Shopping a Flea Market can be a great source for unique gifts. Vintage and handmade treasures make extra special gifts that you can’t find at a store. When shopping a flea market it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of items at the market, so I’ve listed a few quick tips to help you make the most of the flea whether your shopping for gifts or treating yourself!
W H A T T O W E A R :
Depending on where your local flea market is, and the time of year your outfit may vary but there are a few things that should be worn to every market.
When I go to a flea market early in the morning it is inevitable cold. Many flea markets open early in the morning, before dawn. Arriving at 5am or 6am can mean that it’s dark and cold while you start shopping. That means wearing something to keep you warm but also preparing for the warmer hours of mid-day with thinner layers underneath.
2. Comfortable Shoes
Shopping a flea market involves walking aisle after aisle of goods. Sometimes it means walking them twice to go back and look at something again. This means that your shoes are the most important thing you are wearing. They need to be comfortable, really comfortable! At medium and larger flea markets I have walked miles up and down the rows of antiques
Yes, you read that right—handbags, with an “s”. I believe that it is helpful to take a crossbody or belt bag AND a tote bag. I tend to carry my wallet, and important items in my smaller bag because it’s close to me and easy to get to. Also, flea markets can be crowded and you’ll want to bring cash so it makes me feel more comfortable to keep everything close to me. I also take a light weight tote bag, mainly to carry smaller purchases but it’s great to keep other shopping necessities. If you believe you might buy something larger then I’d also recommend a rolling basket. A basket can fit vases, pillows and items of this size that would be difficult to carry around with you.
W H A T T O B R I N G :
Cash is king at the flea market! More and more vendors are taking credit card, paypal or venmo and usually there is an ATM at the market but you will probably pay a large ATM fee. Cash gives you the ability to purchase quickly and negotiate better. Also take a good selection of smaller bills—singles, fives, tens and twenties give you more wiggle room than hundreds.
2. Your List
Before you go to the flea market, think about what you are looking for. When I’m shopping for gifts, I make a list of people I’m shopping for. I also make a list of my needs, what am I looking for—home accessories, furniture, art etc. Thinking about these items beforehand, while in your home gives you the opportunity to make educated decisions about what to buy and what you really need.
3. Measurements and a Tape Measure
If you’re going to purchase anything large you’ll want to know your dimensions. Yes, of course, you should know the dimensions of the wall you want to put art on, but you should really know every dimensions. For example, if you’re going to buy a large piece of furniture, you should not only know if it will fit in the room you want it in, you should know if it will fit in the front door, up the stairs and down the hallway. Measure all of the dimensions! I like to keep a rough blueprint in my bag that has all of the dimensions for my entire place including ceiling heights. This is a little homework that you’ll only have to do once but it’s worth it!
H O W T O S H O P :
1. Go Early
The earlier you can go, the better. When they say the early bird gets the worm, they are referring to flea markets. The earlier you go, the better the selection. If you sleep in on a flea market day will you miss the good stuff, grab a strong cup of coffee and get out there!
2. If You Want It, Buy It
This tip is a story about hesitation and regret. Flea market items are usually filled with one of a kind items where any vendor only has one of something. If you walk by something you like and love it, know that if you don’t buy it then you might miss out on it. If you think, “I’ll come back later and grab that,” it might not be there! If you decide to walk away remember where the product location is so you can come back to it. Take a picture of the location, ask if the owner has a booth number and make a note of their relation to large landmarks—same aisle as the bathroom, right next to the south entrance—for example.
3. Negotiate, but Don’t be Ridiculous
Remember that these vendors are working and trying to make a living. If you want to make a lower offer to get a better deal, go for it—you should try to get the best deal on every piece you like. But my advice is not to nickel and dime these vendors, offer what you can pay and what the item is worth but don’t offer $10 for a $100 priced item. My favorite way to negotiate is with a group discount. If you are going to buy several items from a stall at the flea market the owner will most likely be more willing to negotiate. Ask the price for each item, sum them up in your head and offer a discounted price if you purchase all of the items.
These tips will help you make the most of any trip to a flea market and find great gifts for your friends, family and yourself!