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According to trade organization Airlines for America (A4A), a record 45.7 million passengers are expected to hit the skies during the winter holiday season. And while on the move, consumers are expected to spend an average of $1,250 each on travel, entertainment and gifts, research firm PwC recently found.
Time-pressed travelers often do their holiday gift buying at the last-minute, but airport shops stand at the ready with creative and tightly-curated inventory so passengers can purchase Santa-worthy presents.
To help you plan ahead (or scramble less before your flight), airports like Phoenix Sky Harbor International, San Francisco International and Minneapolis-St. Paul International, have put together gift guides highlighting unique items for sale in their terminals. As the holidays get closer, community groups will staff complimentary gift-wrapping tables at many airport terminals, so no one will know how much shopping took place on the fly.
Below are a few options available for travelers who need gifts on the go.
Oregon-made products to pick up at Portland International Airport (PDX) run the gamut, including parachuting DB Cooper action figures ($4.99) and Moonstruck Chocolate's dark chocolate bar honoring PDX's airport carpet ($12). You can also pick up a wide array of clothing and accessories. Bonus: the airport has street-pricing and there's no sales tax in Oregon.
The Frivolous shop at Detroit Metropolitan Airport lives up to its promise of being filled with "wonderfully unnecessary" gift items. CNBC spotted everything from candy 'coal' and dainty boxes of raspberry gummi candies ($7.99) to clocks, cardigans and brightly colored, fully functional retro push-button phones ($69.99).
A bottle of wine from any of the more than two dozen Vino Volo airport locations would make a lovely gift. But at Nashville International Airport, travelers can pick up six-packs of bottled craft beer to go at the Tennessee Brew Works kiosk, and Yazoo! Brewing — or 4-packs of 16-ounce cans at Fat Bottom Beer Brewing. The recently opened NoDa Brewing at Charlotte Douglas International Airport offers mix-n-match four packs of cans to go, with signature beers like Coco Loco and Hop, Drop 'N Roll.
"Sleepless in Seattle" nightshirts ($32.99) are still available at airport shops in Seattle, even though the film is now 25 years old. The Sub Pop retail shop carries some of record company's cool clothing line, including a $65 "Fremont Flannel." And at Made in Washington, Seattle's own Jimi Hendrix is honored with Purple Haze Lavender soaps ($9.99)
Some Legal Sea Food branches at Boston's Logan Airport will pack live lobsters to go, while at Miami's International Airport, fresh Florida stone crabs can be packed for gift giving at Prive Gourmet Market, or at My Ceviche. Lobster and crab prices change daily, but recent posted crab prices ranged from $27 to $47, depending on the size.
At Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), Connections sells Arizona Gourmet Doggie treats ($6.99), while Mosaic offers a wide range of fun dog-themed refrigerator magnets ($5.95).
Cute pet toys from BarkBox (usually available only by subscription) are for sale this season at numerous airport Hudson shops in airports along the West Coast, including Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orange County, Portland and Seattle.
One great thing about doing holiday shopping at airports is that the stores open very early and close super late. Another plus: You can now find SouveNEAR's vending machines stocked with locally-made gifts and craft items in airports at Oakland, Kansas City and Newark. Each airport's vending machine has its own specialty item, like embroidered napkins (Oakland), hot sauce (Kansas City) and scented soap (Newark).
A gift membership ($4,500; not including per flight fees) or a one-time visit ($2700 - $4,000) to The Private Suite at Los Angeles International Airport is a luxury splurge sure to impress. The gated and guarded private terminal has its own security and customs/immigration screening as well as individual suites for guests with bathrooms, food pantries, daybeds and runway views – and a BMW 7 Series car will take you to your flight. Bonus services for members include complimentary in suite manicures, massages and haircuts; valet parking and pre-ordered complimentary meals.