Tips for Planning a Big Shopping Trip

posted by Andrea | 07/22/2011

This morning, Dave and I WERE SUPPOSED to drive to our closest IKEA store {2.5 hours away} to do some serious shopping!

We actually even rented a small U-HAUL trailer because we were planning to purchase a couch, some mattresses, a couple of chairs, and a bunch of other things for our {almost} newly renovated main floor bedrooms, bathroom, office, and living room.

However, the truck we were planning to use did not have the correct electrical hook ups for the trailer so we found out late last night that we could no longer go today.

Yup, I was just a little bummed…!

However, I already had this post written — because I really DID do a bunch of planning for this shopping trip. And since it’s good advice for anyone planning to do some serious shopping, I’m still going to post it — and then hopefully we’ll go to IKEA next weekend!

Believe-it-or not, I actually don’t love shopping. I only shop when I have something to buy — not just for the fun of browsing. I always shop with a list {big shocker there} and I try to get in and out as quickly as possible.

However, for huge shopping trips like our IKEA trip — involving U-HAULS, pick-up trucks, several hours in the car, and lots of specific things to buy — I am willing to take my time, make a game plan, and really enjoy the whole experience.

Here are some of my tips for large shopping trips:

1. Set a Date.

We’ve had this date on our calendar for several weeks now as we figured we would be nearly finished with the bulk of our house projects {which we are}. We also wanted to get the shopping trip in before August as I’m hosting a wedding shower for my cousin and we’ll need a couch in our living room!

By setting a specific date, it gave us a chance to clear our calendars for that day and plan ahead in order to rent a U-Haul etc. {NOTE: we really did check out the electrical hook up on our truck before hand, and thought they would work!}

2. Make Your List

I don’t even go to Meijer or Target without a list — so you better believe I have a list for all my big shopping trips too.

IKEA actually has a pretty cool program {as do many other stores} where you can add items to your “on-line” shopping list and then email the list to yourself or print it off. This tool has been so helpful for me because it not only give me the picture and the price for every item on my list, it also tells me where each item is located within the store.

Talk about a time-saver!

3. Have Pictures and Measurements

We are planning to purchase several pieces of furniture at IKEA so I made sure to write down all the measurements of our rooms, along with any specific spaces we are trying to fill. That way, I’ll know if a piece of furniture will fit or not.

I also take photos of each space and bring my camera long, just in case I want to see the room again before making a purchase.

4. Dress Appropriately

If I’m going to be sitting in a car and walking around all day, I want to be comfortable! So I always wear comfortable clothing with pockets and very comfortable walking shoes {no flip flops today}.

I also try to bring a smaller purse/bag that will fit across my shoulders so I won’t be constantly readjusting my purse or worry about setting it down and leaving it.

5. Bring Snacks

I’ve always been a “grazer” and have learned to carry snacks, water, and gum with me wherever I go — but for big {long} shopping trips, it’s even more important… especially if you’re shopping with kids.

There is nothing worse than whining kids or a growling stomach to spoil the mood of your shopping trip!


By taking a few moments to plan through a large shopping trip, you should be much more successful and hopefully won’t need to return anything later.

I’ll share more about our shopping trip {and our purchases} once we actually make it to IKEA — but for now I’d like to know…

What are your best tips for planning large shopping trips?


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    Andrea – great tips! We purchased all our office furniture (for the company) at IKEA and they were and still are great. We have one in Canton, MI and it’s pretty close to us. My advice for going to IKEA – bring extra cash! The way it is set up, you will no doubt find something cool on your way through the store to the check out that you want to buy. Also, check the AS IS section for great deals too! Saw a huge white table/desk/dining table for $100! Was sold for way more than that – just sorry it was too big for my tiny house!


    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Anne Marie!
    We’re home again and our trip was a total success. We did go to the Canton IKEA — but we also had a pretty strict list and stuck to it {for the most part!}. I actually think I saw the table you were talking about too. We were trying to think where we could put it for such a great price! Great minds must think alike — or maybe just “organized minds” — hehe!


  3. Belle


    IKEA is just around the corner from me~ however, have only purchased a few room decorations from my teenagers rooms, and nothing else. Regarding the furniture from IKEA, I would not even consider buy. If you want uncomfortable and “just to look at” furniture, then buy it there. Otherwise, spend your money wisely and dont buy your everyday furniture there, otherwise you will be replacing it before you know it.


  4. Lea Stormhammer


    This made me grin!

    We’ve been doing some major “remodeling” in four key rooms in our house to make them more functional for our family and IKEA has been our place to go. We live in the Twin Cities and are about 20 minutes away from IKEA, so it’s not as major a shopping trip for us. Since we’re doing this major “remodeling” we’ve been to IKEA 4 times in the last 9 days! 🙂 We have one more trip (possibly two) before the whole project is done…those won’t come until the middle/end of August.

    I would recommend that for buying items, particularly large ones, to make sure you have room in your vehicle to haul them home. We have a great story about a friend of ours hanging onto our couch during an hour-long drive home from the store we bought it at (I was 8 mo. pregnant with twins so I didn’t go with!) so that the bungee cords wouldn’t be so tight they might snap on the ride home. Exciting adventures we could have definately done without!

    Great tips!


  5. Suzanne


    Great tips! The only one I would add would be to know your budget and add a small amount for unexpected extras.


  6. Sandy


    Love IKEA. Was in Singapore (tagged along on husband’s business trip) in 2007, when they had a grand opening of one there. Now that was COOL! Got the little blue IKEA bag they were giving away to first day patrons.

    I love to shop…to browse and/or buy. I don’t hit the malls in my area so much anymore, but love special trips to outlets, IKEA, annual fall trip to Chicago, small town boutiques, etc.
    I usually keep a list and measurements of needed items in my bag or at least in my car at all times. I also bring color swatches in case I want to coordinate an accessory. i.e. a paint chip, a spool of thread, a piece of fabric.

    I treat myself by budgeting some money for ‘etc’ or ‘whim’ or whatever you want to call it. I take it in cash and only spend that amount. Sometimes it’s $30 and sometimes (after a birthday card from mom with $$) it’s $100. Often, because it is cash, I don’t even spend it. It’s harder to part with cash than swipe the debit or credit card. But if something catches my eye, I can treat myself without the guilt of breaking my budget. (It’s a Dave Ramsey FPU principle)


  7. Janis


    I can see the new IKEA that is opening next week just south of Denver from my office- I’m looking at it now, and its less than 15 minutes from my house!

    My son wants to camp out to be one of the first in line for the opening. I don’t think we’ll do that as there isn’t anything we need right now. But we’ll have to go soon just to see it (haven’t been to any of their stores) and to check out the restaurant. I hear the food is good.


  8. Kristia {Family Balance Sheet}


    IKEA is about 2 hours from us too…which is probably a good thing, but we only go when we have a specific need. That place is dangerous without a list.

    We looked at the sectional. Very cute.


  9. Rochelle


    We’ve been making a yearly trip to IKEA for the last 3 years. We go with some friends. We always stop on the way home at the Outlet mall in Howell. Not sure if you have time for this, but it is right on the way & you can find some good deals if there is anything you need. My favorite thing I bought at IKEA this spring, is a shoe organizer/cabinet. It is wood with 4 sections that hold 8 pairs of shoes. It works awesome & looks nice in our small entry way.


  10. Jen


    Hi Andrea, My best tip when shopping at IKEA is to use your debit card. IKEA stores are giving you 1% back of your total purchase as a coupon off your next order!!! YAY…every little bit helps.


  11. Stacey


    Ugh, i want to go to IKEA soooo bad, i normally take an annual trip with friends in April but my baby was still kind of small and i didnt want to put up with such a long drive with her and i didnt want to leave her for that long. They just need to build an IKEA in Grand Rapids. Then i will be all set!

    My best tip for a large shopping trip would be – don’t take the kids;)


    Andrea Reply:

    I could NOT agree more Stacey — they need to get an IKEA in the Grand Rapids area!!!

    And great tip about not bringing the kids. I’m sure I’ll realize how true that one is in just a few months 🙂


  12. Andrea


    Perfect timing since the grand opening of IKEA in Denver is this Wednesday and I’m planning a trip with a long list! 🙂


    Andrea Reply:

    Lucky — I’m officially jealous now!


    Suzanne Reply:

    Andrea (op) aren’t you excited! I’m so looking forward to doing a nice long browse only trip soon for inspiration followed by a doing trip!