I went to my first flea market at 19. I was in Northern California and I bought a giant pink mixed media painting for $30. Was it crooked? Yes. Was it unstable? Yes. Did I care? Hell no. I had found something I loved for $30 and you bet it was coming home with me. Since then I’ve been a bit of a flea market junkie. Most Sunday mornings you can find me in yoga pants, Nikes and a baseball hat scouring through vintage clothes, records and antiques in Southern California. When the big flea market at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena comes around once a month I literally plan my entire weekend around it to make sure I get enough sleep the night before.
Here are a few flea market tips/rules that I live and die by.
- If you love something, buy it. At a flea market, you don’t have the luxury of putting things on hold or asking to see if they have more in the back. If you find something you really like you have to buy it right then and there because I guarantee when you come back, it’ll be gone.
- Woman up and bargain. I know some people hate bargaining but if you want to shop at the flea it’s a necessity. Almost all vendors are open to a little wiggle room on price, you just have to learn the sweet spot. If I’m after an antique I really love I’ll try not to low ball the vendor too much i.e. if they are asking for $40 I’ll counter with $30 assuming we will meet around $33-$35.
- Get there early. I know I know, getting up early on a Saturday or Sunday morning isn’t anyone’s idea of fun. You have two choices here. 1. Rise and shine, show up early and get first pick out of all the goods or 2. Sleep in, mosey around and sift through the picked over seconds from the early risers. I choose option one.
- Bring bags! I always have a few reusable bags on me when I go to the flea to help me carry my purchases because not all vendors have plastic bags to give you. I also recently invested in a flea market cart (I’m 25 going on 75) that has made my flea market experience WORLDS better (I fought it for so long but it honestly is the best). I’m still figuring out how to maneuver it though. (I may or may not have clipped a few heels.)
- Bring snacks and water. I’m a snack person, I need snacks to get me through the day and the flea is no different. Trust me when I say you’re going to want a water when you’ve been walking around for 3 hours (and you’re not going to want to pay $5 for a tiny one inside the flea market).
- Wear comfy clothes and shoes. Some people show up to the flea in heels and cute dresses which I am honestly in awe of. I average about 5 miles of walking when I go so I’m usually in yoga pants and Nikes to make the journey a little easier for myself.
- Be patient. If you go in with the mindset that you’re going to find everything on your list you’re going to walk out disappointed. Patience is key. I had a gold bar cart on my list for the greater part of 2015-2016 and only just found the perfect one about 4 months ago.
Some of my favorite flea markets in Southern California are: Rose Bowl Flea Market (2nd Sunday of every month), Pasadena City College Flea Market (1st Sunday of every month), Long Beach Antique Market (3rd Sunday of every month) and the Melrose Trading Post (every Sunday). Happy shopping!
PS I know I said I usually bring my own food but I was at the Moss Landing Street Fair a few weeks ago with family and how do you NOT eat fried artichokes, a loaded baked potato and a root beer float?