Flea markets allow you to find great, unique pieces for less as you embark on a modern-day treasure hunt. So much more than a secondhand store, flea markets get you out and into the community, allow you to find vintage and antique pieces to fill your home, and can also provide you with inspiration about what kinds of decorating you want to do.
Although not every flea market is created the same, here are a few tips for navigating your way around and making the most out of your experience.
> Start Early: Like garage sales, flea markets tend to draw an early crowd, and all the best stuff gets snatched up right away. If you’re looking for specific pieces (especially things like furniture), you’ll want to get there before the other shoppers.
> Start Late: Seems contradictory, right? If you’re less concerned about what you get and more in the market for some great bargain finds, shopping nearer to closer time is better. Many sellers offer discounts as the day wears on, and you may find that you can haggle for better prices now.
> Buy Big Items First: If you’re in search of a coffee table and candlesticks, always get the coffee table first. Not only do the larger items go quicker, but it tends to take much less time to look through furniture than it does all those beautiful accessories and baubles. You can make one trip through the flea market looking for the big-ticket items, and then, once you know what you want, spend your time going over the smaller treasures. (You’ll also know how much room is left in your car this way, too.)
> Speaking of Cars…: You don’t have to pull up to the flea market with a flatbed truck to haul away your finds, but you should have room to transport your items. Flea markets rarely “hold on” to items for you, which means you need to have a plan for how to get your goods home before you arrive.
> Carry Small Bills: Many modern flea markets have the capacity to take debit or credit cards, but don’t count on it. To make things easier for everyone, come with cash (preferably small bills so the seller doesn’t have to make change using the last of their fives).
> Talk to People: A flea market isn’t just about buying things; it’s about getting to know your community. Don’t be afraid to talk to vendors and other shoppers, ask questions about items, or even talk about other events in the neighborhood. This is a great way to meet people and find new activities to enjoy.
Most importantly, don’t get frustrated if you don’t find what you want right away. Part of the joy of flea market shopping is knowing that you’ll never know what you’ll get. Some days, you may walk away with nothing; others, you could find a perfect treasure for a great deal.