Forget skiing and biking and boating and hiking... is it outlet shopping that really gets your heart pounding? Tie on your most comfortable sneakers, flex those shopping bag-carrying biceps, and head for New England, where outlet shopping is more than a mere added vacation attraction—it's a reason to visit all by itself!
From designer fashions to housewares, from kids' clothes to sporting goods, from shoes to jewelry, outlet stores offer discounts and deals that will allow you to style your life affordably. So, where in New England will you start your outlet shopping odyssey?
Massachusetts is literally littered with outlet shopping possibilities. From the Berkshires to Boston, it's possible to plan an entire Massachusetts itinerary centered around bargain hunting. Or head straight to Wrentham Village Premium Outlets in Wrentham, Massachusetts. New England's largest outlet shopping destination has 170 stores to explore.
Maine is definitely the outlet shopping capital of New England. You'll be amazed at the sheer number of name brand outlet stores that line Route 1 in Kittery, and Freeport—home to the L.L. Bean flagship store and an L.L. Bean outlet—is a popular outlet shopping destination, as well. There's even a Vineyard Vines Outlet in Freeport, where you can embrace New England preppy style on a budget.
When you head for the outlets of New Hampshire, you actually have a chance to save not once, but twice. In New Hampshire, shopping is sales tax-free! You'll find major outlet centers in North Conway, Merrimack and Tilton.
Canadian and American shoppers alike are drawn to the outlets of Vermont. You'll find the state's largest selection of designer deals in Manchester.
Connecticut's upscale outlet centers, including Clinton Crossing Premium Outlets and Westbrook Outlets, are popular with Manhattanites seeking to save money on swanky name brand duds. The state's newest place to double down on deals is Tanger Outlets at Foxwoods, where you'll find 80 factory outlet stores indoors for all-weather bargain hunting bliss.
Though tiny Rhode Island doesn't have any massive factory outlet complexes to call its own, you're just minutes from outlet centers in Massachusetts when you stay in either Newport or Providence.
How To Be a Smart Outlet Shopper
New England travelers love the outlet stores in Kittery and Freeport, Maine; North Conway, New Hampshire; and more. But how do you know when a deal is a deal? Here are some savvy outlet shopping tips.
1. Set a shopping budget—and stick to it.
2. Budget your time, too. Remember, vacations were not made for shopping alone.
3. Look for the best bargains tucked away in the back of the store or prominently displayed up front as an enticement to shoppers. Spend very little time in the middle.
4. Be sure to look for extra savings coupons and offers at your hotel, tourist information centers and outlet customer service desks before you start shopping.
5. Strategize: Make a list of the outlet stores that most appeal to you and make a beeline for them, rather than drifting aimlessly in search of deals.
6. Hit the outlet shops during off-peak times, such as meal times, when you may find fewer competitors for the best buys.
7. Examine all merchandise carefully before you leave the outlet store, especially if an item is marked "irregular." A deal isn't a deal unless the item is usable when you get it home.
8. Check store return policies, but keep in mind that if you're on vacation, it may be a long trip to return or exchange an item after you've made your purchase.
9. Bone up on your retail pricing knowledge before you go. Visit a high-end department store to see what they're charging for designer goods, both at retail and sale prices.
10. If you find a great deal, buy two!
11. Be honest with your traveling companions. If you expect to spend a long time outlet shopping, give them the option of doing something else and meeting up with you to see the deals you found later.
Tips for Outlet Shoppers
- Carry a small notepad with you. Jot down good deals as you see them, but wait to make purchases until after you've scoped out all of the stores that interest you.
- Outlets are busiest during peak travel seasons, so if you can go during the off-season, not only will your shopping day be less stressful, you may get better buys.
- New Hampshire is sales-tax-free—keep in mind that added savings!