Vicki Arkoff shops-‘til-she-drops at the American Midwest’s biggest annual sale. Luckily for thousands of traveling shopaholics, extra luggage is also extra cheap.

Mark your calendars now for the most chiconomical shopping event in the American Midwest. Every April, Vera Bradley hold its famous Outlet Sale, the annual event that attracts thousands of savvy shoppers from across the US with its deep discounts of 40-60%-off retail prices for handbags, luggage, stationery and accessories from eyeglasses to cell phone cases. There’s only one Vera Bradley Outlet Sale, and it’s an easy three-hour drive from Chicago in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the sweet town which has served as the company’s headquarters since it was founded.

Sample House

Have you ever seen a locust swarm devour a ripe field? Then you know what this shopping frenzy is like. A huge warehouse is filled with aisle after aisle of deep-discounted goods, piled sky-high and beautifully organized with signage to make checklist shopping easy. To keep shoppers just as organized, groups are admitted according to their $US5 reserved shopping times which are available online at www.verabradley.com/registration/registration.jsp?pageName=OutletSale. Tickets are required, so don’t show up without preregistering. This system makes sure that thousands of buyers adhere to the $US3,500-per-person purchase limit, and allows staffers to replenish aisles and aisles of product so no one leaves without access to the greatest selection possible.

Vera Bradley Outlet Sale aislesThere are two kinds of Vera Bradley fans: first-timers and fanatics. I was in the first category when I was given a purse as a gift, but I soon found out that it only takes one Vera Bradley bag to turn the average woman into an avid collector, thanks to a seemingly endless catalog of constantly-changing styles and colorful patterns, printed on soft, quilted fabric. Love Vera Bradley’s classic black cross-body Hipster ($US70)? Well, me too — it’s my light-weight, go-everywhere, washable travel staple. But wait until you see it in Marina Paisley (just $US45 at presale, undoubtedly even less at the Outlet Sale) with the matching scarf and brand-new Turn Lock Wallet with leather trim that I’ve got my eye on. The Essentials Cosmetic bag is the best I’ve ever owned – as beautiful as it is functional and hardworking – and has taken me around the world without a zipper glitch or the need to ever unpack, thanks to its unfold-and-hang design; you can snag your own at the outlet sale for half off in newly-retired patterns like Priscilla Pink and Camellia. Big sale temptations for me this year are the Convertible Bowler in a jaunty red with white stripe, Chainlink Handbag in Navy Nylon, Mailbag in Baroque or Ellie Blue, a pair of bangles (in Provencal and Paisley Meets Plaid), and the 22″ Spinner carry-on in Boysenberry, the perfect antidote to boring black luggage. After all, everyone’s going to need an extra suitcase to carry my sale bargains home.

Vera Bradley Sale jewelry boxes

It’s no wonder that the Vera Bradley Outlet Sale has been Indiana’s biggest girlfriend getaway for ages. So to get the most out of your sale visit, make sure to get rid of the men, if they’ve insisted on coming along. They’ll only slow you down and kill the shopping buzz, so send the guys to one of the U.S.’s Top Ten gearhead destinations, the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum which boasts the world’s most extensive collection of antique Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg cars. When they’re done lusting over 120+ autos, they can burn rubber on a golf cart at one of Fort Wayne’s many links, including Cherry Hill Golf Club, Brookwood Golf Club, Cedar Creek Golf Club, Autumn Ridge Golf Club, and Deer Track Golf Course.

That should keep them busy why you comb the Vera Bradley Outlet Sale for your wish list and early holiday gift shopping. For extra shopping energy, stock up on cupcakes and biscotti from Vanilla Bean, Snicker doodles from Cookie Cottage , and unforgettable truffles, art boxes, hot chocolate and gourmet marshmallows from DeBrand Fine Chocolates, which also gives half-hour tours. Continue the hunt for bargains at Jefferson Pointe Shopping Center, which includes a Vera Bradley Store stocked with all the newest items. For extra convenience, the Vera Bradley store at Jefferson Pointe will be a pickup/drop off location for the free Vera Bradley Outlet Shuttle that goes back and forth from Memorial Coliseum April 9-14. Coupons for Jefferson Pointe stores (www.jeffersonshopping.com) will also be available to shoppers.

You can only shop rows and rows of quilted cotton colors for so many hours, however, so book at Calispa for a mani-pedi to match your new Vera Bradley patterned goodies, or luxuriate with full spa menu of massages, wraps and facials. Treatments start at $US21 for an Express Pedicure and run to the $US80 Tropical Citrus Treatment which includes a glass of wine, fresh citrus soak, therapy clay mask, and hot stone massage. For more info on Fort Wayne shopping, eating, lodging, and entertainment, go to www.VisitFortWayne.com for best-of listings, deals, and giveaways.

About Holiday Goddess Editors

Holiday Goddess. Travel for Less.