Going to America - how to get best bang for buck?

Recently snagged some cheap return flights to America (~$1250) and am looking to extend the bargains further.

What are things that I can buy in America that are much cheaper than Australia? Currently on the list are clothes, sportswear, make up, board games, video games.

Anything else I should be looking out for? I have 2 x 23kg of baggage and I intend to fill it all up!


  • Watch out for video games and DVDs/etc having regional locks on them, and other stuff being in the incorrect format for Australia. It could really be a bummer getting home and having nothing work :(

    Definitely clothes, like jeans and stuff. That's all very cheap if you know where to look (probably even in the "not cheap" places, it'll be cheaper than here).

    As for the rest, it's up to you!

  • +6

    I just got back from 1 month in US with my wife. Went over with 1 suitcase (<15kgs), and came back with 3 suitcases (75Kg) + hand luggage that probably weighed a "tad" over 7kgs :)

    Clothing is definitely dirt cheap. We went just before winter in the US, so stocked up on plenty of coats/jackets, scarves etc, as well as picked up some bargains on unsold summer stock. Shoes, jeans, work shirts - you name it everything is cheap. The only downside I found with clothes shopping in America is that their sizing is a bit off. I prefer the European "slim fit" for my clothes, so sometimes it was a bit hard to come by my sizes.

    Not sure whereabouts you're going in US, but highly recommend you check out the Premium Outlets when you are over there (http://www.premiumoutlets.com/centers/index.asp). They are like DFOs but better; more in season stock, better discounts and sizes are plentiful. We ended up going to 5 during our 4 weeks there, and definitely scored massive bargains. If you are passing through NYC, don't miss the Woodbury Commons Outlet! It's about 1hr bus from Manhattan, and you can get a $35 round trip ticket. You will need a whole day there (9am - 9pm) because it has so many stores.

    I think electronics are quite cheap over there as well, so do your research beforehand and pick up a cheaper tablet or camera while you're there.

    And lastly, make sure you stock up on duty free before you leave the States!!

    Enjoy your trip :)

  • We're mostly visiting the West Coast so I think New York is out unfortunately =( Thanks for the link to the outlet stores though! Will definitely need to get careful with regions for games/DVDs and will try everything on clothing wise - I've ordered some clothes from American stores before and been disappointed with sizing disparities.

    • +3

      +1 for Premium Outlets. Went to the one in North Las Vegas and filled up my suitcases with shoes, jeans, business clothes, supplements, cosmetics, etc.

  • Food is also ridiculously cheap (not to bring back, but to eat whilst you're there). American restaurants are amazing and will serve you gigantic servings for decent prices.

    Keep in mind though that marked pricing in the States excludes tax (usually 7-9% depending on where you are), as well as the tip (eg if you are dining at a restaurant).

    When buying clothes, outlets are a great option. If you're on the West Coast, there are a number of premium outlets you go visit depending on your location. These outlets showcase a number of designer stores for cheap prices. PM me if you want more details.

    Electronics are also really cheap in America (eg headphones, computers, telephones, TV's, etc). Depending on size however, these may not be viable to fit into your luggage.

    When it comes down to it, given our current exchange rate, almost everything is cheaper in the States.

    EDIT: Premium outlet link here: http://www.premiumoutlets.com/index.asp. Take a look and see if any are near where you're staying.

  • +1

    Check the wiki


    Down the bottom plus links to other discussions.

    Adding to others comments…

    VF outlets are always good if you like Lee Jeans - not many on West coast - 1. in outer areas of LA, Las Vegas, Oregon and Washington State. Lee Jeans from $10 US up Check their website for coupons of upto 20% off already discounted items.

    Kohls is a department store to try, often have a deal where you get store $$$ when you make a purchase that you can use a few days later even on discounted items.

    Essentially even Kmart have good deals in that "bulk" clothing that wont be seen here like best and less, will look good but you wont bump into anyone here wearing the same.

    End of season deals tend to be better the further north you go, where temp changes are more evident and makes out of season merchandise less appealing to locals.

    If you want to save on tipping, which is really essential, keep to the fast food outlets. Many have good tucker at cheap prices.

    Also Walmart (mainly Superwalmarts) have great prepackaged salads around $4 which include meat (chicken etc) and are large. Great for Lunch. Subway will also make any sandwich into a salad for same price.

    Most supermarkets have takeaway meals, and for variety there is Wholefoods supermarkets which have a large range of prepared foods, natural of course.

    Then there is Trader Joes for other healthy foods. (A divison of Aldi USA)

    And on west coast there is a nice salad restaurant chain, with breads Pizza and other items FreshChoice. No tipping required as it cafeteria style and all you can eat.

    All have websites you can research and see if what they have suits you, plus you can get coupons etc to save you more.

  • +3

    Booze is heaps cheaper.

  • Recently bought a Philips shaver from the US … Half the price !

  • +1

    I posted some info here http://www.ozbargain.com.au/node/70643 that might help. Enjoy

  • Thanks - that's a great thread you linked to =) Now to book some tours! Am thinking of the Grand Adventures sunset tour (http://www.grand-adventures.com/) - don't suppose there's any chance of an Ozbargainer having taken it? It's either that or a 2 day tour (with an overnight stay in one of the hotels/lodges).

    • Haven't done that but looks good. In Las Vegas can recommend the Signature at MGM Grand - larger studio apartments with a walkway into the MGM and out onto the strip - http://www.signaturemgmgrand.com/

      • +1

        If you plan to stay there try booking through www.vrbo.com we got a 1 bedroom with balcony and spa for $100 per night and no resort fee. You rent directly from the owner so it is cheaper but hotel staff won't change your linens daily like they would if you booked direct.

    • I think I seen that one on TV, they did a fishing tour too. First cast landed a fish!

      In vegas, you can get something about 500-1klm from the strip. Room can be as cheap as $35 per night and 2.5-3 star. I did this when I was in my mid 20's and saved heaps! Not sure that I would want to do it now.

      If you like your food, check out man vs food. There are episodes on youtube and of course torrents. Good show but you can just opt to check out the places you plan to visit. The crawfish looked amazing in vegas.

    • +1

      Vegas is sooo much cheaper to stay if you just do it Mon-thurs nights (sometimes Sunday as well).

      2-3 star is fine, unless you are planning on living in the room, and with Vegas why would you do that? Look at SamsTown. Off strip but rooms well appointed and cheap (well it was, we paid $30 a night)

      If you can stretch to going to Bryce Canyon and/or Page (Slot Canyons) you will be amazed. Look them up on web for pics and details.

      While Grand Canyon is a must. Everyone goes there its thats for a good reason. While I haven't done it. Many who FLY over it highly recommend that, with helicopter ride the BEST.

      I now prefer the other two and having been there if I had a chance to go back, then I would jump at Bryce and the Slot canyons and would skip seeing the Grand Canyon again.

      • Oh wow Slot canyons are beautiful! Pity it's another 5 hours away from the GC itself =( Not sure how comfortable we are with renting a car and driving - part of the reason I wanted to do a bus tour was so I wouldn't have to worry about it!

        I'll try and see if there are any Slot canyon tours!

    • I did this tour for $79 per person. It's a long day but you get to see Hoover Dam and a couple of sites of the south rim which is generally regarded as the more impressive part of the Grand Canyon and is part of the actual Grand Canyon National Park (unlike the west rim). It sounds pretty similar to the tour are planning so maybe you can get a discount booking through www.tix4tonight.com or another 3rd party?

    • +1

      Just did this tour back in November. It was meant to be a walking tour but that didn't pan out as it got really cold and foggy. Thankfully it cleared and I still managed to get some nice shots. We had a group of 7 which was nice and not too large.

      The tour guide was really good, nice and friendly and the food provided was nice. Well worth the 155 dollars, seeing the Grand Canyon alone was just amazing. It's a long day, but there are enough stops and I found the time flew by. Highly recommended.

  • Another thought - whilst you theoretically don't need a car in Vegas we've found it's so much more convenient and you get to see a lot more - shopping at the outlets is easier - going to the old part of town (don't miss the Fremont St Light Show - http://www.vegas.com/attractions/off_the_strip/fremontstreet...) and an easy drive out to Hoover Dam. Totally support the helicopter tour - it's expensive but amazing - we flew from Vegas and had lunch in the bottom of the canyon - a wonderful experience.

  • If you are going to Vegas, I recommend taking advantage of discount coupon codes for the hotels.

    I often stay at the MGM and you can get some great coupon codes that get the room rate down to $60-70 and usually include some drinks or chips etc.. Here is one site that has codes (http://www.smartervegas.com/hotels/mgm_grand/promotionalcode...) but there are quite a few out there that have them..

    Regarding the grand canyon, its about a 4-5 hour drive each way, so thats a lot of time on the bus..The heli tour sounds really interesting though..

  • We found these very useful on the East Coast - less so on the West - http://www.hotelcoupons.com/ - need to do your homework and check ratings on a site like Tripadvisor as some of the places listed don't sound too flash - that said we found some real bargains.

  • anything and everything is cheaper there except good service — you have to pay tax in most states (exc. Oregon/Nevada) on products / services and tipping is compulsory in most restaurant chains (the staff expect 15-20% on top of the food+tax total). you should stick to American made or branded stuff if you want to get the most out of your dollar savings — typically we pay markups of 80-250% on top of the US sticker price for all imported products in Australia. focus on what you can't get landed here for low shipping (eg don't buy books/music/DVDs because you can have them shipped to AU for next to nothing).

    • Actually I think you are confusing Nevada and New Hampshire

      Nevada sales tax base is 6.85% with some local taxes it can be as high as 8.1%

      New Hampshire is 0%
      Oregon is 0% (with some local taxes up to 5%)


      your advice on low value low shipping cost items makes sense (unless of course they find some bargain bins with items they like)

  • if you were interested in sports or just the novelty of going to a basketball, NFL or Baseball game the avg tickets are relatively cheap, but the system to get the tickets are a bit weird (please if someone knows more do tell), i couldnt get our tickets to a lakers match because the reasonable priced ones were sold out… granted it was a week before the game but there is an option to rebuy tickets on the Ticketmaster site and lo & behold all the tickets i had wanted were there at a good price and ready to be printed off.. it might be some system that a scalper buys all the tickets and resells them to make a slight profit on each one..

    • For Lakers or Clippers tickets I used these guys. You can just go their office next to Staples Center on the day of the match and buy them. We paid $40 each for Clippers tickets at centre court (a fair way up though) and there were still cheaper tickets too.

  • how much budget do we need to save to go the usa?

  • Another thing to save would be work out your credit cards. Certain cards wont charge currency conversion so you can plan to put everything you can on CC. Amex (might still do it) as well as 28 degrees. Then you can just withdraw a few hundred for small stuff.

    Also, work out what your going to do with your mobile, I would probably just leave it off.

    • Duly noted. At the moment I'm planning to use the NAB gold visa debit card

      • +1

        You may want to consider getting a Citbank Transaction Plus account (http://www.citibank.com.au/aus/banking/everyday_banking/citi...)

        It has no monthly fees, no overseas ATM withdrawal or conversion fees, an excellent exchange rate and online access.

        Another benefit over your NAB card is that there are quite a few Citibank branches in the US. I found a few ATMS in the US wanted to charge fees. Sticking to Citibank ATMs means you don't have to worry about this.

        If you want to be really efficient, you can set up a Citibank online saver (5% interest for the first 4 months) and transfer your money instantly as you need it.

        • Hm, I thought the NAB gold debit card didn't have any international fees, but it's clicked to me that the bank I'm withdrawing from may still charge.

          I already have a Citibank credit card so getting a transaction plus account will be easy.

        • +1

          I was notified by NAB (mid 2012) that they were no longer offering the Gold debit and changing existing accounts to make way for a NAB traveller card. The letter that I got stated that by August 2012, there would be a $4 foreign ATM withdrawal fee and 2% currency conversion fee. Basically made it useless for overseas travel and tried to make you switch to the NAB Traveller card.

          Not sure whether this was implemented because I closed my account. If you're still planning to use it, it may be worth giving the bank a call to double check!

    • I would take your battery out as well. My new phone kept turning on by itself in Asia.

  • +1

    For our last two visits we got a T Mobile pre paid SIM for $50/mth including unlimited calls (Including several OS countries including Australia)and a limited asmount of data at 4G speeds - found it very useful to have a local phone and data access for checking out hotels and particularly restaurants on the go (NYC locals recommend Yelp) - tethered our iPad to our smartphone too so we had access for emails etc.

  • +1

    T Mobile also have a pay as you go sim card that costs $2 a day for unlimited calls, sms and data and you are only charged for the days you actually use it: http://prepaid-phones.t-mobile.com/pay-by-the-day-cell-phone...

    I bought one online as I have relatives in the US, I sent it to their house and they mailed in to me in Australia so I had it when I arrived. I use this same card every time I go to the States

  • +1

    Double check your luggage allowance. Usually ANY series of tickets that include north america give you 2 bags EACH. (I note that you refer to WE and that you say you have 2 X 23 KG. You might, in fact have 4 X 20 or 23kg if there are two of you going.)

    A lot of people, including check in people here in Oz, do not know this. I had a friend who bought RTW tix and I told her to check the luggage section for this. Her TA was wrong. I was right. At the check in counter in OZ, they tried to charge extra for the extra bags. I had told her to bring the T&C printed with the relevant section highlighted. She needed it in Oz only. If I were bringing that sort of luggage and relying on a 2 pc per person allowance, I would bring copies for each segment, stapling the relevant section to my e ticket.

    The key is that all the flights must be on the same itinerary. So if you are flying from adelaide to syd to leave the country, that must be on the same itinerary as the syd-lax ticket or you will pay excess luggage for the domestic oz tix.

    • It's me and the boyfriend, so yes, 4 x 23kg combined. He's not a big shopper so I hope to fill one of his bags with some more bargains for me :D

      • Just be sure to keep something in writing that says you get those "extra bags" for the morons in OZ who don't seem to want to accept the reality.

  • Hi all,

    Going to the USA soon and need some tips in travel money. I have approx $5k worth of USD i'm bringing to the USA with me. Can I purchase a prepaid credit card in the US and load the cash to be used in shops and restaurants?

    Alternatively, I've been told I can open a US bank account. However how easy is this? Also I assume I won't be getting a card immediately?

    Also am willing to consider travellers cheques, albeit this seems like a PITA. Security is however more important.


  • http://prepaid-phones.t-mobile.com/prepaid-phone/T-Mobile-Pr...

    This is the link for a free sim card but you will have to send it to a US address

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