How to go prepared to the flea market so you'll feel like a pro

It should be of no surprise to our friends or family that we have a bit of an obsession with our local Antique Show and we certainly know how to get prepared to go. Since first hearing about the Brimfield Antique market about 6 years ago, I've been smitten, and my finds even tend to peak Mitch's interest (after he gets over the initial frustration with another project on the docket). Over the years we've developed a game plan for preparing to head out, and I hope it can be of some use to those who may be trying their hand at antiquing or thrifting at the flea market for the first time.

Have a Plan

Most of the time you don't just go to the flea market or an antique show when you don't need anything, so since you already have an idea of a few things you need, start making a plan.

If you know your space needs some type of seating, like an entryway, search on pinterest for examples of vintage seating you could envision in the space(s)? Anything peak your interest? If not great, you know not to even bother if you see them at the flea. If yes, then you need to delve in a bit more to understand average pricing.

Are you going to DIY something from a flea market find? Then its time to do some research and see examples of what others have done. You by no means need to copy what they have done, but you will get a better understanding of the types of materials that could be used.

Last summer I went out to the Brimfield Antique show and found small bell legs perfect for a bench, I knew exactly what I would use them for when I finally found them; because I had planned.

Measure twice buy once

You can't return a flea market find for a refund, so you really want the item to fit in your space.

We take photos of the space and draw on the measurements so one look at the photo give you all the information you need, and helps you visualize the item in your space.

Whats the Budget

Don't go to the flea market without a budget, its my number one rule. And yes I have broken that rule and tend to always regret it.

If you have 5 things you might be able to use (if found at the flea), but the budget allows for one expensive piece or 4 greats deals , you will know if you should continue actively shopping after a great find.




Collect Additional Materials

If you have materials that will help you make a decision, bring them. Paint chips, flooring samples, tile, tape measure, etc. Especially if you have a difficult time making decisions, this could be very helpful to fight off any buyers remorse when you bring items home.

Dress for success

There are two extremes to dressing for the flea market, trendy-unrealistic and tourist-newbie. You want to fall in the middle range for the best negotiation opportunities. Looking great is all good and well but you could make it seem like you have more money than you do, and dealers may take advantage if they think your new to this experience.

Dress in comfortable clothes appropriate for the weather, bring sunscreen, water, and extra totes for bagging your finds.

How to go prepared to the flea market so you'll feel like a pro

Bring the Camera

Really just use your camera phone, and take pictures of items you hadn't planned on finding but have an idea for. Don't buy them, just plan for next time, you didn't "need" it enough that it was on your original list anyways.

I know you could miss out and never find the item again but unless your collecting the rarest of the rare it's doubtful you won't find it again.

How will you handle Haul Away?

We have a Chevy Suburban so generally, even if I'm getting something large, I don't have to worry so much on this front. If you know you might find something big how will you get it back home? Most flea's will give you till then end of the market in order to come pick up your items so you may want to have a friend's truck with you, or warn them ahead of time that you may need to borrow a truck on that day if you find that big piece your looking for.

You can always rent a small u-haul if all else fails, and sometimes this maybe your best bet if you know one way other another you will find items. I see folks doing this at the Brimfield Antique show and its a great way to rest assured you can get everything home.

A few insights for At the Flea Market

  • Don't collect for "someday". That day might never come and you will be left with tons of stuff. Just having stuff and unfinished projects weighs down on your life and can create ongoing stress in your home. We've done it, and learned our lesson.
  • Going just for ideas and don't have a particular thing or space you need something for? Don't bring cash. I have done this before and it takes all the stress out of needing to "find the perfect thing". You can get wonderful inspiration, admire great finds (without a care for how expensive or inexpensive they may be), and just have a good day.

Did I miss anything you normally do before heading out to the flea market? Let us know in the comments so we can all go prepared to find the best for our homes!