Shopping.  It can be harmless, only when it’s of the window and look but don’t buy variety.  Unfortunately, when you get right down to it combing stores to find that perfect suit for your next interview or that necklace for prom, money will be spent.  So, what better place to set down those bills than across the border?

Being Canadian right now comes with perks, free healthcare, slightly less controversial politics, and an economy that isn’t completely done for while our friendly neighbours, the United States of America is over thirteen trillion dollars in debt.  As the stereotype goes, Canadians are supposed to be excessively polite, which doesn’t necessarily mean that we are kind, but simply courteous.  Nevertheless, let us gloss over that technicality in favour of calling every Canuck who shops across the border a Good Samaritan.

I recently spent several days in the state of New York.  Though the primary directive of this trip was to take a break from work, since it coincided with the back-to-school shopping season I took advantage of my situation to add to my wardrobe. The prime function of over the border travel is usually shopping related, and from Ottawa there are a few good locations to survey the upcoming trends, make use of charge cards and spend some cash.

Syracuse, NY

The location of the famous Destiny USA Mall, this place is basically good for just that, the mall.  While there are outlets around [notably the Waterloo outlets] many have since moved on or no longer carry the stock that they used to in past years.

Despite that fact, I would highly recommend Destiny, which true to its former name, the Carousel Mall, actually has a functioning carousel in the food-court.  Rides cost only a dollar and that experience alone was well worth the trip.  Regardless of the other attractions, though they do offer a number of them including a mirror maze and a ropes course within the building, the stores are numerous and varied.

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The Carousel, Destiny USA Mall

Even with the standbys we play host to back home like Old Navy, Payless, and Claire’s each venue is worth a peek, because true to form, they do carry different merchandise in the States.  And the prices can be better, even if they are marginally so you can still save. Personally, I venture into stores I’ve never heard of when I go south of the border – places like Papaya, Charlotte Russe, White House Black Market and Vanity.  Exploring new styles, snatching up the latest fashions before they even make an appearance back home, that’s what shopping stateside is all about.

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Panoramic shot of the Destiny USA Mall, New York, United States of America

Watertown, NY

This is where you hit the outlets.  Oh, and Salmon Run Mall which plays host to Burlington Coat Factory – one of the best places to get great deals on great clothes. Now, the outlets are not your typical shopping destination so I’ve compiled a list of five things every prospective outlet shopper should know:

1. Shopping is work.

To shop well is hard work, and the same goes for the outlets.  Deals do not just jump out and wave their arms at you.  To find those seventy percent off designer shoes you have to hunt.  Check every rack and every tag, because nothing is worse than falling in love with something you pulled off the sale rack only to discover it was placed there by accident.  Stop every hour or so for a cool beverage and a snack to keep up your energy; shopping when you’re hungry makes you irritable, angry and no fun to be around.

2. The outlets don’t have everything.

Since companies often have an online presence in addition to their stores and their outlets you must be prepared for the fact that their entire collection may not be available in-store.  Even though they may have carried everything up to size 14 last year now they only sell your size online.  It’s tough to shop online because you cannot physically try on the clothes, but if you really want that particular pair of pants or shoes you’ll have to skip the outlets in favour of logging into your online store account.

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Found only in the States, this outlet store has gone out of business but continued online.

3. Reevaluate what a sale means.

Sale. A four letter word that brings happiness to the heart of any shopper, but be wary, what you consider a deal does not necessarily coincide with your favourite store’s interpretation of the term.  For some, marking down $100 pants to $90 is a big leap with regards to pricing – so verify before you try; in other words look at the fine print and check that price tag before you add those clothes to your fitting room pile.  *Hint: When the sale or clearance sign says $10, look for the “and up” portion of the notice before jumping for joy.

4. Cars carry more than people.

Hopefully, if you’re heading to the States you’re driving down, because while toting around bags filled with fashionable paraphernalia can be a good workout for your arms when trekking around the outlets a car is desirable.  Unlike a mall, outlets can be quite well spaced out and if you’re planning on seriously investing in the States’ economy you most certainly do not want to walk from one end of the outlets to the other.

5. Skip what you already know.

As I mentioned before, at Destiny USA, I visited a few stores that we have here in Canada, but all in all, I would recommend visiting boutiques we don’t have at home.  If you wanted to buy clothes at American Eagle why not just visit the Rideau Centre instead of travelling to the States?  Delve in and discover new places that stock items which will help you stand out and keep your style fresh and modern.  Skip the standbys – they’ll still be there when you return home. photo 2 Shopping can be fun, when it’s done right – meaning leave your baggage at home, pack light, keep a list of what you a) want and b) need out of this trip.  Last, but not least, don’t forget your passport because your ideal shopping destination is just over the border, in the States.