Fashionistas heading to the outlet malls with their strong Aussie dollars are getting great value for money right now, writes Rachael Oakes-Ash.
THE outlet malls of the US are tourist destinations in their own right, open seven days a week and taking up blocks of real estate - some even sporting movie cinemas and bowling alleys for shopped-out companions.
Every state has an outlet mall or 10, though some are better than others. Put aside a full day, arrive with an empty suitcase and take walking shoes.
New York State
If Burberry, Dior, La Perla, Fendi, Prada and Jimmy Choo send you into a sweat then Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, an hour north of New York City, is for you.
Big-name European brands such as Moncler, Gucci and Oscar de la Renta mix it up with upper-end high-street fashion from True Religion, Superdry, Calvin Klein and G-Star Raw, plus a Barneys New York outlet store. There's also a helipad for easy access to NYC.
Expect more than 220 shops, free weekend valet parking, a further 10 per cent discount for the over-50s and a free shuttle with 12 stops within the complex to save your shopping tootsies.
Cabazon Outlets and Desert Hills Premium Outlets sit side by side in the California desert, a retail oasis about 90 minutes east of Los Angeles or 20 minutes west of Palm Springs.
Take a deep breath because, combined, the two malls serve up a mix of Yves Saint Laurent, Zegna and Dior alongside brands such as Brooks Brothers, Banana Republic, Converse, Gap and Levi's, and outdoor names such as adidas, Puma, Columbia, Oakley and Nautica. Bose also calls Desert Hills home, with some serious savings on sound systems.
Take sunscreen and water because it gets hot - desert hot - in these parts. If you're in the US during Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, Labor Day, Presidents Day and Memorial Weekend then expect big sales with even bigger discounts. www.cabazonoutlets.com, www.premiumoutlets.com.
The Outlets at Orange can easily be combined with a trip to nearby Disneyland, though to shopaholics The Outlets is Disneyland.
The open-air mall hosts a number of American department stores including Saks Fifth Avenue's outlet store Off Fifth, Last Call by Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom Rack. It lacks the high-end European designers but still has Levi's, Tommy Hilfiger, Nike, Converse and the ubiquitous Calvin Klein. Plus there's the Vans Skatepark, a Lucky Strike bowling alley and an AMC Theatre.
Did we mention free wireless internet throughout the mall and the Simon Malls iPhone app to figure out where you are? www.simon.com.
Park City may be known as the home of the Sundance Film Festival but the three-resort ski town (45 minutes east of Salt Lake City airport) offers more than just the best indie films and powder snow in the US.
Apres ski takes on a whole new meaning at the Tanger Outlets mall 10 minutes from downtown Park City as rugged-up skiers and snowboarders descend on the mall when the chairlifts close. Channel your inner "preppie" at Ralph Lauren, Abercrombie & Fitch, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Levi's and J.Crew. Sporty street brands Volcom, Crocs and adidas cater for the urban crew. The mall is open seven days and if you join the free TangerClub you get even more discounts.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Cash-in your casino winnings at not one but two Premium Outlets malls 15 kilometres apart in Las Vegas.
Combined, the Las Vegas Premium Outlet North and the Las Vegas Premium Outlet South offer almost 300 outlet stores including Armani, Burberry, Lacoste, Diesel, Gap, Kenneth Cole, Ted Baker, DC Shoes, Nike, Reebok, Timberland and Michael Kors.
The Nevada desert setting means it can get scorching hot, so take water and a hat.
Not far from the Southwest Florida International Airport, between Fort Myers and Naples, is the Miromar Outlet. The mall is outdoors, with koi ponds, fountains and even a water-ski show on the neighbouring lake.
It features more than 140 outlet stores, including Bloomingdale's, Nine West, Fossil, Nautica, Neiman Marcus, J.Crew, Escada, True Religion and Michael Kors.
Websites and apps to watch
Heading to the US and want to know if there's an outlet mall near you? Try these websites to find out.
Premium Outlets has more than 50 malls across the US. www.premiumoutlets.com.
Tanger Outlet Centres has 30 malls. www.tangeroutlet.com.
Outlet Gals regularly reviews 18 independent outlet malls. www.outletgals.com.
Outlet Bound allows site visitors to search by location or brand name. www.outletbound.com.
Have smartphone, will travel. Get even more discounts, coupons and offers in US cities near you through apps on your iPhone.
Yowza is a location-based coupon app that finds where you are then finds the best discount offers near you. www.getyowza.com.
Download Coupon Sherpa to your iPhone and score even more discounts from American brands. www.discountsherpa.com.
The best frocks in NYC
The Sun-Herald's fashion editor, Kate Waterhouse, names her five favourite boutiques.
1. Opening Ceremony, 35 Howard Street
This store stocks every cool designer in NYC from high-end fashion to more affordable designers, including: Proenza Schouler, Opening Ceremony, Yves Salomon, Chloe Sevigny, Spike Jonze, Pendleton, Keds, Robert Clergerie.
2. Barneys, 660 Madison Avenue
Obvious, yes, but no other department store typifies NYC chic better than Barneys. Barneys Co-op stocks street wear fashion and don't miss the new Lady Gaga exhibition/floor where she of the meaty frock hand-picked her favourite items to go on sale. And of course there's Fred's, the restaurant on the top floor where you are guaranteed to spot celebrities and have the best chopped chicken salad and fries in town. Good luck getting a table though, because it is always packed.
3. Henri Bendel, 5th Avenue
This store is definitely worth checking out if you're going to NYC. It's an American upscale women's specialty store that sells fashion accessories, cosmetics, fragrances and gifts as well as gourmet foods.
4. Alexis Bittar, 1100 Madison Avenue
This store has great costume jewellery. Michelle Obama has been spotted wearing pieces from their collection and some of the colourful baubles have appeared on Sex and the City. Worth a look for the life-size animal figures in the windows.
5. Calypso, 424 Broome St; 935 Madison Avenue
This store is a great find. Lots of ethnic-inspired delectable items as well as beautiful suede coats and vintage tops. Plus it has gorgeous, eclectic homewares.