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Plan the Ultimate Antiquing Road Trip

Plan the ultimate antiquing road trip header

By Melissa Hart on October 29, 2021 in Travel

A road trip can be thrilling on its own but turn it into a quest for the perfect antique table or a rare first edition of a novel, and suddenly your adventure achieves a whole new level of purpose and intrigue.

Every year, thousands of shoppers flock to flea markets and antique stores, highway yard sales, and thrift stores in the pursuit of rare collectibles and hidden gems. In this article, we’ll give you tips for planning an antiquing road trip and tell you about some of the best off-the-beaten-path destinations to get your antique fill across the country.

Pack with a Purpose

If you plan on hitting flea markets on your road trip, remember they typically take place in warmer months and dress accordingly in clothes that can get dirty. Apply sunscreen and wear a hat and sunglasses. Bring a rain jacket and if you’re in a location where the temperature dips below 55, wear a lightweight base layer for warmth. Wear sturdy shoes and consider packing a back brace, especially if you plan to lug heavy pieces of furniture.

You’ll want a thick pair of gloves to protect your hands if you handle rusty or sharp-edged items, and don’t forget the first-aid kit, which will come in handy in the case of an accidental nick. Pack a tape measure so you can determine whether a piece will fit in your vehicle before attempting to load it. A Phillips head and a flathead screwdriver will allow you to take apart items that are too bulky to fit into your car or truck. Remember to pack old blankets and towels, plus a tarp or two, old newspaper and/or bubble wrap, twine, scissors, and straps. Don’t forget snacks and plenty of water. Antiquing is hard work, but the right provisions will help you stay energetic and hydrated.

Some say that no one carries cash anymore, but those naysayers obviously haven’t been antiquing. Some boutiques or flea market vendors are cash only. Plus, cash may help you plead your case if you decide to haggle over a price. Haggling, by the way, is the name of the antiquing game. Most sellers mark up their prices, anticipating a lively bargaining session with savvy buyers.

Tips for Planning an Antiquing Trip

Think about the types of venues you want to visit. Antique Store Finder allows you to search through 6,600 shops across the country, while The Thrift Shopper lets you search 12,500 thrift stores by city. You can wander through antique boutiques and thrift stores any time, but if you have your heart set on exploring various flea markets, you’ll want to plan your journey for the warmer months depending on location. Alaska’s Anchorage Market and Massachusetts’ Brimfield Flea Markets take place from May to September. Other flea markets, like Silverlake Flea in Los Angeles and Fleamasters in Florida, occur year-round. Want to download a map of the flea markets you’d like to visit? Visit

You can plan your route with an app such as Roadtrippers. Note that if you plan to purchase large or bulky items in several locations, you may want to stake out the locations of temporary storage facilities along your chosen path. Before you leave your driveway, make sure you have enough cargo space in your vehicle for your purchases. Alternatively, you can rent a larger vehicle or trailer or research the best ways to ship items to your home.

Decide how much money you want to spend on your antiques purchases, as well as on food, gas, and lodging. To keep track of expenditures, you can download a budget app on your smartphone. An important reminder before you begin your quest: Make sure to ask for and save all receipts. If you buy a valuable piece, ask the seller to verify provenance — that is, a list of the object’s previous owners and locations.

Ready, Set, Antique!

Here are some of our favorite antiquing destinations to help you plan a unique road trip and return home with gorgeous finds.

  • Illinois

    The town of Galena, 164 miles northwest of Chicago, features the Galena Antique Mall with more than 55 dealers. Stroll around the booths that sell jewelry, old toys, and more. Then head to Peace of the Past, an antique store that offers collectables, retro sports equipment, books, and furniture. Shop for weather vanes and whiskey barrels at Red’s Wholesale Barn, then grab dinner at Couvert. Stay the night at the Farmers Guest House and enjoy a champagne breakfast before another day of antiquing.

  • Indiana

    Richmond, 73 miles east of Indianapolis, is home to Antique Alley and more than 1,200 dealers. Check out Eclectic Gardens for antiques and vintage goods, plus garden and home décor. Building 125 offers stoneware, hutches, harvest-style tables, and holiday items. Break for a meal at Ainsley’s Café on Brookville Lake and then wander through High Hats Antique Mall to peruse antique kitchenware and furniture. Rest up at The Inn at High Hats.

  • Maryland

    The city of Frederick features numerous antique stores. Check out the vast Emporium Antiques with dealers selling everything from Civil War items to folk art and Americana. Relish Décor sells vintage-inspired culinary items, while Great Stuff by Paul sells antiques from all over the world. Numismatists (the official term for coin collectors) can check out Chili Peppers Collectibles Coins, and those who love antique garden art and vintage goods will want to stop by Chris Wolfe Antiques. Hungry? Stop by Black Hog Barbecue for ribs and brisket and then stay the night at a house rental on nearby Caboose Farm.

  • Missouri

    Kansas City is an antiquing mecca. Visit River Market Antiques — a 30,000-square-foot market with more than 160 dealers — for furniture, toys, jewelry, and collectibles. Look for vintage treasures at Good JuJu. Brass Armadillo Antique Mall features 500 dealers in a 42,000-square-foot showroom, selling items including antique silver, clocks and watches, and sports memorabilia. Stay at the Southmoreland Inn, a 1913 Colonial Revival Mansion, and head to happy hour at BC Bistro, then savor the ribs and side dishes at Big T’s Bar B Q.

  • New Hampshire

    New England’s oldest antiques shopping area features 500-plus dealers in the towns of Lee, Chichester, Epsom, and Northwood. Dubbed Antique Alley, the region stretches from Portsmouth to Concord. Visit the two pink barns at R.S. Butler’s Trading Company for records and other music memorabilia. Then make your way to Coveway Antiques for silver, glass, fine porcelain, and vintage toys, and on to Rustique for furniture and lighting made from reclaimed materials. Enjoy coffee, wine, burgers, and rice bowls at Umami Café, and then settle in at Three Chimneys Inn.

  • New Mexico

    You’ll find numerous antique malls and boutiques along the New Mexico Antique Trail. Visit The Arrowsmith Store in Lincoln for Billy the Kid souvenirs, rocks, minerals, and children’s items. Uneek Findings in Albuquerque has antique and vintage furniture, toys, and home décor. Prized Possessions in Corrales specializes in antique jewelry from Victorian and Art Nouveau to Native American and Asian pieces. Stay at Four Kachinas Inn, a bed and breakfast in Santa Fe, and while you’re there, make sure to sample the Pueblo and Northern New Mexico dishes at Amaya.

  • Tennessee

    In the historic town of Clinton, shoppers can wander down Market Street, stopping at cafes and exploring the stores that make up the Antique Merchants Guild of Clinton, Tennessee. The Antique Market features period American furniture with a particular focus on pieces from the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions, as well as parts used in the restoration of antique lamps. Dine at Cadence Antique Emporium and Café with 20,000 square feet of antiques, along with a custom frame shop and a hefty selection of books. Stay in an authentic 1860s-era log cabin at The Cabins on Cedar Ridge.

  • Wisconsin

    The Antiques Mall of Madison is home to 120 dealers in 18,000 square feet of display space packed with furniture, toys, cast iron, jewelry, and holiday decorations. Also in Madison, Odana Antiques and Fine Arts Center boasts 125 dealers in 30,000 square feet of space full of vintage décor, housewares, pottery, and art. Looking for a lime green hand-shaped chair or a quartet of glass-topped TV trays? Visit Retro Revolution, which specializes in vintage pieces from modern to kitsch. Stay at the Governor’s Mansion Inn and splurge on a meal at the family-owned restaurant Nook.

Regardless of where you decide to go, planning and taking a road trip devoted to antiquing will be an entertaining, educational experience. You’ll meet fascinating people, learn about history, and see beautiful parts of the country. Best of all, you’ll find objects to display in your home and yard — treasures that will always remind you of a spectacular vacation.

Melissa Hart is a consultant for Say Insurance. She's the author of Better with Books: 500 Diverse Novels to Ignite Empathy and Encourage Self-Acceptance in Tweens and Teens and the award-winning middle grade novel Avenging the Owl. She's contributing editor at The Writer Magazine and a Creative Writing instructor for the MFA in Creative Writing program at Southern New Hampshire University.