By Barbara Gooch

Barn sales have exploded in popularity over the past year, and for many folks they are the ultimate fun road trip with friends. The sales have garnered fan followings of avid shoppers who mark their calendars and wait in anticipation for their next trip to hunt for and discover an array of vintage and handmade treasures. Wait, you havenâ€TMt been to a barn sale yet? Hereâ€TMs what you can expect to experience, along with some tips guaranteed to make your barn shopping excursion a rousing success.

A barn sale is exactly what the name implies: a sale at a barn. However, the event is more accurately described as a craft show, flea market and antique store, all mixed into one. You wonâ€TMt find yard sale items because the focus is to provide customers with upscale and unique products from small business owners. What you will find is a mix of vintage and handmade goodies that may include clothing, jewelry, art, delicious foodstuffs, household items, furniture and much more. These sales often include the words “barn sale” in their name, but others are called markets or craft fairs, or simply named after their venue. Some sales have numerous vendors; others are smaller in size. Some are in a pasture with or without a barn, while others are held at historic homes, unique business sites or even fairgrounds. Each sale has its own distinct personality and that is where the fun lies.

So how do you prepare for a trip to a barn sale? Here are a few tips to consider before your first or next road trip:

· Cash is a must! Most vendors will have a credit card reader, but admission and food sales prefer to take only cash. ATMs are also offered at select sales.

· Wear appropriate clothing and footwear for the weather and location. Boots are great if the sale is in a cow field; comfortable shoes are a must for large sales with lots of vendors. You might also want to show your support for those small businesses by wearing their product—a boutique dress, handmade jewelry or even a unique shirt from one of the vendors is fun to wear to an event.

· Bring a lightweight bag or tote to carry your purchases. Some vendors will have bags, but bringing your own assures that you can keep your hands free—a must. As an added convenience, certain sales will have a pick-up area, where your items can be sent and picked up at the front gate before you leave.

· A camera or smartphone is always great to take pictures. Most sales will have prop areas for picture taking. Be sure to tag the event on social media!

· A truck or SUV to haul big-ticket items might be useful if you are looking for furniture pieces. If you donâ€TMt have one, donâ€TMt hesitate to ask if the vendor will deliver locally. If you want to buy a heavy piece of furniture, check to see if the sale has a special pick-up area or has helpers to carry to your vehicle.

· Bring a GPS or get directions in advance, as many sales are in the country and/or unfamiliar areas. Most events will have signage, but the signs are sometimes small and easy to miss. Itâ€TMs best to check a saleâ€TMs social media page or website for directions before you set out.

· Tickets for the events are sometimes available for pre-sale purchase, often at a discount. While many sales offer pre-sale tickets, most also allow you to buy tickets onsite the day of the event.

· Depending on location, pets are often best left at home. Many sales are held on family farms with livestock that could be shaken by the presence of furry friends, or vice-versa.

· Check for wheelchair and stroller accessibility before attending, as it varies. Aisles might be very narrow and hard to navigate. Keep in mind that, depending on the saleâ€TMs location, you may have to traverse through a cow pasture, over rough terrain or gravel, or even across a pasture made muddy or soft from a recent rain.

· The Internet is your friend! Most sales have plenty of info posted on the web, so you can find out everything from dates and times to vendors, location, entertainment and food options and more.