Christmas shopping break on the cheap

 Selfridges, Oxford Street, London, decorated for Christmas
Selfridges, Oxford Street, London, decorated for Christmas

With Christmas just around the corner, there's still time for a last-minute shopping trip. There’s also no better excuse for a shopping break, especially if it’s to a destination where gifts for friends and family are cheaper than at home. 

Important details to keep in mind

There are several factors to take into account when you’re planning a shopping trip that will help make the trip pay for itself. In addition to the cost of flights to your shopping spree destination, you’ll also need to calculate your costs once you get there, including shopping but also accommodation and eating out. (And don't forget to read up on the current exchange rate with your own home currency.) Finally you need to work out whether you’ll pay duty bringing home your Christmas loot.

So overall, where are some of the best places to try, for a fair balance of good shopping options, cheap flights, and affordable day-to-day costs? 

Best destinations to knock out your Christmas shopping

New York: New York is a Christmas shopping classic, and it’s also super-fun and festive around the holidays. Eating out doesn't have to be an expensive affair; there are decent budget hotels and as the dollar is low against the euro and pound, you can stock up on bargains at department stores like Macy’s and Bloomingdales, and trawl the racks at Century 21 for discounted designer clothes. According to a recent survey, the biggest discounts - when compared to Europe - are to be found on designer jeans, toys, skin creams, lingerie and gadgets. 

London: London’s shops are equally tempting at this time of year, with department stores competing to have the most inventive window displays. Nowadays British shops seem to start their January sales in late December, so go last-minute to pick up bargains for Christmas. Hit the city’s main shopping drag, Oxford Street, for a wide choice of stores; for a one-stop shop for quality clothes, toiletries and homeware, try John Lewis and Debenhams rather than more upmarket Selfridge. For inexpensive clothing, try Topshop, Monki, Uniqlo orPrimark. Take a one-hour train ride to Bicester Village outside Oxford and you can pick up discounted designer gifts at outlets including Barbour,Alexander McQueen, Jack Wills, Mulberry, Burberry,The White Company andPaul Smith.

Marrakesh: For winter sun head to the pink-walled Moroccan city of Marrakesh, where hotel and dining options are affordable and you can stock up on bargain gifts in the souk, the bustling market in the walled old town. Haggle with market traders over the price of pointy leather slippers, silver teapots, argan oil beauty products, pretty decorated tea glasses, lanterns and handmade carpets. Start with an offer about a quarter of the suggested price for an item, and bargain your way up to what you’re happy paying for it. Local shopping experts like Laetitia Trouillet can help you negotiate the markets to find you unique treasures.

Istanbul: Alternatively, try magical Istanbul, where you can pick up cheap pashminas, dainty silver jewellery, leather lookalike designer handbags, and throws for a song in the mesmerizing Grand Bazaar; or exotic teas, sweets, cheeses and spices at the Spice Bazaar in Eminonu. Pick up Turkish Delight or lokum from traditional confectioner Ali Muhittin Haci Bekir, where you can pick up a kilo of the sweet treat for a fraction of the price you’d pay at home.

Read more: 12 best Christmas markets in Europe