Flea market shopping can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be! With so many pieces to chose from, just follow these ten shopping tips, and your trip to the flea won’t make you go insane!
Flea Market Shopping Tip #1: Assess Your Décor Needs
Depending on the size of your local market, shopping at a flea can be completely overwhelming! And I don’t want you walking away with a bunch of stuff that has absolutely no place in your home that you bought impulsively.
Have a plan of action for what you are looking for in general.
When I recently went to the Rose Bowl Flea Market, the king of all things overwhelming and crowded, I knew that I was looking for items for the shelves above my desk. Not super specific, but I know that my office has a vintage, midmod retro vibe, so that was going to eliminate all of the Bohemian décor that I knew would consume my soul if I gave in to temptation. (Did I mention this is the same flea that Justina Blakeney frequents? Boho abounds!)
So as beautiful as the Moroccan rugs were, and as fun as the macramé planters would be somewhere in my house, I knew that my goal for this trip to the flea market was specifically to find fun, retro pieces for my shelves. That was it!
Flea Market Shopping Tip #2: Measure Your Space and Bring a Tape Measure
You’ve got to make sure that whatever you decide to buy at the flea market will physically fit where you want it to go.
Make sure to measure the space you’re shopping for, write down the measurements, and bring a measuring tape with you.
Now I like to pack on the light side, so I carry a paper measuring tape with me at all times (decorator trick) that I got from the sewing section of the crafts store. I knew I wasn’t taking anything huge home with me (my shelves have a 12” clearance) so the little tape measure worked perfectly.
Flea Market Shopping Tip #3: Establish a Budget
Don’t ever go to a flea market without deciding how much money you’re willing to spend.
Think about what you are shopping for and how much money you want to invest in that space.
I really wanted some unique pieces for my office, and while I typically like to go cheap side on accessories, I was willing to spend $200. But only on something that blew me away. If I walked away with nothing, that was okay.
Want to know what I bought? Keep reading Trust me- it’s out of this world!
Flea Market Shopping Tip #4: Bring Cash
Want to make sure you don’t overspend at the flea market?
The Rose Bowl has ATMs outside of it, but I made sure to get the funds before I went, because that’s just another line that I didn’t want to wait in.
And while most vendors at larger flea markets will accept cards, the whole point of establishing a budget and sticking to it really works well if you just carry the cash.
Flea Market Shopping Tip #5: Wear Layers and Comfortable Shoes
I like to arrive at my flea market trips early (more on that later) so layers are the way to go. It’s normally cool where I am in the morning, but gets hella hot by mid day.
But of course, check your local weather to see what conditions will be.
And of course, comfy shoes are a no brainer. Flea market shopping is all about walking, walking, and more walking. Leave the heels at home.
Flea Market Shopping Tip #6: Bring an Empty Bag and Water
So now that you know the approximate size of anything coming home with you, bring an empty bag to carry all of your new goodies in!
If you hope to bring home something large, but not too large, you can invest in a rolling cart (the Rose Bowl Flea Market has these for rent).
And if you plan on shopping for oversized items, like furniture, oversized art, or wall mirrors, do yourself a favor and park as close to the entrance as possible. Pay the few extra dollars for the VIP parking, if it’s available. Trust me, your feet and back will thank you. (I park close regardless of what I’m shopping for because after a long day of walking, having my car nearby is divine.)
And while we’re talking about bags, go as light as possible.
On a recent trip I had my tote which had just my car keys, ID, phone, and cash.
Oh! And bottled water! Flea market water can be expensive. Trust me- after all that walking and perusing, you’re going to want to take a bit of a break and hydrate. (My husband drank all of our water, so I splurged on a lemonade- it was worth it!)
Flea Market Shopping Tip #7: Arrive Early
Want to beat the crowds and possible the heat?
Early is where it’s at! And yes, you won’t be there for the bargain basement deals towards the end of the day, but you will get the first pick at all the best merchandise.
Flea Market Shopping Tip #8: Head for the Vintage Section First
Depending on your flea market, there may be a vintage section and a new section. I love hitting up the antiques first (often times there are some fun vintage-style new items in the mix). You’ll find the most bizarre to the most sublime items.
If you have time, you can hit up the new section. At the Rose Bowl, it’s mostly made up of shops that have online stores, anyhow. Even if the new shops don’t have websites, they will have business cards so you can call them up and order something later.
Flea markets are all about those unique, fun finds, and you’re not necessarily going to find them in the new section.
Flea Market Shopping Tip #9: Check Prices on Your Phone
Okay, so here’s the deal. Some flea market vendors are cray cray when it coms to pricing.
Thank the Lord for iPhones.
I had my eye on a cute little brass squirrel holding an umbrella. The price? $60.
So I hit up my phone and searched it up on Etsy. Yeah, way cheaper there. More like $20.
But on the other hand, you may score a fab deal!
I ended up splurging on one item on my Rose Bowl trip. For $180 I scored (yes, scored!) a cast aluminum UFO sculpture, complete with aliens, by the artist Scott Nelles.
How is this a score? It’s normally $275! And it’s authentic. Oh, and did I mention that it’s perfect for the sc-ifi-midmod lounge vibe I have going on in my office?
So keep your phone charged, check those prices, and don’t get overcharged. Thank you Etsy for changing the flea market shopping game!
Flea Market Shopping Tip #10: Stay Calm
There’s something about large flea market crowds that are totally unappealing.
And it also seems to bring out the worst in some people.
As I’m strolling along, new UFO and icy lemonade in tow, the area I’m in came to a complete standstill- bottleneck traffic.
I’m calm, even though I absolutely can’t move. Like any other Southern Californian, I know that the traffic will eventually clear up.
Then in comes this rude-ass lady, thinking she’s more important than anyone else and demands that I “move.” I just look at her and politely say, “Where exactly would you like me to go,” and spread my arms as much as I can so she can see the massive traffic jam.
She huffed her little head off and quieted down.
Moral of this story- don’t be that lady.
Stay calm, enjoy your day, come prepared, and you’ll have a fun day at at the flea market.
And one parting tip- it’s okay to go home with nothing! I thought I was going to until I saw that UFO, and I knew it had to come home with me. But if I hadn’t seen it, I’d have gone home with some extra cash after a nice day out with my husband. Enjoy your fleaing!
I’d love to hear from you! What’s the best thing you’ve ever come home with from a vintage market? What’s something you’re dying to find? Leave a comment below!