Monday, January 19, 2015

Tips for shopping on board when you're traveling with kids

Shopping while you're on the plane can be a lot of fun: there are some great deals to be had (especially if you're on an international flight where the goods are truly tax-free), and it can be a nice way to buy presents for people you know or yourself. However, when you're traveling with kids it's not always easy to find the time for shopping (or anything else), with the frequent bathroom trips, boredom, potential tantrums, sibling fights, kids experiencing ear-pain from the cabin pressure, and so on.

These days, most airlines let you browse their sales catalog online, and that can definitely be a big help. Another great service provided by several airlines is on-board delivery: you can shop online for the items available in the on-board shop, and then have those items delivered to your seat during your flight. This makes the shopping experience a lot more convenient for parents. A sample of airlines that provide this service is:
  • Iceland Air's SagaShop  - also has some great items for sale that are made in Iceland, and feel kind of exotic to anyone who isn't from that country.
  • KLM's Shop@KLM - offers on-board delivery if you're flying out of Amsterdam
  • Lufthansa's WorldShop - offers airport delivery at Frankfurt airport, rather than on-board delivery.
Shopping at the airport can be one way to pass the time, but parents traveling with small children might not feel that comfortable browsing in a fancy airport shop with lots of expensive and fragile items on display. Still, those airport shops can look pretty enticing, and again, if the deals are truly tax/duty free then it can be a very good buy.

However, even if you do find a good deal, there are some things to think about when you purchase things on board or at the airport.

Do you have space in your bags?
If you're traveling with kids, your hand-luggage might already be rather full and heavy. Adding extra items, even if they're a good deal, might make your load even harder to carry to the next gate. Also consider how much your hand-luggage weighs: airlines don't usually weigh your carry-on (a lucky thing for me when my kids were babies!), but it does happen. And if you're over the limit, those new purchases could be a real problem.

Will you be able to bring it on your flight/s?
If you buy any kind of liquid products on board or at the airport, and are planning to bring them on your flight, you have to consider the airlines' rules about liquids on board. A container of liquid - for example lotion, perfume, wine, or beer - usually has to be 3 ounces/100 ml or smaller to be allowed in your hand-luggage. Sometimes, airlines do make exceptions for products bought on board, or at the airport of departure if the purchases are in a sealed plastic bag. However, if you have other connecting flights later on in your travels, you might have to put larger containers in your checked luggage.

This did happen to me once: I bought a bottle of body lotion in Amsterdam and was allowed to bring it on my flight from Amsterdam to Stockholm. But: when we went through security for our domestic Swedish flight with SAS, I was not allowed to bring the lotion (in a sealed plastic bag) in my hand-luggage on my next flight Luckily I was able to put the bottle in a bag and check that bag as an extra piece of luggage; otherwise I would have had to simply leave the gift at the security checkpoint.

Ways to avoid this problem:
  • Purchase items on your last flight/last airport stop.
  • Ask about the policies before you buy.
  • Put the item in your checked luggage.
  • Buy products that are no larger than 100 ml/3 ounces each.

Are there any customs restrictions?
Depending on where you're traveling, customs might have something to say about your purchase. This is especially true for alcohol: many countries restrict how much alcohol you are allowed to bring with you across the border. Check the rules before buying too many bottles of wine!

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