Garage sales and flea markets for travel bargains

Garage and yard sales are on the rise as the stock market falls. The picking through what people don’t want to find the items that you must have–even if you never thought you might want one until it was in front of you– has never been better.

Instead of donating items to charity, these days more people are selling them to make some extra cash. Unfortunately, forclosures are also adding to the bounty.

Reading this article in the New York Times about the proliferation of garage sales reminded me of the used items I’ve purchased in my travels and why garage sales are worth putting on your itinerary. Going to a garage sale (or a flea market or thift store) is one way to find items for a lot less than they would cost new, and often reflect the place where you are traveling. You may not be able to find the items back home.

This summer, for example, I bought a brown chips and salsa bowl shaped like a cowboy hat from the thrift store in Philipsburg, Montana. The indentation at the top of the hat is where the salsa goes–the brim is for the chips. It was in mint condition and something I would never buy back home. Because I was in out West, and it looked western, I had to have it. I gave to friends of mine who appreciate kitsch.

When we were in England, I headed to a “boot sale,” the British version of a flea market. There, displayed on a blanket stretched out on the ground, I found a Wedgewood child’s mug with a Beatrix Potter Peter Rabbit design. What could be more British or more perfect than that? I bought it for my son who I pushed in his stroller up and down the rows of goods.

If you end up at a destination and discover you’re missing items that you ought to have with you, a garage sale may come to the rescue. A few years ago, we arrived at an A-frame cabin near Mohican State Park in Ohio for a weekend get-a-way with my husband’s brother and his family. We knew the cabin had beds, and for some reason, we thought there would be bedding. There wasn’t and we were so unprepared.

Off we headed to find a store to buy sleeping bags, but with no luck. Instead, we came upon a garage sale at a motel of all places. There on a table were sheets, pillow cases, pillows, one sleeping bag and a full-size comforter. All were clean, in great condition, and ours for $20.

Keep your eyes open. Maybe there’s a deal just around the corner waiting for you in someones yard.