There's plenty of stuff on Amazon.com that's much cheaper than buying it in Australia, although the Aussie dollar's current doldrums against the US greenback make it important to do your sums before clicking the Buy Now button.
But there's also plenty of gear which you simply can't get in Australia, so you'll face high delivery fees if you pull the trigger – and then there are products which Amazon won't ship from overseas to an Australian address.
Here's one of my favourite travel tricks to get what your Amazon goodies without the cost or hassle of delivery to Australia.
Any time I see something on Amazon which I'd like, but don't want or need right now, I add it to my shopping list.
When a business trip to the US comes up, I add the hotel where I'll be staying to my Amazon address book and include the dates of my stay, along the lines of
Guest, 3/22 - 3/25
c/o hotel name
(Note the use of the US month/day format instead of the more natural and more sensible day/month format!)
About a week ahead of my arrival at the hotel I'll move all the items I want from Amazon's shopping list into my shopping cart, buy them and have them sent to the hotel.
This typically allows my order to be sent using free 'standard delivery' rather than paying for express shipping, although it's worth checking if any items on your list will need longer to arrive – especially if they're coming from one of Amazon's third-party partners.
When I arrive, my Amazon order will either be sitting there waiting for me or will turn up the next day.
Dealing with hotel delivery fees
There's one catch to this: many hotels (especially in the US) will charge you a 'delivery and handling fee' for even the smallest parcels.
This is especially common in 'conference hotels' where mail and parcel delivery may be outsourced to the hotel's Fedex bureau – with a subsequent charge around $5 per delivery, even for something as small as an A5 envelope.
You may not be able to escape this charge but you can and should dispute it when you check out, especially if there's nothing on the hotel's website advising of such a fee. It can help if you bring down some of the smallest envelopes as proof of how insane such a charge is, as long as you remain polite reasonable and polite during the 'negotiation' with front desk staff.
Sometimes when collecting parcels from the concierge or a delivery desk, a hotel staffer may demand a cash payment of $2 to $5 per parcel – but you can be sure that money is headed straight for his pocket. If the staffer insists this is a 'hotel fee', you should insist on having it charged to your room (so you can dispute it later on).
Also: depending on what you've ordered, you may need to leave some room in your checked luggage – or just bring an empty collapsible bag, such as a backpack or weekend tote, to fill with your Amazon goodies!
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