From the moment you enter the airport to the point of catching your flight, airports lie in wait to make a little extra money from travelers, and the worst culprit of this tends to be the various stores and boutiques in the terminal. Once you’ve come through check-in, paid your baggage fees and spent a steep penny on your morning hit of caffeine in one of the airport cafes, airports often make one last attempt to sell you stuff you never knew you needed – come one, come all to the duty-free shops!

It’s a truth universally known by travelers and non-travelers alike that duty-free stores (otherwise known as tax-free shops) don’t always offer the best shopping experience. Among the genuinely good discount buys, there are many duty-free products that can mislead customers into thinking they’re saving, when in truth, the very same items can be found for the same price, if not less, at a local convenience store.

While it’s true that you can find items for a good price that are otherwise heavily taxed in duty-free stores like liquor and tobacco, not every item is going to be a steal. Customers might be able to grab a good deal on traditional ‘sin tax’ products, but they shouldn’t be as spend-happy on things like travel pillows for the flight or designer clothing that can be bought for less online. Here’s a quick guide to the hot and not-so-hot buys you can find in US duty-free stores.

20 Tourist Souvenirs (Unpopular)

So you find yourself with 2 hours to kill and money burning a hole in your pocket, but instead of saving it, you want to commemorate your recent trip to the Big Apple with an “I Heart NYC” t-shirt, because hey, the sticker says it’s half off. Our advice? Step away from the shirts, the mugs and even the Statue of Liberty fridge magnets – duty-free stores are one of the worst places to buy your holiday souvenirs from.

Grabbing a last minute souvenir or gift should never be left until you’re tempted at the airport. Tourist-y products may be quite pricey anywhere you go, but duty-free stores hike up the prices to an astonishing degree, and that’s why most travelers avoid these corners of the airport like the plague.

Duty-free stores might hike up the prices of some everyday products like bottled water and snacks, but when it comes to certain luxury products like bags and sunglasses, airport shoppers can find these at hugely discounted prices. It can still all depend on the airport location though.

Travelers should always be clued up as to what the normal price of things like sunglasses are in their hometown to get a good idea of what their savings could be at the airport. If you forgot to pack your sunnies for the beach, a pair of designer shades at a duty-free shop could well be better value than if you bought over the counter in Chanel. It’s always best to do your research first though.

The kind of snacks and soft drinks you could get in any supermarket in the country tend to be marked up at the airport and since they’re well-known items, airport shoppers will be able to spot the price hike a mile off, but when it comes to food and drink items that are specific to a certain country, shoppers aren’t always savvy to the usual rates.

If you were flying in from the US-Canada border, for example, bottles of traditional maple syrup or Montreal smoked meats can be reasonably priced at some duty-free shops. At the end of the day though, airports will charge what they want to and take advantage of the fact that US customers may not know the true worth of items.

17 Neck Pillows (Unpopular)

Comfort items are something airports have always seized on, which is why anything that can make passengers feel more at ease during their flight or while coping with long delays in the terminal are sold at astronomical prices compared to local stores. One of the more popular comfort items for travelers are neck pillows but at the rates they charge, only the most desperate of duty-free shoppers snatch these up.

Depending on which US airport you’re buying from, not every duty-free store has the greatest selection of pillows either, so unless the average traveler is willing to pay double for a garish neon pink pillow they’re too embarrassed to use twice, these aren’t likely to fly off the shelves anytime soon.

If your daily beauty routine is filled with night creams, day creams and about 5 different moisturizers, chances are you’re paying a pretty penny to keep on top of it all. Premium brand skincare products can add up, which often explains why this section of the duty-free mall is popular with many travelers.

It may depend largely on the specific airport and product you’re after, but for the most part, top-brand cleansers and eye creams can be a steal in the duty-free lounge compared to department store retail prices. It’s little wonder that so many travelers hover around these counters in between flights.

15 Confectionery & Snacks (Unpopular)

Air travel isn't what it used to be when in-flight nibbles were all part of the service. Now that travelers need to fork out for the tiniest bag of nuts on a flight, more and more are choosing to bring their own homemade food and snack boxes from home.

Leave the store-bought treats behind though and many flyers wind up paying a restaurant meal’s worth on the snacks available at duty-free. When you consider that a family sized packet of candy bars costs less than a bite-sized ‘travel’ portion sold individually, duty-free sweet treats are so not worth it.

14 Headphones (Unpopular)

Realizing you’ve forgotten to bring your own pair of headphones can be a nightmare for travelers, especially when you know you’ve got a long flight ahead of you. How are you going to shut out the world and plug into your devices to pass the time? Give in to buying a heavily marked up pair at the duty-free shop? A thousand times no.

In this situation, travelers are always better off renting their headphones on the actual aircraft than buying another pair outright at the duty-free shop. There is never much variety in store, and you could find yourself paying a hefty price for them.

Outside of discount shops, top-brand cosmetic products are normally pretty pricey, which is why so many travelers flock to the duty-free make-up counters in search of a rare bargain. Luxury products like make-up tend to be fairly hit or miss at airports since the choice is limited, but there is normally a good chance of finding reduced items and limited edition products.

Airport malls are a great place to find products that are never normally on sale, and high-end cosmetics are a good example of what can make duty free shopping so enticing. Your local department store may have more variety, but there may be a unique cosmetics gift package that may be hard to find anywhere else.

12 Books (Unpopular)

Whilst a newspaper purchase at the airport won’t break the bank for the sake of a little light reading to pass the time, buying a book at the duty-free shop is never going to be worth it. While newspaper and magazine racks might be well stocked at duty-free, the bookshelves hardly ever offer much in the way of a varied selection, so for the sake of curbing boredom on the flight, you end up paying a premium rate for an impulse-buy novel.

Since the arrival of Kindles and tablets, fewer travelers are tempted by an over-priced bestseller anymore, and even traditionalist bookworms will have brought their own paperback with them in their carry-on.

A common sight in many duty-free stores – particularly at larger US airports – is rows and rows of different perfumes and fragrance counters. Like every other luxury product sold at airports, fragrances can be a hit or miss, but the very fact that there’s so much choice on offer makes this a pretty popular buy for travelers.

Whether you’re looking to get a good deal on your favorite brand or in the market for a gift for a loved one, you can regularly find perfumes at up to half their regular retail price in some places, which can make it a haven for passengers wishing to indulge in a bit of early Christmas or birthday shopping.

10 Jewelry (Unpopular)

Jewelry can often be a tricky sell at duty-free stores. On the one hand, finding a distinctive locally-made bracelet may be too charming to leave behind – especially if it’s something you think a loved one would adore and may never set eyes on again, but uniquely made or not, the price of duty free bling is always likely to be eye-wateringly steep, so it’s usually best avoided.

In some ways, it’s really up to the individual buyer in weighing up the worth of investing in airport jewelry if the price is good, but if you’re deciding to be impulsive for a pretty last-minute souvenir, you’re better off shopping elsewhere.

They may be a little costly, but magazines and papers still sell fairly well at the airport. When your mp3 player dies on you or you need to conserve your phone battery, magazines are still a great way to pass the time and certainly beat the worn, germ-covered ones in your plane seat pocket.

The price of your favorite paper may be a couple of bucks more than what you’d pay at your local convenience store in town, but it won’t be any more expensive than at a subway station or similar place and if a little light reading can help distract you on the flight, it’s worth it.

Travelers may not be thrilled about spending $5 on lip balm or a teensy packet of tissues for the flight, but when you’re held over a barrel for forgetting the basics, at least airport shops have our back. The travel sized shampoo bottles and sun cream can be laughably priced at duty-free, but it’s the price we pay for coming unprepared and airport vendors just know it.

The price of a mini can of deodorant spray can be double and sometimes even triple what we’d pay for at our holiday destination or at a store back home, but when stacked against the risks of smelling on our 6-hour flight, travelers are likely to cough up.

7 Luggage (Unpopular)

Granted, seeing someone buy luggage at the airport is a rare sight, but it happens and when travelers are forced to buy replacement bags and suitcases for whatever reason, the airport merchants lie in wait to rip them off – big time.

Unless a traveler’s luggage has been stolen, lost or damaged beyond repair, there is no good reason to invest in a new case at the duty-free shop. Ironically (but quite understandably) an airport is the last place on earth people will go to buy their biggest holiday purchase. If you want an overpriced and undersized piece of cabin luggage in a choice of only 2 different styles, duty-free will be the way to go!

One of the popular ‘sin tax’ items at duty-free along with alcohol, is tobacco items in general. Duty-free stores can be a good place to find deals on cigarettes and celebratory cigars that are for personal consumption. Taxes on tobacco products can vary from state to state, so a little research is wise before splurging out.

It's worth noting that if you’re planning on purchasing cigarettes in the duty-free lounge, you should be aware of the restrictions when it comes to tobacco allowance. No more than one carton (up to 200 cigarettes) or 100 cigars are permitted into the US, whether these were purchased in international airports or not.

5 Electronics & Gadgets (Unpopular)

Window shopping for inspiration on your next camera or laptop purchase might be a good way to pass the time before catching your flight, but it’s rare that it ever goes beyond browsing for most passengers (at least it doesn't for passengers on a budget).

Most electronics and tech items sold at duty-free stores are given a wide berth by travelers for two very good reasons. Firstly, they’re almost always overpriced and secondly, duty-free electronics and gadgets are not always the most up to date kit, so tempted travelers can be spending up to the moment prices (and beyond) for last year’s tech. Stick to window shopping!

While designer brand dryers and hair straighteners are rarely flying off the shelves at airport stores, everyday haircare items and accessories can sometimes be bought for a fraction of the price at most airports. So if you misplace your trusty hairbrush or leave behind your favorite shampoo, duty-free shelves are usually well stocked for your temptation and often at a hugely reduced rate too.

It tends to vary from airport to airport, but the beauty department at duty free shops is normally where you can find premium conditioners and hair treatments at rock bottom prices, so if your local department store is fresh out of that pricey hair serum you can’t live without, this is where indulging in duty free buys can be worth it.

3 Supplements (Unpopular)

Don’t be fooled by the duty-free label, any meds or health supplements bought in an airport store tend to be ridiculously overpriced for what you get. That drugstore box of pain relief pills you usually get for under a dollar? Duty-free pharmacies will try and slap a $3 charge or more on a travel sized pack of meds that may only be enough for 6 doses at best.

If you know you have a tendency to get travel sick or like to ward off jet lag related migraines and general sluggishness, always have your carry-on well stocked with plenty of home bought medication.

Despite the extortionate rates, many airports sell bottled water; it’s still one of the most popular items bought at duty-free shops. Spending hours in an airport is thirsty work and store merchants certainly know how to take advantage of this thirst by charging nearly quadruple the average price of a store bought bottle of water.

For all our best intentions to bring a store-bought supply from home, the stress of travel often has us forgetting the basics. Sooner or later, the dehydrating atmosphere of a plane’s aircraft and long waits at the gate force us to dig deep and pay amounts we’d never consider otherwise.

1 Clothing (Unpopular)

Tax-free or not, there has never been much sense in buying your clothes from the airport duty-free shop (unless it’s an emergency after one of your kids gets plane sick or something), and even then, you can always grab something from your suitcase. Other than when it's absolutely necessary, duty-free clothes shopping is usually best avoided.

Chances are that the cozy looking Knicks sweater you have your eye on will cost significantly less in a similar store in the mall or online. Travelers who have the cash to spare on heavily marked up clothes after a long vacation clearly have it to burn!