#1: Start Your Planning Months in Advance
Lock down the route you want to take. Pick your starting city. Honestly plan to only be able to drive 40-50 miles in a day. I have done so many of these yard sale routes and this is the average range I've been able to do by myself. If you go with another person, maybe even plan less mileage. Keep in mind that most people won't open up until 8AM and some not until 9AM. Each day I was able to go until about 6PM, but I had my last stops be places with many vendors set up.
#2: Hotels and Other Places to Stay
After you've decided your route and the distance you can travel during each day of your trip, book your hotels. Most people start booking their hotels several months in advance. Hotels on the route book up quickly. Also, keep in mind that they're going to be on the expensive side. Hotels along the route know the dates of the sale and purposely have higher rates during the week of the sale. I booked a last minute hotel on my second night for $85 that was about 10 miles off the route and normally charges $50ish.
Or, you can do what I did my first night - AND ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT - and camp out. If you are camping out during the week, campgrounds are usually empty. So you won't need to book your site until a few days before (which I did). They will get busy on Friday and Saturday nights, so if you stay at a campground on a weekend night, you may want to look into it earlier.
|Sunrise on the lake|
The place I stayed was only a mile off of 127, was on a beautiful lake, had a full bathroom/shower facility... and only cost $20. The only things was I had to pack were a tent (this one sets up in 10 minutes or less and very little space in my truck!), sleeping bag (I love this one for summer) and pillow. If I had to, I could've used the sleeping bag as a furniture pad, if I had bought any furniture. There are plenty of campgrounds along the route. Next time I'll bring a sleeping pad like this.
And LADIES - yes, you can do this alone, if you want to. I did!
As for other accommodations...
- there are RV parks (if you have a camper)... and a lot of those RV parks will let you pitch a tent, if you want. Just ask!
- there are cabins and cottages, but beware, this can get more pricey than a hotel during the yard sale, especially if it has all the amenities. I looked into one that was $200 a night, but had a kitchen, 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, and living room. Believe it slept 6. May be a good option for a large group traveling together.
- bed and breakfasts! I'm all for getting a good breakfast in. Given that the 127 runs through lots of quaint little towns, these are more common than you think.
- you can sleep in your car/truck/van at a rest area, Walmart, etc. If you need to save all your cash for the yard sales and don't mind not takin' a shower - go for it. I didn't do it during the yard sale, but have on other trips. I put towels and blankets in the rolled up windows for a little privacy.
- you could even go couch surfing. I've never done it personally, but I've had friends do it successfully on different trips.
- if you're really adventurous, I've even seen people hitchhike the 127 (although, I am not personally recommending this)
Start using websites such as craigslist or gsalr.com to start searching for the yard sales. The larger ones are usually posted 2 weeks in advance. Smaller, family-run sales usually don't think of posting it until a few days before, some even less. The reason larger ones are posted sooner is because they usually open on that Sunday or Monday before the yard sale officially begins on Thursday. Make a list of the towns you'll pass through on your route and put your sales in that order. Check them off as you go and make notes for next year.
Now keep in mind... I don't only just go to these sales. I use them as a basis for tweaking my final route. You want to have a basic route planned months in advance so you can book lodging. But you should be tweaking it until you leave. Some sales on my list didn't end up being open because it was raining or I couldn't find them. I didn't try TOO hard, because there were so many other sales and I didn't want to waste time looking for them (and you shouldn't either!).
|My actual list from day 1|
To get the best results using craigslist, search all major cities (usually ones within 100 miles of the 127) surrounding your route. For example when traveling the 127 in Ohio I searched the following craigslist pages: Cincinnati, OH; Columbus, OH; Dayton/Springfield, OH; Toledo, OH; Fort Wayne, IN; and Richmond, IN.
The reason I say this is because vendors come from all around the 127 to set up on that route. Some of them post their sale location, not knowing that they were still on their "default" craigslist page. For example, let's say I live in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, so my default page is the Ft. Wayne craigslist. Let's say I am going to set up on the 127 near Cincinnati. When I go to post my sale, I may forget to change to the Cincinnati craigslist and my sale gets posted in the Ft. Wayne one.
Next, switch to the map view. The reason this view is the best for looking at sales, so you can see exactly where sales are, since craigslist asks you to put the balloon where your sale is on the map when you're posting a sale. A lot of folks have "barn sales" and "8 family yard sales" along the route, but they're 10+ miles off the route. This is okay if the sale is really good (trust me, I hit a few of these types of sales). But, if you want to stick to your route and actually travel the distance you planned, you may want to stay close to the 127. This is where the map view is helpful!
Keep checking until the night before you leave. Hell, if you have time, even check the morning of. I found one sale this way that I would've otherwise missed... and I bought quite a bit at that stop.
Have you ever used gsalr? If not, you should. I actually like it more than craigslist when searching for garage sales. It's default set up is pretty similar to the "map view" on craigslist. You can also view as a list or as thumbnail photos (just like craigslist). The bad thing is how early you can start searching. If you want to look for sales starting the Sunday before the 127 yard sale starts, you can start searching as early as the Sunday before. To look at sales after that, you have to wait until the Sunday of the yard sale week. This website only views within the current week you're in.
The great thing about it is that you don't have to switch between cities. You just pick the city you want to search. You also don't have to switch cities to view yard sales in that city. You just keep dragging the map along the route you want to take. Give it a moment to buffer with each move to let it populate sales. For me, I started in Cincinnati and kept dragging the map north, to keep populating sales along my route.
I actually used the 2 big 127 Yard Sale Facebook pages (HERE and HERE). They each had 54,000 and 40,000 followers respectively (at the time the post was first posted). What I did was search the "Visitor Posts" or posts that people made to the page. Many people were posting their sales. I found one sale this way, that was actually my very first stop. I was the woman's first customer of the day (at 8:30AM). She told me her daughter posted it to Facebook for her. I made out like a bandit at her sale. Trust me, I'll be back there next year too!
I also checked certain hashtags (#) on Instagram, such as #127yardsale. I actually started following a few folks who started a couple days ahead of me. I stopped at a few of the same stops, because I saw something I wanted in their picture. Just comment on their picture and ask where the stop was, it's that easy!
Don't discount local newspapers. You know the generation that still reads newspapers? That's the generation I want to be buying junk from! Think about it! They probably don't use craigslist or Facebook. They call up their local county newspaper and ask to put in an ad in their garage sale section. I know you're asking yourself, "Melissa, how am I going to get a hold of all these local newspapers to read their garage sale ads?" I'm glad you asked. The internet, silly. Just google "newspaper + town/county name" and see what comes up. Most will have bare bones websites, but I betcha 9 times out of 10 they at least have their garage sale listings up!
The World's Longest Yard Sale website has a place where they list the big places you must stop. They also have a place where people can list their yard sales. Be sure to look when the sale was posted, because old sales (from years prior) aren't usually deleted.
#4 What to Pack
Of course if you forget something you will likely pass not one, but probably three Wal-Marts a day driving the yard sale route, so you may be able to buy whatever you need. However, it can sometimes feel like forever between each town. There's nothin' but country fields, old farmhouses and barns for as far as the eye can see! So, it's better to make yourself a good list of what to pack. Let me help you out.
|I like to cover my back end in an old quilt so it doesn't get too dirty.|
A tarp or plastic drop cloth would work great too.
Those last 2 options would have been great for my rainy first day.
If you're hunting for antiques and vintage items like me it's a good idea to pack lots of boxes (especially if you buy smalls). I like paper boxes (luckily my mom works at a lawfirm that goes through A LOT of paper) or file storage boxes. I have a way of packing 5 together so that they only take up the space of 2 boxes. The reason I say boxes is because if you need space, you can throw them away along the route or vendors or other shoppers will take them off your hands! Also, these types of boxes have reinforced lids, which are helpful for stacking.
As for padding, I actually prefer to use rags (old cut up sheets, towels, etc), but they take up too much space. I usually just bring old newspapers. I like to wrap my own items because I don't like to use other people's old wrap/newspaper, because old newspaper usually attracts bugs. You definitely don't want those in your car! Some people like to bring bubble wrap, but I think it takes up too much space. If something is extra fragile I just wrap it in several layers of newspaper or a towel.
More on padding, if you're camping out, you can use your sleeping bag as a furniture pad. Or you can pack furniture blankets. This is what I did, and I laid them on the ground for extra padding when I camped out. You can also pack towels - they will serve you multiple purposes. I used them to wipe myself or my buys off when it was raining one day on the route. I used one when I showered at the campsite. Or if you're sleeping in a Walmart parking lot, you may bring it into the store with you, so you can wash and dry your face in the morning!
For shopping I like to bring reusable bags. They're the style many people use when they buy groceries. I have a few that are double the size. I also like to keep extra plastic grocery sacks stuffed in a cubby in the back of my truck. They serve so many purposes!
I know you guys know the basics to bring for yourself. I'm not going to go there... but let me give you some things to think about.
First, don't bring a normal purse or stash your cash in your pocket. Normal purses are too bulky. Putting your cash in your pocket is a great way to lose it. I can't tell you how many times I've personally dropped all of my money trying to pull money out to pay someone. Plus, then everyone can see your fat stack of yard sale cash each time you have to pull it out to pay. I like to use a crossbody purse. It is just big enough to hold essentials like cash, phone, etc. Or, as dorky as it sounds, fanny packs are actually great! Also, hint of advice, DON'T keep your cash in the envelope the bank gives you. You're just asking for it to get stolen. AND don't keep it all with you. It's a good idea to keep it in a plain unmarked envelope and lock up your extra cash in your glove box or middle console.
|Mud splattered boots from a day of junkin' in the rain on the 127|
Even if you think it's not going to rain, bring rain boots (or these are great for winter) and a rain jacket (this is the one I use!). If I hadn't packed them I would've been soaked and mud covered on day one. And no, an umbrella is NOT practical. You need BOTH hands for shopping! I also wore dri fit yoga pants and they really wicked away the rain and stayed dry.
I'm a pretty light packer. I don't like to bring extra stuff. I like to think of things that serve double duty. For instance, I didn't pack PJs, I slept in the clothes I'd be wearing the next day. This is pretty easy when your junkin outfits consist of yoga pants, mesh shorts, tshirts, and tank tops
My last little hint of advice is to bring travel toilet paper or wipes and hand sanitizer (this one is great - it can clip on your purse/fanny pack). Some of the bathroom situations are portable and out of TP. Better to be safe than sorry.
I learned the hard way, but I over packed for my first trip on the 127. If I'm yard sale-ing for just a day, I generally just pack a 6pk cooler with water, some cheese sticks, a granola bar, and a small snack size treat (chips, cookies, etc). For this 3 day trip I packed a cooler with a dozen bottles of water, a few beers, a dozen cheese sticks (OKAY, I LIKE CHEESE), and PB&J. In a grocery bag I packed some bread, granola bars, tons of snack size treats, a bag of chips, paper towels, and disposable silverware.
I was lucky that my vintage cooler fit perfectly in the floorboard on the passenger size of my truck. I definitely packed the right amount of water. Probably would've needed more if it had been hotter. We got lucky for the 2015 127 sale. The weather was pretty mild. I also packed some flavor packets, because I can't always drink tons of straight water, but it's important to stay hydrated while you're yard sale-ing. I definitely didn't pack enough beer - but next year I won't pack any. I'll buy my favorite Yuengling when I get to Ohio, since it's not available in Indiana.
I'll probably skip packing a ton of snacks next year. Maybe just the cheese sticks (YES!) and a few breakfast bars. I packed stuff for sandwiches for lunches, as I wasn't sure what the food situation was going to be like. I honestly was almost too busy to care! But, many of the bigger stops have food vendors and who doesn't love carnival food? Lots of small stops had bake sale type things going on. Also, it's usually my goal to eat at local places while I'm traveling. I did this everyday for dinner. Lunches were either a quick bite from a food vendor or fast food.
|Amish fried hand pie!|
A handy hint - if you can find fried hand pies - especially if they're Amish made - buy them all! Ha, just kidding, but seriously get a few in a to go baggie for later. I had one for breakfast one day and took one to go for later.
Again, these are all just my recommendations. But, at least try the fried pies!
#5 The Golden Rule
I'm a firm believer in treating others as you would like to be treated. How does this correlate to yard sale-ing? Every sale you walk up to, just acknowledge the seller. Say "hello" or "how's it going" or something. This is your first impression. You don't get another shot, so be friendly. When you go to try an haggle a better price on an item it may be easier because you were friendly. If it didn't and the seller won't budge or is rude, just continue to be nice. Don't let it get to you. Just remember to say "thank you" and move on. AND YES, there are sellers out there who act like they have gold sitting on their tables and they don't really want to sell it.
#6 Types of Sales for the Vintage Lover
Usually when I see an advertisement for a barn sale I'm the first in line to go. They're common here in central Indiana, but not so common that I see them every weekend that has good garage sale weather. I'm going to burst your bubble about shopping the 127. Almost every sale on the 127 is a "barn sale." Most houses on the 127 are old farmhouses with barns... so they set up their sales there. So you can't use the whole "this is an old house and barn, so they must have old stuff" logic. Trust me, I walked into several barns that were full of baby clothes.
So, how do you pick the good ones to go to? Well, that can be pretty tough. If they have a sign and it says antiques, vintage or old stuff... I'm probably stopping. So what if there's no sign? I try to take clues from items outside the barn, stuff in the yard, and the vehicles. Do they have a baby swing in the tree in the front yard? Keep driving. Do they have an old rusty pickup by the barn? Stop. Do they have an older couple sitting in lawn chairs in front of the barn? Stop. Just use these clues and your best judgement. Sometimes you'll stop at a loser. Just be polite (Golden Rule!) and quickly move on. Sometimes you'll drive by a winner and you won't realize it until you've already passed it. You can keep driving, because there will be tons more sales. Or you can turn around.
I pulled up to a barn sale with a 1970s chevy pickup outside. I thought it was going to be good. After inspecting the contents of the barn, I thought I had stopped at a loser. The inside of the barn was nothing but clothes and new coffee mugs. However, I was friendly to the owners upon arrival. When I was heading outside, that's when I saw about 15 vintage thermoses in a box. They were all priced $2-$10, which was out of my price range. I was about to walk away, but the owner asked me if I'd buy the whole box for $2. She explained that her dad collected them. She said I was the only one that looked at them in 2 days of her sale, so she decided she would rather they go to a good home.
Places With Lots of Vendors Set Up...
The places were people have to pay to set up generally the vendors are set up early. Many start setting up Sunday. Some shop all year for this event. When I started on Thursday (the official first day of the sale) after talking to several of these vendors, I realized they had already sold a lot of their stock. Hardcore dealers start shopping early by hitting these vendors. So if you're a hardcore dealer or shopper and want the really good stuff, I suggest starting before the 127 start date. Some of the individual garage sales will be open early too.
I was able to buy quite a bit from vendors on Thursday and Friday, but usually you have to buy in bulk (which I love). Most weren't really willing to wheel and deal a lot until Friday evening and Saturday. Sunday is the official end of the sale, but lots of vendors have to be out of their space before the end of Sunday, so they consider Saturday the end.
By Saturday the vendors were very picked over. The only things left were things people didn't want and overpriced items that vendors wouldn't haggle on. I mostly found things at individual garage sales, especially when Saturday was the only day they were able to set up.
Schools and Churches...
Sometimes places like schools or churches will have parking lots full of vendors. Lots of booths selling clothes and garage sale items. These are some of my favorite places to shop because vendors selling the stuff I want generally get lost in the sea of clothes. I don't mind swimming through the sea to get the good stuff. The sea of clothes typically wards off serious vintage scavengers. Also, little old church ladies have THE BEST STUFF.
Places With Lots of Cars...
This can be a good and a bad thing. It can mean that there's tons of stuff you're missing out on. It can also mean that there's nothing good left for you. Sometimes if one car stops, then another, and another and it just keeps building up... even if there's nothing. You've gotta use the clues I gave above for spying a good (barn) sale.
Don't let yourself get caught up in the crazy parking game too. Some of these places have very little and tight parking. Some people just can't resist pulling into everyone's driveway and parking in their yard. Personally, I don't like to do that. I will park out along the highway. All of the way through Ohio and Michigan it was only 2 lanes. In other states it is 4, so be careful. Yes, you have to walk further, but you can get back on the highway quicker than having to perform a 12 point turn with very little wiggle room. Just watch out for the traffic. Especially the semis. Also, sometimes you only get to the edge of the yard and see that the sale is not for you. You can just turn around and get back in your car, without looking like an ass that just pulled into a driveway and didn't even get out of the car.
#7 Places I Avoid...
During the 127 everybody and their brother that lives even remotely close to the 127 is having some kind of sale. There is definitely no shortage of sales. While driving along the 127 I didn't notice a ton of neighborhoods, but when I did see one, they were having a neighborhood sale. I avoid these when I'm on any type of yard sale adventure, whether I'm on a 3 day trip down the 127 or just out yard sale-ing around town. I don't have time to drive around the twisting and turning streets to maybe find one good vintage sale. Plus these neighborhood sales get really backlogged with people. These neighborhood sales are great for people not looking for vintage stuff, though!
When you drive the 127 you are generally passing through small quaint older towns. The 127 is usually the main road through town. A lot of the big older homes are right on the 127 and most of them are hosting sales. Everyone wants to stop at these sales and it really backs up traffic. For the people stopping at these sales, they're parking on side streets and trying to cross heavy traffic. To get back into the long line of cars can take a lot of time, unless you get a friendly car to wave you in. I tend to drive right through all of this as quickly as possible. I don't like to waste precious yard sale time trying to get in and out of traffic.
As mentioned above I also avoid all sales along the route that are just a bunch of clothes (with the exception of churches and schools), baby stuff, and new items.
These are my tricks that I use for negotiating. All I can say is don't lie to get a better price. If they ask if you're a dealer, be honest.... that way they know you have to make money on the item. Don't say "I just collect it" or "I just like it" if that's not the truth. Whenever I've been asked if I'm a dealer, I've generally gotten a positive response. If I'm truly buying something for me, I say it. Just be true to each situation. It's not fair to lie about it. You never know who you'll come across again.
So how do you negotiate to get the price you want to pay? First of all, as mentioned above in #6 the day of the week can impact the price the dealer will inevitably charge you. If you're asking for a deal before the official start date, don't expect the person to go along with it. If you like the item, chances are many others will too. Those vendors will see hundreds, if not thousands more people before the end of the sale on Sunday. You will more likely be able to get a deal if it's closer to the end of the sale, usually starting by Friday evening and Saturday. If the people will still be set up Sunday chances are you can get a great deal, especially on heavy/big items or fragile items that require careful packing.
I thought to myself on Thursday morning, the first day of the 127, as it was really coming down on my drive to Cincinnati, that I was not going to be able to buy a damn thing that day. Boy, was I ever wrong. Due to the rain lots of folks were really willing to make great deals. I actually bought the most stuff during that rainy day, my first on the 127. If the weather forecast is going to be bad the next day, you can use that to your advantage too. The dealer may not be coming back to set up and wants to unload stuff before they leave!
How I Pay the Price I Want...
First of all, remember to open with the Golden Rule!
Now, if the item is priced $1 or less, don't ask for a better deal. Especially if it's worth at least triple or quadruple that. Honestly, it really just makes you look like an ass. I've had this happen to me and I was utterly offended. The only case in which it is acceptable to ask for a better deal on a low price item is if they seller has a bunch of them and you want to buy a lot (or all). My favorite phrase to ask is "How much for all of them?"
Here's an example of an item that was priced at 25 cents each, which is a great deal if you only want a few. There were 150 there. If I had paid 25 cents each my profit wouldn't have been where I needed it to be to make it worthwhile to purchase. We negotiated a price for them all. I was happy, the vendor was happy.
My next tip is to not be offensive. For example, let's say the item is priced at $10, which is about half what the item normally retails for. Don't ask to pay $2 for it. They probably paid $2 for it. Even if you used the Golden Rule, the vendor now has a different impression of you and they will likely not be willing to negotiate on other items. Just consider the timing, as mentioned above, when asking your price.
Going off my above example, let's say the item is priced at $10 and worth $20. My rule is to generally get 4-5 times my return on yard sale routes, since I'm spending money on gas, lodging, food, etc. So, I'd ideally like to pay $4, so that's what I offer first. They dealer may say yes, or come back with a little less than $10. I may then offer $5. If it doesn't work out, you can't get too upset. Sometimes the item is worth overpaying for, if it's a good seller. Your 4-5 times return will all even out in the end, because sometimes you get an even larger return on another item. Another technique I do is offer a little less than what I want to end up paying. So that way I have room to negotiate a little more.
Some dealers don't price their items. I hate this. To me it is lazy and it feels like the dealer wants to size up each person before giving a price. To get an idea of prices, I pick up a few items I'm not interested in and ask prices on them. If the prices are something I know I could work with, I'll ask about the items I'm actually interested in. If they're not, I move on. However, sometimes you're surprised and you get a good deal!
|I bought all these at 1 stop to get a better price on each one.|
Another thing I like to do is bundle items. I will get together a group of items, mentally tallying in my head how much the dealer wants out of all of them and what I'm willing to pay for all of them. Then I ask for a price on the bunch. The more items you buy, the better the prices will probably be.
#9 Pack and Re-Pack...
I wish I had taken more pictures of my progress. These 2 above pictures are from the first day. That night when I arrived at my campsite, I reorganized everything. I completely unpacked my truck and repacked all the boxes and large items to maximize my space to my best ability.
I also repacked Friday night when I got to my hotel. I didn't have to move as much around, since I had done it on Thursday night. Sometimes I had to rearrange a few things along the way on the side of the highway. I try to park off to the side as far as possible without putting my car in the ditch.
|Back view of my haul|
I did give up a paper box at one stop, since I bought this explosives crate. It is about the size of a paper box.
|Left view of my haul|
I gave up a few paper boxes in exchange for buying all these crates. I did pack some stuff inside of them to maximize space.
|Right view of my haul|
These three pictures are of my car from my first trip down the 127. You can see how much these truck was able to hold by taking a look at my haul.
This is another example of my packing skills. This is from one day doing the US 40 Sale with my aunt. We repacked 3 times during the day. You can read about that trip HERE.
#10 Don't Take it too Seriously
Just have fun and don't take these yard sale routes too seriously. Some folks will piss you off. They're going to pull out in front of you. They're going to snatch that aqua typewriter before you. They're not going to budge on their retail prices on their items. Just keep a smile on your face and move along. Life is too short to not have fun doing this!