Shopping Tips

Check out Mr Brits GPS Guide for locations

New York used to be known as the shoppers paradise but over recent years Orlando has snatched this title with more and more Americans heading to Florida to grab a bargain. If you drive around Orlando you will be amazed at how many stores and shopping Malls you will come across. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was more land taken up by shops and restaurants than homes in the USA.

Things work a little different in the USA and the price tags will not usually show you the full price because sales tax is added to most items at the checkout so keep this in mind. Florida sales tax is 6% so add 60c to every $10 spend to keep track of your spending.

If you are a member of the UK’s breakdown service the AA, make sure you read the Member of the AA?? section to save money on your shopping

VAT & Customs

One word of warning before you decide to buy an extra couple of suitcases and bring back twice as much luggage as you travelled out with, remember that there are customs rules and regulations on how much you can take back with you tax free.

Each person had a goods allowance of £390 in 2010 (excluding alcohol and tobacco) this means that during 2010 each person is be able to bring back £390 worth of clothes, gifts etc without having to pay any VAT on them when you return to the UK. You would need to check at your time of travel what the current rules are and you can ask your travel agent or look on the customs website HERE to find out the correct allowances for when you travel. If you have under the stated allowance you can walk straight through the “nothing to declare” door when you return to the UK but if you have bought more than the allowance and do not declare it, it could ruin what was a brilliant holiday when you get stung with a massive fine if you get caught.

I have heard of people taking new items to the USA with them and being stung for VAT when returning to the UK because they couldn’t prove that they took the item out to the USA with them. A good idea is to take any receipts for things like a Sony PSP or an IPOD with you on holiday so if the nasty customs guys try and tell you that you must have purchased it in the USA you can wipe the grin off their faces by proving them wrong with the original receipt.

Here are the 2010 allowances:

• 200 cigarettes or 250 grams of tobacco or 50 cigars
• 2 litres of fortified wine (such as port or sherry), sparkling wine or any other alcoholic drink that’s less than 22 per cent volume
• 1 litre of spirits or strong liqueurs over 22% volume or 2 litres of fortified wine, sparkling wine or other liqueurs
• £390 (see below) worth of all other goods including gifts and souvenirs

In addition you may also bring back both of the following:
• 16 litres of beer
• 4 litres of still wine
Please remember that the allowance of £390 applies to goods for personal use and excludes your tobacco and alcohol etc as you can bring these back as part of your other allowance.

 

 

CD’s, DVD’s, Console games etc

Don’t just rush out and bring back a few DVDs or Xbox games without checking that they will work back home in the UK first. If you don’t check before you buy, you could be buying something as useful as a chocolate fireguard because all machines are made differently around the world so not all discs and games are compatible.

Here is my list of what will, won’t or may work if you bring them back home to play in the UK:

These will work
CD’s are universal so will play on any machine, anywhere in the world
PSP games are universal so you are fine to buy these. Some UMD films will not play on a UK PSP
Nintendo DS games are fine to buy
PS3 games are universal so will play on a UK PS3

These won’t work
Wii are regional so US versions will not play on a UK Wii
DVD’s are regional so US versions will not play on UK DVD players but some PC’s can play any DVD. The UK uses Region 2 DVD.

The grey area
Blu Ray DVD’s are sometimes regionalised so not all movies will play on a UK player
Xbox 360 games are regional but some do play on the UK Xbox 360. A bit risky tho’

 

 

International Drive

The whole of I-Drive is bussling with shops, malls and restaurants and you can walk for miles with only shops in sight. Some of these shops are a bit cheap and tend to sell tatty toys and T-Shirts but there are also many great malls and complexes offering a quality shopping experience.

If you head for the Festival Bay Mall and the Prime Outlets International at the north end of I-Drive, you will find more of the big name stores such as Nike and Victoria’s Secret. I-Drive is also a great place to shop if you are looking for specific items such as golf equipment and luggage as there are many stores that specialise in these types of products.

On International Drive there is a gift shop that claims to be the biggest gift shop in the world but I’m not too sure about that because it isn’t really that big. America seems to be obsessed with claiming to be the biggest “this” or the largest “that” so don’t believe everything you read. Further south on I-Drive there is also a McDonalds that claims to be the “largest McDonalds play place in the world” so it’s an American thing. Anyway back to this gift shop, it is a great looking shop from the outside and it catches your eye straight away due to the large space shuttle lodged on the shop front.

The first time I walked into this store I was greeted by a 6ft tall standing alligator and I said to Mrs Brit “hey, take a look at this large toy alligator” and the sales assistant quickly jumped in and corrected me, informing me that it is a real stuffed alligator and is for sale at $800.

I was shocked and disgusted even more when I saw scattered all over the shop, little gator heads and tiny gator feet for sale from around $12. The photo above was also taken from an I-Drive shop and you would be excused for thinking it was a replica, this beast measured around 7ft long head to tail and surrounding the alligator are baby gator heads and even pickled baby alligators. Alligator parts are big business in Florida and the sales assistant tried to tell me that they are not farmed to be made into gifts and they have all died naturally. I told him my name is Mr Brit and not Mr Twit, how can thousands of baby alligators all die naturally.

There are hundreds of shops across Florida selling gator bits so they are farmed especially for the tourist gift shops to make souvenirs for visitors. I would never buy such a product but if you like this sort of thing (and I hope you don’t) do not be tempted to bring some gator bits back home with you as you will not be allowed into the UK with any alligator products unless you have filled out the appropriate paperwork from customs in advance.

Sorry for the animal rights rant but this type of thing is ridiculous.

Kissimmee

Kissimmee is the older part of the Orlando area that once was the place to stay but times have changed and Kissimmee hasn’t much. The shopping in Kissimmee is good and bad. There are some large household named stores but few and far between compared with the large shopping complexes above or International Drive for that matter. The whole area is in need of new investment and modernisation but it doesn’t seem to be happening.

The main street for shopping is Highway 192 and the stores here range from small Flea Market type traders up to large Nike Warehouse size stores. If you are staying in this area then it could be worth doing your gift shopping here but I wouldn’t go out of my way to shop in Kissimmee because there are bigger and better shopping experiences in most other parts of Orlando
For full addresses and phone numbers for all of these stores and malls, see my GPS Guide