Shopping should be a sport. The uniform? Loose clothing, and shoes which are easy to get on and off. The competition? Individuals who are the same size as you, who might end up wanting the same items. Like other athletes, you must pack nourishment to make it through a long day of marathon shopping— but not so much to slow you down. A bottle of water and a bag of trail mix should suffice.

In the event you have time to shop, or forgot to pack enough clothes for the conference, there is a plethora of shopping destinations for you to choose from.

Popular and High-End Shopping

One popular place to shop is the Galleria, 5085 Westheimer Road. The Galleria includes designer stores such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Michael Kors. In all, the Galleria has 375 stores and restaurants, as well as an indoor ice rink.

Tip: Tuesday-Friday there will be a courtesy shuttle for NAFSA attendees going to the Galleria from 6:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. every 30 minutes. Start planning your shopping trip now!

Another high-end shopping location is Highland Village at 4055 Westheimer Road, only 10 minutes from downtown.

Unique Stores

If you are interested in finding small, unique stores, Rice Village, 2501 Rice Boulevard, might be your answer. This 16-block area has a variety of restaurants and stores to help you find desired souvenirs for your loved ones. Rice Village is about 6 miles from the convention center.

Outlet Shopping

Though arguably too far for someone only interested in picking up a few items, driving to the area's various outlet malls might be worthwhile trip for shopaholics. Besides, one of the best things about traveling to outlet malls in Texas is getting there; Texas scenery is so diverse, you will enjoy the road trip as much as the destination. At the Katy Mills Mall, 28 miles west of Houston in Katy, Texas, the phrase “everything is bigger in Texas” fits perfectly. With more than 150 stores and restaurants, Katy Mills is an ideal place for spouses, partners, or family members to visit while you are attending the conference.

Another outlet mall to explore is the Houston Premium Outlets, 29300 Hempstead Road, in Cypress.

What type of shopping experience will you likely have? Is there anything particular you want to buy in Houston?

Flea Markets

If you are really interested in a Texan experience, consider going to a flea market, an outdoor bazaars where vendors sell used and bargain-priced items. Traders Village is one of multiple flea markets around the area. Shopping at a flea market is a unique experience, and shoppers who like to bargain for a good price should have a great time. Be forewarned, however; flea markets in Houston are usually only open Saturdays and Sundays, and there is often traffic outside the parking areas.

Antiques & Resale

The Montrose District in Houston has many unique antique and resale shops. The Guild Shop, 2009 Dunlavy Street, is open from Monday to Saturday. It is recommended to go during the weekday, as the shop is often overwhelmingly busy on Saturdays.

Also, if you don't mind sifting through items, nearby Fashion Recycler on Westheimer Road is a great place for affordable and fashionable resale clothing.

Shop wisely, as those vintage knickknacks can fill your suitcases.

Near the Convention Center

Finally, if you are limited in time or transportation, the George R. Brown Convention Center has a listing of shops within walking distance.

Don't forget, while you're at the Opening Celebration there will be local vendors selling all sorts of Houston gear.

Janel Lockwood is the Local Arrangements Committee (LAT) communications chair for NAFSA’s 2012 Annual Conference & Expo. Janel began her career in international education at Old Dominion University. There, she completed an internship at the United States-India Educational Foundation in New Delhi, India, and was awarded Outstanding Graduate Student in the Higher Education Administration. She has been working in the field of international education for seven years and is an international student adviser at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. Janel is pursuing a doctorate of education at Lamar University. She has been living in Houston for two years, and enjoys the city’s diversity.

Toni Rico has worked in international admissions and advising for more than 10 years, starting at Texas Tech University. She has since been at San Jacinto Community College, and is now at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, where she is an international student adviser.