When you think of America, you probably envision cheeseburgers, Coca-Cola, New York City, and Hollywood. All correct and awesome but let’s not forget one of the most popular staples of the United States: the shopping mall. No shopping trip to America is complete without visiting one of these always conveniently located behemoths, filled with everything your heart and credit card desire. The size alone can overwhelm a first-timer, but we are here to give you the inside tips on how to go to the mall – the American way:
1. Whom to bring
You have to go with at least one other person, it just makes the experience better. (Not just because you’ll have someone who can bring you clothes in a different size while you’re in the changing room.) When choosing the size of your mall squad, keep Andy Warhol in mind: “One’s company, two’s a crowd, and three’s a party.” Don’t bring more than four people along – you won’t get anywhere and probably just lose each other. Then, make sure you go with people who have a common goal or interest in what you all want to buy, let alone actually wanting to shop. We see enough boyfriends and dads taking over the chairs as they wait for their significant other to try on outfit after outfit after outfit. (And we can only feel a slight pain for their suffering.)
2. What to wear
Of course, you want to look your best when you go to the mall, but as an experienced shopper, let me tell you that comfort is key. You’ll do a lot of walking, so make sure you wear comfortable shoes. Layers are always good, but since you’re inside, don’t even bother bringing a jacket. (If you wear the wrong clothes, just buy new clothes. You’ll never get a better excuse to update your wardrobe!) If you buy heavy things, bring them back to the car or ask if you can pick them up later – carrying all that extra baggage will show everyone that you can spend money, but it’s literally a pain, and it will only slow you down.
3. Where to start
Start at the mall’s main entrance. This may seem like a no-brainer, but most malls have various entrances – and some of these start in an actual (chain) store. Unless you have a specific reason, don’t start at one of the non-main-mall entrances: They usually lure you into an already big store, and you’ll get lost and confused before the fun even starts.
4. When to go
The best times to go to the mall are right before the rush hour(s). Ideally, you show up between 10 to 11 a.m. and 3 to 4 p.m. Personally, I like to go around 4 to 7 p.m. because getting some shopping done to ease into the evening is awesome, and you will still feel a crowd but nothing too crazy.
5. When not to go
Rule number one: Avoid the lunch rush at all cost. Rule number two: Unless you want to make it a cultural experience or sociological experiment, I recommend you do not go to the mall during the holiday season, which starts on Black Friday, aka the Friday after Thanksgiving when everything imaginable goes on sale and stores open at like 3 a.m., and lasts until the end of December. We know that’s a long time not to go to the mall, but the holidays turn shopping areas into jungles, and a lot of people forget their manners. (You have been warned.)
6. How to keep the momentum
The AC and all of that walking and money-spending will make you tired, so stay hydrated! Drinking fountains or vending machines can usually be found by the bathrooms, or you can just head over to the food court or any café to refuel with coffee or juices. If you’re looking for a snack without spending any money, take a tour around the food court to see if they hand out samples – see it as appetizers that will help you decide what to eat later.
7. How to nourish body and soul
The food courts don’t get the proper respect they deserve (and not just because of the free samples). You can find all the food groups here – from Chinese food to sushi, burgers, salads, pizza, pretzels, froyo, sandwiches, and all kinds of other deep-fried goodness. Sure, it’s not five-star dining, but that’s the beauty of it: you can mix and match your meals, it’s quick, and it’s fun because you get to people-watch and shopping-bag-judge while you’re eating. Plus, you never know, you might even spot a celebrity at the food court – I once saw the singer Ne-Yo hanging out at a food court. #humblebrag
8. How to get ready for the next round
Shopping is basically a sport, so you need to not only stay hydrated but also limber. Take advantage of the many massage chairs you’ll see while wandering around. Getting your relaxation on usually only cost a few dollars, and it will help you prepare for round two. Or five.