Heading home from Europe — is duty free a bargain?

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Duty Free shop at London's Heathrow Airport

HEADING HOME (AUG 10) — Thank goodness for airport VIP Lounges. No we’re not flying Business Class (I wish we were!) but I’ve got a membership from www.prioritypass.com that allows us access to airport lounges around the world. It’s worth it for anyone who travels frequently. We wile away the time before our flight with complimentary drinks, sandwiches, snacks, checking email and just relaxing away from the crowds.

On our three-hour layover at Heathrow in London, I’ve arranged for us to visit British Airway’s lounge in the new Terminal 5 with its designated kid zones. Parents told me they were disappointed — there were no toys or books, just computers and a big screen TV showing cartoons. But I thought it was at least a start for the growing numbers of families using these lounges. The lounge itself was among the best I’ve ever seen — there was a wine bar, fresh juices, coffee (espresso anyone?). And all varieties of food, chicken curry and pasta, sandwiches and salads, cookies, ice cream and chips, soups and breakfast cereals. There were showers and even a spa. It certainly makes it easier to travel with kids, parents told me, as they tried to corral the kids so they weren’t bothering any of the business people bent over their laptops. No one seemed bothered. In fact, the kids seemed to make everyone smile.

A word about duty-free shopping. It’s tempting but I’ve never found any real bargains, except maybe on liquor or cigars. I buy something we can’t find at home for my husband and son just before we board our flight home and resist the temptation to stock up on cosmetics and perfume that I don’t need and that likely cost the same or more than at home.

I’m ready to go home. There’s no more room in the suitcase.

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