A love of high-end fashion and a love of international travel often overlap. Both require considerable expendable income and aesthetic curiosity, and both fashion and travel have a sense of glamor to them, which compounds on itself when the two are combined. After all, what feels better than someone asking where you got your bag and you getting to say, "Oh, this old thing? Paris." That's not the only advantage of shopping while traveling internationally, though: it can save you a lot of money, especially if you live in the US and are headed to Western Europe.
The same designer bag almost always costs a significantly different price depending on which currency you're using, and although an increasingly global luxury market has lead to brands trying to bring their cross-market prices into closer alignment, there are still some big gaps. In order to find out where you can get the best deal, we tracked down local prices for a half dozen of the world's most popular bags in the world's biggest luxury markets in North America, Europe, Asia and Oceania. Whenever available, we found the prices in local currency on brands' websites and then converted them to US dollars for the most accurate comparison; for some of the brands whose websites don't offer full international prices, we found prices in USD at third-party retailers for bags available to ship to our markets.
Beyond just currency fluctuations and the vagaries of global MSRPs, there's also the Value-Added Tax, commonly referred to as the VAT, when shopping on vacation in Europe. If you do your paperwork correctly at both your point of purchase and departure airport in both continental Europe and Great Britain, you'll be refunded anywhere from 5% to 25% of your purchase price on luxury goods of all sorts. In the UK and France, the VAT refund is up to 20%, which is an enormous discount off the already below-US prices that current exchange rates provide, especially for bags that rarely, if ever go on sale. If you're traveling to Western Europe from anywhere in the rest of the world, you should consider stocking your closet. (You can also check out our detailed guide to VAT refunds and processes across the world's most popular shopping destinations.)
Right now, recent British political uncertainties over the Brexit vote have significantly weakened the British pound, which makes the UK a better deal for vacationing US shoppers than usual. When it comes to European bag designers, though, France (and other eurozone Western European countries--MSRPs are usually the same throughout) is still the best place to buy. Check out our full results below.