Ultimate Guide to Duty Free Airport Shopping

Duty Free Airport Shopping

Duty Free airport shopping is a totally underrated activity. Sometimes, with all the stress and commotion of travel, people forget to make the most of this great shopping opportunity. It is worth heading to the airport with an extra hour to spare, just so you have time to check out what is on offer. In fact, some luxury retailers even stock special items that are only available in Duty Free, adding extra intrigue and excitement to the shop!

It is a great option not only on the way home, when you realise you owe people some gifts, but also on your way to your travel destination when you realise you have forgotten to pack something. Mostly, it is just a great way to save a bit of money! If you have got a bit of time to spare when travelling, or if you have been staying at the airport with one of Heathrow’s hotel deals and can head into the terminal early, then it is well-worth keeping these tips in mind to ensure you make the most of Duty Free airport shopping.

What is Duty Free?

Have you ever questioned what exactly Duty Free is? Maybe you know that it is the name of an airport’s shopping area, or that things are often cheaper there, but not exactly why that is the case? Well, essentially, it is tax-free shopping – which explains the lower prices on things like cosmetics, alcohol and electronics. Typically, in order to cash in on these tax-free benefits, you need to produce your boarding pass, so make sure you have yours on you when you start your shopping.

Is it always cheaper?

If you are shopping in Duty Free with the main objective of saving a bit of money before you head to the likes of Grand Park Hotel Hounslow, you might want to do a bit of research before you launch into spending. The price of goods is based on the location of the airport in which it is located, meaning that while it is technically cheaper than outside the airport’s walls, it is still potentially pricier than your destination or retail parks. We recommend you weigh up the difference between the country you are in and the country you are flying to – it might be worth buying once you land on the other side instead of before you leave! The same goes for buying food – you might be able to find a better deal at the Park Grand Heathrow restaurant at your hotel, so do a little research before.

Girl at shopping

Remember the limits

It is all well and good buying as much as you can carry to take home with you – there is no limit on sale in most airports. However, a few countries, the US especially, have limits on what you can take through on arrival. Most of this sort of information can be found online and simply requires you to cross check your flight details with the country you are flying to. It is always worth checking, so you don’t end up losing your precious purchases as soon as you land! If you are travelling with someone who does not intend to buy anything, however, you can usually combine your limits, meaning you can take more items through. Another limit that is worth checking is your currency exchange rate. When paying in foreign currency, it can be easy to confuse yourself and pay more than you had intended. However, if you have cash leftover from your trip, it is sometimes more economical to spend it on things like cigarettes or chocolate bars than it is to have it exchanged.

Value for money

Some things are cheaper in Duty Free, this is a fact. But, a lot of people end up somewhat duped into spending more just because of a brand’s convenient placing when they have got a couple of hours to kill before boarding. This is only exasperated by the associated assumption that it is inherently cheaper due to tax purposes. Luxury clothing or accessories tend to be more expensive in Duty Free than if you were to wait until you got to London, say, and could stroll down Oxford Street. So, just be aware.

As a rule, souvenir products or gimmicky items tend to be more expensive, as the element of demand is introduced. Many travellers, aware that this might be their last chance to buy a Union Jack jumper from Harrods at Heathrow on the way back from their trip to London, might feel they have no other option than to spend more. But truthfully, these places are often putting a markup on seemingly sentimental products that you might be better off getting online – or even remembering to buy while you are in the thick of your holiday!


Beware! Sometimes, on arriving in a layover city, the contents of your hand luggage, Duty Free or not, are counted with the same limitations on liquids and consumables as usual. So, if you plan on buying chocolates and alcohol to take home, it is advisable that you do so at the last Duty Free before your final destination, rather than at the beginning with a layover upcoming.

Shopping Bags at Airport

Consuming your purchase

It is important to remember that you cannot consume your purchases inside the airport. Duty Free is not, unfortunately, your window to cheap cocktails in the boarding queue! You need to keep the packet they give you sealed until you have landed.


Arguably, the best things to buy in Duty Free are fragrances. This is not even because they are cheaper – which they always are. It is because, due to the size of Duty Free and the scope for variety, you have thousands of fragrances to choose from, which can’t always be said for your average shopping centre back home. Any fragrance you might imagine should be lining the perfume-scented walls of the airport building. It is worth keeping a little note of your friends and family members’ favourite fragrances, because it ensures you always have an easy, go-to present up your sleeve.

Duty Free shopping can be a lot of fun and very rewarding, but it is worth knowing what’s what before you start spending. Keep in mind these simple steps and you have found yourself with a guide to navigating the Duty Free of any airport you come across. Armed with this information, you’ll be able to really take advantage of Duty Free shopping after staying at The Park Grand Heathrow Hotel.