Things to prepare ahead of time:
14. Dress casually. The gems are the star of the show - so feel free to wear your comfortable shoes and comfortable clothing. For fun, bring a pedometer, so you can brag about how much you walked! (It's going to be a lot! Call it your winter exercise.)
15. I strongly suggest bringing something such as a canvas bag to stash your purchases in. Many shows give vendors the same bags to use, and it is all to easy to set your bag down to examine a gem, and then not be sure where it went. With all your treasures in a bag that looks like yours, you'll know where yours is at all times - and it's easier to carry, too. This might want to be a bag with wheels, so you don't get tired.
16. Plan your trip. There are many online guides available for free, and once you get to Tucson, there are many printed guides you can pick up. There's even a shuttle route guide that maps out the free shutttle routes. With a game plan, you'll be able to spend the most time shopping, and very little time deciding what to see next.
17. Don't buy the first thing you want. Last year I saw a bunch of dyed agate slices and had to have one. But I waited. Sure enough, show after show, I kept seeing the agate slices pop up. I was able to keep track of the prices and then I went back to the vendor who had the best deal.
18. Take notes on what you see. Comparison shopping is no good unless you know what price was at what booth!
19. Are there discounts or special offers available to show attendees? Some shows are open to the public, and your wholesale license might give you a discount. At JOGS in booth N1, JewelryTools.com will be offering free shipping and other great deals - stop by for more details :)
21. Follow up with vendors. Don't just see Tucson as a gem flea market. This is where you could find suppliers you'll reorder from for years and years. So make sure to ask if they will continue to carry the items you're buying, and how you can buy from them after the show.
22. Set a budget, and use cash if at all possible. Cash is your friend, because not all vendors are set up to take credit cards, or they may require a minimum amount for credit cards. Plus, your bank may get worried and decline charges for fear that your card has been stolen and taken across the country. Lastly, you're less likely to over-spend if you use cash. I bring my budget with me in cash, and give myself an allowance each day, carrying it in my pocket and leaving the rest at home. Then when the money's gone, I stop shopping and go into "looking" mode. If I see something I have to have, I'll come back for it tomorrow. Or, if it's a one-of-a-kind item, I'll give the vendor my business card and let them know I'd like to come back for it the next day.
23. Tuck away an extra bit of money in case there is something you have to have that you only see as you leave your last show. It happens! You can set this as an amount to withdraw at an ATM (the ATMs will likely charge fees, of course) or keep it in a secret pocket of your wallet.
24. Plan a way to send your goodies home. I pack a spare purse that I can use as a carry-on for my fragile items on the plane. If you are doing some serious shopping, consider shipping your treasures home via UPS or the Post Office. Savvy Tucson visitors have been known to ship their laundry home via the Post Office, and carry their valuable