Today on the blog I am sharing my top flea market shopping tips and tricks.
After shopping at many fleas and outdoor markets and making the trip to Springfield a few times, I have learned a few tips and tricks along the way.
I am sharing them with you today in hopes that it makes it easier for you when hunting for your own treasures!
My top tips and tricks for shopping the Springfield flea market
For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed shopping at flea markets.
As a kid, I was so excited for school to let out for the summer. Not only did it mean no school and lazy days at the pool, but also the outdoor flea market was open for the season!
I would talk my brother into going down and we would walk up and down the aisles hunting for treasures.
In those days I usually returned home with a plant or a toy or a treat of some sort. We grew up near Amish country and had access to some amazing baked goods!
Nowadays, the treasures I’m on the hunt for look quite different but I’ll still stop for the occasional treat!
Shopping the Springfield Flea
One of my favorite “local” fleas to shop is the Springfield Antique Show and Flea Market at the Clark County fairgrounds in Ohio.
They run 9 events a year but their semi-annual Extravaganzas held in May and September are the 2 events I will make the 2-hour drive for.
During these two weekend events, they will have around 2,000 vendors and 20,000 plus guests in attendance! It definitely makes the trip well worth it!
There is a great variety and mix at these shows. You can find the traditional flea market vendors with treasures at great price points. You may have to do some hunting and digging to uncover the goods but that’s part of the fun!
They also have vendors of today’s more modern flea and farmer’s markets who have already done the hard work for you! They have sourced and handpicked the best antiques specifically for their audience. Their booths are styled with their finds along with refinished and/or painted furniture, art, and collectibles.
I love the mix of both! The thrill of hunting for the diamond in the rough but also the inspiration and ease of shopping at the curated booths.
How to Prepare FOR A DAY OF SHOPPING
Make a wish list, measure your spaces, gather inspiration
If you are headed to the flea in hopes of finding some specific items for your home, it’s best to prepare beforehand to help make your trip successful. Especially if you have to drive a considerable distance.
Since this trip is a 2-hour drive for us one way, I want to ensure the trip is worth our time and effort and we come home with some great finds!
One of my flea market shopping tips involves a little bit of prep work.
Prior to going, make a list of the things you are on the hunt for. I like to use a small notebook that I can throw in my bag and take it with me.
Take photos with your phone of spaces, nooks, or furniture pieces for reference.
I have found this to be so, so helpful when trying to remember the exact details of a space and surrounding areas.
Write down any measurements you think you may need. The size of rooms, wall spaces for potential art, furniture pieces, etc.
This will ensure that the fabulous pieces you find will fit in the space you have in mind.
Also, if you have small fabric samples or paint chips from your home bring these along with you as well.
When looking at art, linens, furniture, accessories, etc, they will help you to determine if something will work with the color scheme of your home.
Another one of my tips for shopping at the flea market is to take make sure you take the largest vehicle you can for all your treasures.
If you have a truck or large SUV great!
Make sure and take it with you on the day of your trip.
I’ve found that even if larger furniture pieces or items are not on my shopping list I will inevitably find THE PERFECT piece that will only fit in our larger car.
And, since this flea is a hike, it’s not an easy return trip to scoop it up if I’ve found something I can’t live without.
You just never know what you will find and it’s best to be prepared.
If you don’t have a larger vehicle but have a family member or friend that would let you borrow theirs, I would suggest taking them up on their offer. Better to be prepared for any and every awesome piece you will find!
If you do not own a large vehicle or have someone who would let you borrow theirs for the day, consider a rental.
Before we had our truck there were a couple of times we had to rent something in order to get a great find home!
Gather your shopping supplies
Nowadays depending on the type of flea or market you are going to vendors may have the ability to process credit cards.
The Springfield flea is a mix of both.
But, just in case, I always take cash with me along with my card.
Most of the time I bring around $200 in cash but you can adjust this based on your own budget and the number of items on your list.
Make sure to break your cash up into smaller bills. It makes it easier to negotiate the price of an item when you can give extra amounts.
A large tote or shopping cart/wagon is a must for hauling all your finds. Especially at a larger flea like this one.
No one wants to haul their goodies around all day in their arms. Make sure you have a way to transport and keep your hands free for all that shopping!
For larger items like dressers and chairs, etc, they do offer a valet service. You can tag your item and they will come and pick it up and bring it to the front gates for you. We used this service once before when we found a great leather chair. So much easier than dragging it through the large fairgrounds on our own.
Other must-have items include sunblock, a hat, water, light snacks, good walking shoes, and a light sweater or jacket if the weather is mild or cooler.
I like to leave my purse behind and just bring a wallet I can throw in my tote or a small backpack. I will also tuck money and my cards into my pockets. Whichever is easiest to manage and keeps my hands free for digging!
The last item I grab to have on hand when shopping is a small tape measure. This helps me confirm that any item I find will fit the measurements I’ve marked down in my notebook.
How to Shop
Get there early
The early bird really does get the worm!
If your flea offers an early entry ticket option, consider purchasing if you want to make sure you have first dibs on the goods.
This is best for selection, getting ahead of the crowds, and beating the heat in the warmer months.
The Springfield Flea allows visitors early access on Friday till noon for $15 and your ticket is good for the rest of the weekend.
Shopping early on the first day is NOT the best for negotiating the price of an item though.
But if you plan on making a weekend out of it, I suggest a later start on the last day of the event.
Sellers are more likely to negotiate on any pieces left behind that you had your eye on. Especially if they are bigger items.
They most likely don’t want to pack it up and haul it home themselves and will be more willing to deal.
We usually try to make a weekend trip of it and stay in Columbus when we go. I like to shop Friday and return on Sunday if there is something I have my eye on that I can’t get out of my head. Saturday we bop around Columbus hitting up the outlets or other retail stores.
A full weekend of shopping?? Heck ya!
Break the flea up into sections
Start furthest from the entry or from where you parked and work your way back.
Tackle one area at a time. The Springfield flea has different areas and buildings. This makes it easy to methodically section off and explore one area before moving to the next.
It is also helpful if you have been to the event before.
I have noticed that returning vendors are usually in or around that same spot as the prior year. This has made it easier for me to prioritize which areas I hit first. Ensuring I make it to the vendors I want to see in case I lose steam throughout the day.
I like to work my way down one side of the aisle and then back up the other. Ensuring I see each booth and do not miss a thing.
You never know what could be hiding in a booth so I really do like to peek in each one.
I can usually tell though with a quick glance if it’s a booth I want to explore further or move on.
If a section or aisle doesn’t look promising or look to have anything I’m on the hunt for, I may work both sides as I move through. Especially towards the end of the day when my energy is waning.
Final thoughts and tips
Have fun, don’t wait, trust your gut
These final flea market shopping tips are the most important in my opinion.
Some of my favorite and most treasured pieces are things I’ve found at the flea.
The thrill of finding the perfect piece that no one else will have in their home is so exciting to me.
In my quest to create a home that is uniquely us, and reflects our style, this is so important to me.
It’s also a lot of fun when you can strike up conversations with the vendors. I love hearing the history behind a piece and where it came from. They are so knowledgeable and full of tips to share that I always learn something new. I try to soak it all up!
If you see something that is perfect for your space, don’t wait! If the price is right and you love it, scoop it up!
My biggest tip is to listen to your gut.
I have been burned a few times before. Passing on a piece because I overthought it or wondered if something even better was around the corner. Especially if it is an early find.
Lean into what your gut is telling you. You know when a piece is right. When you can’t stop thinking about it. When you are already envisioning it in a space or have the perfect spot. Listen to your gut and you can’t go wrong!
I want to know….What tips and tricks do you have for shopping flea markets? Let me know in the comments below!