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Seattle vacations: cross-border shopping

By Robyn Wosk-Peter
My husband took my son camping last weekend. Me? I’m a hotel person at heart — generally a fan of comfort. Instead, I took a Seattle vacation across the US-Canada border for a girls’ weekend of shopping at the Seattle Premium Outlets. To me, shopping is is just like a trip to the great outdoors: you’ve got to be prepared! Here’s what I recommend:

1.  Get a NEXUS Card: It’s a must if you travel often between the US and Canada. Basically it’s a pre-approved pass for “low risk” travelers. You can wiz through lines at border crossings and get the VIP treatment at airports too.

2. Pick up a VIP Coupon Book: You can find these at the premium outlets website and print off all these excellent coupons ahead of time. (So you get the online coupon book and the one they have at the desk – both have different offers).

3. Taxes: Ask about the sales tax exemption for non-residents at every store. This part was super confusing as some stores are interpreting the tax changes differently than others.  There is a law that allows non-residents from states or provinces with a sales tax of less than 3% to shop tax free in Washington.  On July 1st , British Columbia implemented the HST which isn’t technically a sales tax.  Some stores did not charge us tax if we could prove we were residents of BC and some stores did.  It’s a bit of a mess so I just ended up asking each store if I was eligible and some charged and some did not.

4. Burlington, Washington: If you are making the trek anyway, you have to stop at The Outlet Shoppes at Burlington. This is about 20 minutes north of the Seattle Premium Outlets but, it’s totally worth the stop.  They had some of the same stores as Seattle Premium but, the crowds were smaller. Some great deals at COACH, Nine West, Reebok and a great selection of children’s wear too including Carter’s, OshKosh and GAP outlets.

5. Stay overnight: For the full shopping experience and to hit everything you need, you may want to stay overnight.  The closest hotel to the Seattle Premium Outlets is the Tulalip Resort Casino.   It’s a nice four star and all the rooms are a good size  so if you are sharing with a girlfriend you are not crawling over each other to get to the washroom.  There is an indoor pool and spa in case you need to relax after a long day on your feet.  (Saturday we hit a record – shopping for 11 hours straight!)   But the longer you stay, the more you can bring back tax free!

6. Best deal: The Children’s Place Outlet hands down had the best deals for kids and the clothes aren’t filled with characters all over them. I scored my 5 year old son stacks of clothes all for a grand total of $28.46 as I was tax exempt here. I completely forgot there was a coupon in the book for 15% off or it would have been $24.19.   Dang!   Tip 6b: double check the coupon book at every store.

7.Declare what you wear: You absolutely have to declare everything you buy especially if you have a NEXUS card.  They do not mess around with these things. I know the Canadian border patrol doesn’t look as scary as the US guys but they will stop you if they even think you have anything in the car.  They are thorough so don’t take a chance.   It’s not worth it, so just pay the duty. If you’re out of Canada for less than 24 hours, you have to pay duty on everything you bought.  If you are out for 24 hours, you get $50 tax exemption.  If you are out 48 hours, you get $400 tax exception. And if you are gone for a full week, you get a whopping $750 tax exemption.

8. Coffee: We found out that your GPS cannot be relied upon to find the closest Starbucks at all times. Grab a cup of Starbucks at the outlets before you leave and make sure to stop by the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for the best fudge ever.  The coupon book has a “buy one slice of fudge, get one free,” which is a perfect sugar fix to get you home.

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Robyn is the Orbitz Hotel Market Manager for the Pacific Northwest.  She lives in Vancouver BC with her husband and son.

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Angie Jaime

Angie Jaime

Angie Jaime is a writer at Orbitz. She has a habit of stopping at Cinnabon stands in airports across the country.

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