Before you get on the plane for your buying trip to England there are many things you have to do before leaving. First and foremost, you need to decide how you are going to get your things back to you. There are several options available. I would suggest one of two alternatives. Go with someone that will handle everything for you. We would pick up our clients at the airport, arrange for accommodations, take you to all of the places to buy, and pack and ship all of the purchases to a designated location in the states. This is helpful for at least one time to learn the ropes. There are a couple of groups who offer this service. If you want to be on your own you can contact Robinsons or Lockson (there are others) who will pick up your purchases and pack and ship them to you. They are at the major shows and will also pick up purchases at shops, etc.
I have seen some, who only want to buy smalls, to pack and ship there own things. If you buy very much this is not real practical, so I really wouldn’t suggest this. If you are planning on bringing back many things in your suitcases, be sure you have receipts for customs. If you don’t you could be in for a hassle. Also don’t bring in any prohibited items such as tortoise and ivory. You need to know what is prohibited before you go. There are things like taxidermy items that are not allowed, so get a list. You can get a list from US Customs at the airport or from them directly.
Next, you need to think about exchanging money. There are many different ways to do this. Some of our clients would arrange with their banks to raise the limits on the amount of cash they could get daily on their credit or debit cards. Be sure to know your pin numbers. I know that sounds obvious, but some forgot them. Also have more than one card. More than one had their cards gobble up by the ATM machines. You will need cash at most of the fairs. Most shops will take cards, but they usually charge extra for this. Exchanging money at the airports is the worst place to exchange money. The rates are terrible. We always went a day early to go into London to exchange money, it could be as much as seven cents cheaper. So instead of $1.57 to the pond, it would be $1.50 to the pound. If you are exchanging five to ten thousand dollars, the difference can be large. While speaking of money, you are only allowed to carry $10,000 in cash unless you declare it to customs.
People would always ask how much should I expect to spend. There was no good answer. On our nine day trips, customer spent everything from $2,500 to $80,000. Most people that went with us were either dealers or designers and were buying to resell. We did have “real” people go with us, but a few of those decided they wanted to become dealers while on our trip. Two of those became dealers in our store. For at least the first time you can count part of the expenses as what you would spend on a vacation. But if you are going to make this a business trip, eventually you will need for it to make financial sense, and decide how much you need to spend to make it viable. The expenses for the trip are basically fixed, other than food expenses and plane tickets, on our trips. Lodging and transportation in country will have to be added while doing it on your own. Airline flights are much cheaper during the winter months and highest during the summer months, especially August. January and February are usually the least expensive. Try to get a nonstop flight if possible, especially during potentially bad weather months. You don’t want to miss a connecting flight, especially going over.
Finally, make sure your passport is up to date, or allow plenty of time to get one. I nearly missed a flight because mine was going to expire, and I had to pay extra for an expedited service. A friend actually couldn’t find his and had to fly from Dallas to Houston, to get his replacement passport on the day of his flight, and fly back to Dallas to catch his flight to England. While in England, keep this on your person at all times. The same friend has his stolen from his hotel room and had to go to London to the US Embassy to get a replacement, true story. So get a fanny pack or something to carry money and passport. Don’t keep it in a purse, which can be lost or stolen so easily. Another friend lost her billfold with credit cards in a restaurant in London. Luckily, someone kept a receipt with the phone number and the owners had found the billfold. She and my wife got up early the next morning and caught the train back to London, to get the billfold and came back to the B&B in time for us to leave. So be careful with your valuable things while traveling in another country.
When packing your bags, travel as light as possible. You can tell the veterans, because they don’t have near as many bags or as big of bags as the new people. Carrying the bags a round is a hassle, so the fewer the better. And lighter is better than heavier. You will be shopping, it’s OK to wear the same clothes more than once. But do be prepared for shopping outside in inclement weather. We do shop in the rain sometimes. Be sure you have shoes that are VERY comfortable, you will do lots of walking. In cold months, wear layers. Also be sure and bring wash cloths, many hotels and B&B don’t have them. You usually have to also ask for a top sheet, most don’t automatically put them on the beds. In the summer, many accommodations don’t have AC, but it usually cools down. Days are shorter in the winter, with it getting dark about 4:00. In the summer, just the opposite, the sun comes up about 4:00.
The next article will be about where to start the fun part of the buying trip, the actual shopping. I will give you my favorite places to shop, where we buy things to resell. But if you don’t get prepared in advance, like us on our first trip, your trip can have a lot of bumps. Get prepared before you leave and have fun on your buying trip to England.