I've received some e-mails expressing interest in Vintage Roadtrip!, my fantastic three-day adventure across the mid-Atlantic area in search of thrifting treasure. How did we put together such a wonderful trip, you ask? Well, we (my fearless thrifting partner Kevin and I) sort of winged it, which resulted in a lot of unexpected vintage booty but also some serious detours through the likes of Chestnut Hill, PA and Frederica, DE. Still, it was such a success, we're already planning for Vintage Roadtrip! Part Two – with a few minor adjustments. Please, learn from our mistakes. Here's a little primer on putting together your own thrifting trip.1. Plan your route and destinations in advance.
It helps if you have a beginning and end point, naturally (in our case, it was Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.). But you'll also want to think about how you're getting from point A to point B. If we'd driven in the straightest line, we'd have ended up on the busy interstate highway for most of the trip and only popping off at exits to hit the thrift stores along the way (I'm pretty sure that wouldn't have been too fun – kind of like Dionne trying to get on and off the freeway in Clueless).
Instead, we decided to add Rehoboth, DE as our in-between stop, which meant that our roadways were less congested and our scenery (farmland and pretty little towns) much more idyllic. I do think one of my favorite parts of the trip was (somewhat inadvertently) driving across the exact center of Delaware, an empty little road surrounded by lush green fields, little white houses and the occasional silo, with blue skies above and the sun setting behind us.
It's also best not to be too ambitions with how much territory you'll be covering each day – you'll need time to rest, thrift and refuel at your local greasy spoon, after all. We covered about 2.5 hours of driving each day, which left us just enough time for lots of Salvation Armys and even a regular nightly drag show. (Yes, really.)
Once you've got a route mapped out, check out The Thrift Shopper
, an amazing resource of charity-based thrift stores in the U.S. We looked up the major towns/cities we'd be passing through and got an exhaustive list of what was in the area (even better: it also provides store rankings from other thrift shoppers so we could whittle it down to the top choices in thrift-heavy metropolises, like Philadelphia). Pay close attention to the hours that stores are open – Goodwill tends to stay open late, while the little church shop might close by noon. 2. Get thee a GPS. Or at least a map.
Kevin and I spent a lot of time saying things like "I feel
like [insert street name here] is this way" and just going that way. We were successful about 70 percent of the time, but in retrospect, cosmic vibes are probably not the most efficient way to roadtrip.3. Veer from the original plan whenever necessary.
Friday and especially Saturday mornings are big for yard sales, so if you're traveling on these days, grab a local paper and see what sales might be happening. (Yard sales are totally hit-or-miss but almost always cheaper than thrift stores. Plus, you get to interact with the locals!) And keep your ears open at places like the little old lady-helmed church thrift shops, both for extremely funny conversation but also for tidbits on other stores/sales in the area. Kevin and I made an unexpected afternoon stop at the adorable Milton, DE community yard sale after overhearing several little old ladies discuss it at a nearby thrift store. It turned out to be a goldmine of goodness, including a batch of fantastic vintage purses for 50 cents a pop.4. Pick a good thrifting partner.
I can't stress this enough. Not only was my partner extremely adorable and lots of fun (we spent our hours in the car discussing such important topics as, "Why does Fergie insist on spelling out words in all her songs?"), he is the kind of shopping partner that understands that serious thrifting takes time. Kevin also has an impeccable eye, and scooped up lots of good finds for me before any other shoppers could get their hands on it. (Case in point: At the Goodwill in Dover, DE, he telephoned me from the furniture section to let me know that they had a mini library card catalogue for sale, and watched it like a hawk until I could grab a cart and come claim it).
Probably the most important thing about a successful thrift partner pairing is that you're not looking for the same stuff. Kevin is a boy, so that kept us from competing over clothes (mostly). He's also paring down his worldly possessions at the moment, so was happy to pass most of the cute housewares to me as well. If you're thrifting with someone with similar interests, have a agreement in place beforehand to keep it from getting too competitive – like taking turns claiming items spotted at the same time, or putting all mutually adored items in a pile for distributing one at a time at the end of the trip. Nothing sours a friendship faster than thrifting jealousy.5. Once in awhile, be sure to step away from the vintage and take some pictures.
Because otherwise, when you get home, you will look at your camera and realize that the only photo you have from the wonderful trip is you in the 17th Street McDonalds at 2am, giddy from a greasy food rush:
At least it's a cute one.