Seeking shopping bargains outside of Miami’s shopping meccas? Ride this bus

South Florida may be a mecca for luxury shoppers, with destinations like the Miami Design District and Bal Harbour Shops, but some locals and tourists have found an unlikely alternative. 

Thrifting Bus Tours gives shoppers the chance to take a road trip on a party bus to go thrift shopping. On each tour, they visit stores around the state all day–and support charities while doing it.

Virginia Barnidge, who loved her hobby of discovering great finds at thrift shops, started the company. First, she began publishing a thrift and antique store guide called Shopportunities Guide. Then she landed on the bus tour idea and pitched it to some shop owners. They loved it.

“We are growing so rapidly,” said Barnidge. “There’s so much stuff going on in the world today that people enjoy the excitement. It’s like a treasure hunt, and when they come on the bus tour, it’s nothing but fun.”

Thrift shopping has become more acceptable in recent years, Barnidge said. 

“Years ago, when you’d go to thrift stores, you would look around and make sure nobody saw you getting out of your car to go in,” said Barnidge. “Now it’s totally acceptable, which is wonderful because people should be patted on the back for giving an item a second life.”

She said she has found great deals for brand-new high-end items, including a Michael Kors designer purse for $35 and a Brighton watch for $12.

Florida thrifters join together for thrifting bus tours. Photo courtesy of Virginia Barnidge.

The tours happen three or four times a week and pick shoppers up at varying locations around the state. Then, they spend the entire day visiting thrift shops, playing games, drinking wine on the bus and eating a catered lunch. The trips cost $79 per person.

Sarena Scott, an FIU alumni and Broward County resident, goes on day trips with her mom to visit different Goodwills all over Florida. When they heard about Thrifting Bus Tours, they couldn’t believe that they had brethren in bargain hunting. 

“My mom said, ‘Oh my goodness! They’re doing what we do and I don’t have to drive. Let’s go!’” explained Scott.

Scott appreciated that each trip chooses local charities to support, and some shoppers choose to buy items from the thrift stores to donate needed items to those charities.

“It’s really awesome to be able to like go to the stores, and spend your money on something that is helping a mission,” said Scott. “ I want to make sure my money goes somewhere that people use it for good. This trip helped me be intentional about where I thrift.”

Sarena Scott (left) and her mom (right) on their thrifting bus tour trip. Photo courtesy of Sarena Scott.

The first store Scott went to on her trip was United for the Mentally Ill Thrift Store in Delray Beach, her favorite stop.

Then they visited four more stores–Style Encore and Goodwill in Palm Beach Gardens, Pennies for Heaven–where proceeds go towards homeless or abused women seeking shelter–and Our Sister’s Place in Tequesta.

“I know that my money is going somewhere that’s making a difference,” said Scott. “On the ride back, we all gushed to each other about what we found at all of the shops. It was truly an awesome experience and I am definitely going to do it again!”

Maya Washburn is a Caplin News DC bureau summer correspondent studying digital journalism with a concentration in criminal justice at the FIU Honors College. Her primary focus is reporting on previously untold stories, with her writing often involving investigations, underrepresented issues, crime, mental health, education, politics and more.