Having a few extra dollars can lead to some creative spending at the airport. (Illustration by Erik Mace for Yahoo Travel)
No matter how carefully we budget, every traveler eventually runs into it: You’re in the airport, headed home, and you have $20 or $30 left in the local currency.
It’s not enough to bother exchanging it at the lousy airport rate (and it’s probably half coins, which they often don’t take) but a little too much to simply forget about. So you start looking for something to buy. Luckily, airports are designed for impulse buying, so there are options far beyond the usual duty free suspects.
I bought a hot pink lace thong at the Victoria’s Secret in the Sydney airport. This was actually a practical decision. I’m not a souvenir collector, and my family and friends already have so much from me that they’ve stopped wanting more, so I sought out something I could always use. And a girl can always use more underwear. Oddly, I think of them as my Australia panties and think about the trip when I put them on.
Others, it seems, have more conservative tastes, but when I put the question to some of my fellow frequent travelers, they came back with some creative answers.
Here are a few of the more intriguing responses:
If you spend money on relaxation, it’s always well spent. (Photo: Thinkstock)
A massage from a blind man in the Bombay airport, en route home from a dive trip in Goa. According to my friend, people with impaired vision have an extraordinary sense of touch and make great masseuses.
Lots and lots of Lion Bars (British chocolates) in Heathrow. “You can’t get them in the U.S., so my plan was to give them to my friends at home. But then I realized they would probably melt on the flight, so most of them were consumed.”
Finger puppets in Sydney. “Koalas, kangaroos, platypus—they were so cute! I basically had a small zoo of Australian animals for my nieces. Unfortunately I left them in the cab coming home from the airport and they couldn’t be located when I tried to contact the driver.”
A pink giraffe and a marble in Nairobi after a birthday safari trip to East Africa. Lulu the Giraffe is now with the 5-year-old daughter of a traveling companion. The marble was for the travel publicist who bought it. “I kept the marble—a rather random thing—and I do pick it up and look at it quite often. It’s a cat’s-eye that reminds me of my Serengeti safari.
Magnets are a great last-minute purchase…if you have room left on your refrigerator. (Photo: David de Vleeschauwer)
Serious refrigerator magnets. Travel writer Debbie Pappyn and photographer David de Vleeschauwer of classtouriste.com have miniature flags of countries from Botswana to Vietnam on the fridge of their home in Belgium.
Swiss cowbells. This one is strangely popular. One traveler bought hers in the Zurich airport with plans to ring her kids home for dinner. “My mom used to ring one when I was growing up and I could hear it all the way around the block, so I thought I’d give it a try. The high-pitched clanging works like a charm—my kids come running home within minutes (maybe to get the clanging to stop).” Another traveler bought the dog-collar version.
A Fiorucci fountain pen at Milan’s Malpensa. “Circa 1997, and it’s still in mint condition. Never used.
Seeing the world through snow globes. (Photo: Jeremy Lindberg)
Snow globes. One globetrotter buys them for his friend’s daughter, now 11. “At this point she has them from all over the world. It’s great because you can buy they after security [helpful because they fall under the liquid rule] and use up extra currency,” he said. “I get fancy one if I have a lot of money; a tiny version if it’s just some spare change. I keep asking if she’s over it, but the answer is always no. Though I figured I’ll end up with a sweet collection come college time.”
”A rent-by-the-hour hotel room in Seoul’s Incheon. One spa director used it to watch a Project Runway marathon.
A Tirolhüte hat with a pheasant feather in Munich. “It’s weird but I still like it.”
Karma. (Of course someone would say this and make the rest of us feel selfish.) “I gave it to the guy with no legs holding a sign in seven languages how to get past what looked like a dead-end to the terminal in Costa Rica. Or maybe it was Mexico.”
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