By Josephine Matyas

The long, cold Canadian winter has arrived – and odds are that you have clients looking to beat the winter blahs with getaway plans. As the temperature dips, people increasingly look for a change of pace, and shopping destinations may be just the ticket. Did you know that shopping ranks near the top of holiday activities? And with the strong Canadian dollar there couldn’t be a better time to pick up bargains south of the border – there’s a reason they call it “retail therapy.”

First, let’s talk numbers. Some U.S. shopping destinations are renowned for their low sales tax rates, so it’s always good to check at the individual state websites because some regions may tack additional sales tax onto the rate mandated by their state.

Here’s some base sales tax info (on most purchases) for you to pass along followed by a few destination suggestions to get the shopping cart rolling!


Along the border . . .

Portland ShoppingTravel Oregon

Maine                             5 %

New Hampshire             0 %

Vermont                                    6 %

New York                      4 %

Pennsylvania                  6 %

Ohio                               5.5 %

Michigan                        6 %

Minnesota                      6.875 %          

North Dakota                5 %     

Montana                                    0 %

Idaho                             6 %

Washington                    6.5 %


U.S. states with zero per cent sales tax . . .


New Hampshire





New Hampshire


In addition, many states offer sales tax refunds to international shoppers (including Louisiana and Texas). State websites are the best source for this information.


No sales tax in Oregon

The exclusive Portland Perks package offers savings and convenience along with regal customer service, name-brand stores and boutiques and designers found only in Portland. The program has exclusive rates at a wide variety of Portland-area hotels (with continental breakfast for two), free overnight parking and a special discount-packed coupon book that offers more than US $600 in savings on tax free shopping, dining, attractions, the arts and more.

Not far from Portland, in the Willamette Valley, the Holiday Inn Eugene offers a package called ‘Ready, Set, SHOP!’, which provides a map of Eugene’s unique shopping malls and a US $50 VISA gift card. Rates from US $189 plus tax. For reservations call 888-222-4206 or visit


When you think of Maine, think of outlets

Maine’s Ogunquit Shopping Package Getaway includes two nights lodging (with continental breakfast), US $30 certificate towards dinner for two, late check out and more than US $500 in discount coupons to Kittery Outlets. Prices start at US $129.95.

Freeport is the home of outlet shopping! The White Cedar Inn’s shopping, dining, playing and overnight lodging package includes a two-night stay (with continental breakfast), a US $100 gift certificate for L.L. Bean, a US $50 dinner gift certificate from a selection of local restaurants and two admissions to one of Maine’s historic museums. Prices start at US $489 and some restrictions apply.


Shopping with the girls in Minnesota

With holiday shopping now in full swing, shoppers can head to Bloomington, MN for tax-free shopping on all clothing and shoe purchases and last minute deals. Mall of America, the shopping hub of the holiday season, offers 520 stores, more than 50 restaurants and sights and sounds of the season around every corner. The Girlfriend’s Getaway Package is the ultimate getaway to the shopping mecca of the world. Visitors will receive a US $50 Mall of America gift card and many extras, including discounted hotel accommodations at hotels located minutes from the mall, offering a complimentary shuttle to and from the stores.

And while there, visitors can take a break from the shops with The Big Ticket 3 Day Attraction Pass – an unbelievable deal on admissions to Nickelodeon Universe® and SEA LIFE™ Minnesota Aquarium inside Mall of America at 30 per cent off. The Big Ticket deal also includes admission savings at Water Park of America, Science Museum of Minnesota, Minnesota Zoo and the Great Clips® IMAX® Theater at the Minnesota Zoo during your stay. The Big Ticket Getaway Package includes discount hotel pricing and additional discounts. Check out all the details and book stays at


Shop (tax free) until you drop in The Lone Star State

They like to say that Texans do everything in a large way. Well, the shopping options in The Lone Star State are as big and diverse as the state itself. No matter what type of shopping experience, it can be found in the Lone Star State’s premier shopping malls, historic small towns or hip urban shopping districts. From high-end couture, to outlet centres, to antique treasures, there’s a good bet you’ll find it in Texas.


Shop America Tours offers an assortment of packages in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, McAllen and San Antonio. Also enticing is the fact that international shoppers can get their tax back on purchases.

Canadians should check out for information on participating retailers, refund centers and procedures. For more information on Texas, visit