to dis­cover just how cheap the US is these days.

Vis­it­ing Macy’s depart­ment store in San Fran­cisco last week­end — as part of a fly­ing visit to Cal­i­for­nia’s Napa Val­ley or­gan­ised by Trafal­gar — I saw Ralph Lauren suede shoes for $US71 ($68) and leather tote bags for a mere $US120. Clin­ique lip­sticks were $US17 — half the price charged in Aussie stores.

From la­bels such as DKNY to Max Mara, just about ev­ery­thing in the Macy’s Union Square store was on sale — some items were even cheaper at the reg­is­ter. As a bonus, the store as­sis­tants in lux­ury life­style brand Tory Burch, up­mar­ket fash­ion de­signer Michael Kors and the bud­get Wal­greens phar­macy were help­ful and friendly.

Of course, sig­nif­i­cant con­trib­u­tors to these low prices have been the slug­gish Amer­i­can econ­omy and the rise and rise of our dol­lar. (Back in 2002, $1 bought US56c. Now we are in front.)

US cruise prices are also to die for, with the cost of the up­mar­ket cruises de­part­ing Florida enough to make you want to move State­side. The Va­ca­tions to Go web­site dis­counts some cruises by up to 83 per cent. Carnival Leg­end sets sail for 18 nights from Miami to Venice in Fe­bru­ary with a start­ing price of $US648 a per­son. That’s a mere $US36 a night for food and ac­com­mo­da­tion. There are plenty of other bar­gains — Royal Caribbean’s 10-night sail­ing from San Juan to Lis­bon in April is sell­ing for $US39 a per­son a night.

US ho­tel prices are also low com­pared with Aus­tralia. In Los Angeles, The Lang­ham Hunt­ing­ton Ho­tel & Spa, has gue­strooms on of­fer through wo­tif.com for $US252 a night on Christ­mas Eve. The cheap­est room for The Lang­ham in Sydney on Christ­mas Eve is $341, in­clud­ing break­fast.

The Tourism & Trans­port Forum’s Rowan Barker says air­fares to the US are about half the price they were 10 years ago. ‘‘It’s never been more af­ford­able,’’ he says.

And with such low prices in the US, it’s lit­tle won­der Amer­i­cans are shy about com­ing here.

In the year end­ing June 30, 2007, Aus­tralia wel­comed 455,000 US tourists. For the year to June 30, 2012, that num­ber was up only marginally, to 466,000.

Un­less US trav­ellers are fab­u­lously wealthy, they will find Sydney, Mel­bourne and Perth prices to be as­tro­nom­i­cal, which is some­thing most of us Aussies have known for years.

Lisa Allen was a guest of Trafal­gar.

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