ALEX CHADWICK, host:
There is last-minute holiday shopping, and there is last-second holiday shopping. It's Christmas Eve. You're on your way to the airport. Still, there's something else you need for someone?
Travel writer Harriet Baskas says consider yourself lucky because airports actually are her favorite place to shop. And when we spoke with her on Friday, she was shopping at one in Seattle on her way to Washington, D.C.
Harriet Baskas, welcome to DAY TO DAY. And tell me, what kind of gifts can you buy at the Sea-Tac Airport?
MS. HARRIET BASKAS (Contributor, MSNBC.com): Well, I have been looking around this morning, and so far, I've already bought space noodles in the shape of space (unintelligible). I have bought some smoked salmon to bring and some little soap eyeballs.
CHADWICK: Soap eyeballs?
Ms. BASKAS: Yeah, they're little pretty blue eyeballs made out of soap.
CHADWICK: Ha. You know, I suppose there are some kids I know who might like that.
Ms. BASKAS: Yes. And I've learned from being in airports a lot and shopping in airports a lot that these days, I'm not really going to have any problem finding the right thing.
CHADWICK: Well, that's what's puzzling to me to hear you report this because I haven't thought of airports as good places to shop. I always think, well, the prices are going to be too high there and the merchandise is very limited. But maybe I haven't realized how much airports have changed.
Ms. BASKAS: That's right. In the past, you would buy a $2 package of gum or the best souvenir you could find might have been a shot glass. You can still buy shot glasses, but more and more airports are really beginning to look like malls. In fact, I tell people, why go to the mall when you're going to be at the airport anyway?
CHADWICK: Well, you're a travel writer. When did this change take place that I just somehow haven't noticed over the years, and why?
Ms. BASKAS: Well, a lot of it has happened since 9/11. So many people were not traveling after 9/11 that airports really needed to do something different for the people who were traveling to earn more income and to really provide more service for travelers.
CHADWICK: You live in Seattle.
Ms. BASKAS: I do.
CHADWICK: Our producer, Sarah Spivak, told me that you told her you would actually fly to Portland, Oregon, which isn't very far away, but still, you would fly there just to go shopping at the Portland Airport.
Ms. BASKAS: I would. And I have. And here is why - because in Oregon, there is no sales tax. And also, in that airport - and I think this is happening in other airports too - they've got branches of all the best local stores out at the airport. So it's a very convenient place to go. I don't have to park. I could just go and go to Powell's, which is the best local bookstore - go to the Made in Oregon store which has things made from everywhere throughout the state. And there's a Pendleton shop there. So absolutely, I would go there, get back on the plane and come home.
CHADWICK: Harriet Baskas writes about airports and air travel for USAToday.com and MSNBC.com.
Harriet, good - really, useful travel tips today, thank you so much.
Ms. BASKAS: See you at the airport. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
Stuck in the airport and haven't done your holiday shopping? No more snow globes and cheesy T-shirts. Airports are full of both swanky and quirky goods these days. Travel writer Harriet Baskas gives us the upside of buying last-second gifts.
Who hasn't always wanted a Slammin' Sam light-up pen? Available at the at the Dulles Airport.
Harriet Baskas for NPR
There's last-minute holiday shopping and then there's last-second holiday shopping. It's Christmas Eve, you're on your way to the airport, but you still don't have any gifts to bring home. Travel writer Harriet Baskas says you should consider yourself lucky. Airports top her list of favorite places to shop.
She's actually shopping as we record this interview, in Seattle, on her way to Washington D.C. She offers her favorites airports to shop in and the measures that must be taken to get one's precious finds off the plane in one piece.