Amanda Miller, 30, vice president at public relations firm Nike Communications and columnist for the Huffington Post, is an avid collector of vintage clothing. So when she's traveling, whether for work or for pleasure, she makes time to check out the local wares. She's acquired everything from antlers in Dallas — which now serve as a hanger for necklaces — to an ancient Turkmenistani wedding robe in Istanbul, Turkey.
For today's traveler, snow globes and magnets disguised as souvenirs are as passé as Pepto-pink pumps. "[Vacationers] want something that reflects that once-in-a-lifetime experience," says Syl Tang, chief executive of HipGuide, a group of fashion and travel trend-trackers.
In fact, vacationers consider shopping one of the most important elements of traveling. Shopping is the number-one activity for U.S. travelers, according to the Travel Industry Association, a Washington, D.C.-based trade organization.
Savvy globe-trotters like Miller are picking up antiques in Tokyo, original art in Reykjavik, Iceland, and designer duds across the globe as a remembrance of their time spent exploring. Shoppers will even go so far as to travel to a different country for a store opening, as they did with Louis Vuitton in Tokyo in 2002 and Salvatore Ferragamo's Shanghai, China, fête in April 2008.
Other than doing research on the Web, Miller says the best way to find unique, off-the-beaten-path shops on holiday is to seek out the locals. "If I see somebody on the street whose style I admire, I always stop them and ask them where they shop," says Miller.
For some destinations, however, the shopping hot spots have generated so much buzz that they aren't particularly difficult to find.
Shopaholics heading to Beijing for the Summer Olympics, for example, will probably know to make a detour to Shanghai for a stop at the city's Dolce & Gabbana (Bund 6) outpost. The Italian designers are a favorite in China, and the men's and women's departments are divided by a martini bar, where young scenesters have a drink after an exhausting day of credit card swiping.
Dolce & Gabbana isn't the only game in town, however. The store is located in the midst of Shanghai's swankiest district, known as The Bund. Number three on the Bund — the shopping area — has the highest concentration of chic shops of any other development in the area, including a Giorgio Armani flagship and the Shanghai Gallery of Art.
If China is not in your current travel plans, East Hampton — the posh enclave at the eastern end of New York's Long Island that overflows with wealthy visitors each summer--has become somewhat of a shopping mecca. Over a dozen new shops opened for summer 2008, including an outpost of contemporary women’s retailer Intermix, home furnishings store J. Roaman (48 Newton Lane) and Gail Rothwell (66 Newtown Lane), which offers a collection of high-fashion labels, including Lanvin and Marni. For those willing to venture beyond East Hampton, New York’s Screaming Mimi's, which features pristine vintage, now operates out of Montauk (662 Montauk Highway) as well.
Across the pond, despite the weak dollar and the weighty pound, London is still the place for modern designs. Comme des Garçon designer Rei Kawakubo's Dover Street Market (17-18 Dover Street) and Soho's Pineal Eye (49 Broadwick Street) carry avant-garde street wear. Liberty's (Regent Street) specialty chocolate, stationary and textile divisions differentiate the department store from other venerable London institutions, while Timothy Everest (32 Elder Street) and Kilgour (Savile Row) bring a modern look to British tailoring.
London is also known for its markets, and the East End's Columbia Road Flower Market and Borough Food Market are standouts. Along with a multitude of stalls featuring fresh flowers and plants for the locals, Columbia Road is lined with vintage shops and French cafes where floral frocks and big bowls of café au lait rule. And Borough Market, located on the south of the Thames, serves as a home to famous stalls, including Monmouth Coffee Company, artisan bread-maker De Gustibus and the Fresh Olive Company.
Regardless of whether you're traveling for business or pleasure, Miller says that anyone who truly loves the thrill of the hunt should make time for a little trolling. "Everywhere I go, I discover another important piece," she says. "It's nice to take a map and get yourself lost."