Roadtrip Recap – Amazon FBA from the road

It’s been a little over a week since my last post, so in today’s post I will be sharing what I was up to for a good portion of the past week.  I took a mini “sourcing roadtrip” to Wisconsin and Illinois to explore some retail stores in areas that I have never sourced at before.

I went on this trip with Jon Gosz, who did a guest post about 2 months ago discussing his results from selling online part time on a part time basis.  The plan was to leave on 8:00 AM on Thursday June 19th and return early evening on Sunday June 22nd.   The sole intent of this trip was to source inventory to sell via FBA and we didn’t plan any other stops.

How the trip played out

We reserved a cargo van for the trip as we were planning on buying significant amounts of inventory and needed a good amount of space.  We arrived at Enterprise at 7:30AM on Thursday to pick up the van.  When we get there it was looking a little strange since there were no cargo vans in sight on the lot, and this lot had about 10 cars on it, so its not like there was any place for it to hide.  We go inside and say we are there to pick up the van, and they confirm our initial suspicions and inform us that they do not have a cargo van available.  Allegedly a customer was supposed to return one the day before, but never did, so we were temporarily stuck.  They called all of the other locations within about 15 minutes and found that none of them had cargo vans either.  We were then offered a “complimentary upgrade” to a Kia Sorento.  A Kia Sorento appeared it would hold about as much as a standard size car, so this was a definite pass.  Finally we suggested they call a couple Enterprise locations that were a bit further away and luckily there was a cargo van available at a location about a half hour from where we were.  We took it. Here’s a pic of the cargo van:


This is the Nissan NV1500.  It had a ton of storage space, and was well worth the 2 hour delay compared to settling for a Kia Sorento.

So, we finally hit the road around 10:00AM on Thursday morning.  The first planned stop was a Toys R Us in Baraboo, WI.  We arrive at the address from the Toys R Us website and there is absolutely no Toys R Us in site.  I call the number listed on the website, and I hear “We’re sorry this number has been disconnected…” So, we kept driving.  This was another speed bump along the way, but I promise things start to turn around soon.

We decided to keep driving as opposed to stopping at any other stores in the area, as the main places we were looking to go were Madison, Milwaukee, and Chicago.   We ended up getting into Madison a little under 2 hours after the fake Toys R Us address and were able to do some solid sourcing.  In total I spent about $650 on inventory before it was time to call it a day.  We got to a hotel and around 10:00PM, and listed all of the days haul for sale and got it all ready to send to FBA except for creating the shipments.  This took until about 12:30AM.

On Friday morning we left the hotel around 9:30AM and were in stores until about 9:30PM.  Friday was a solid day as I spent about $1,600 in inventory to resell across about 12 different stops during the day.   Friday night we got to the hotel around 10:00PM and moved everything into the room.  We then processed all of the items purchased during Friday, added them to the shipments from the items purchased on Thursday, and had about 21 medium sized Home Depot boxes to drop off at a UPS Store on Saturday.  Processing all of the items took until about 3:30AM so we didn’t hit the road on Saturday until about 11:30AM.  Here’s a pic of processing inventory from the hotel: 

image (5)

At about noon on Saturday we dropped all of the boxes that were ready at a UPS store and continued on our way.  The first few stores we hit in the early afternoon had many good buys and the van was quickly filling up again.  At around 5:00PM we decided to start heading back in the direction of home as we knew the van would be full by the end of the day, and there wan’t much point in shipping again from the hotel, as we would only have a few hours on Sunday as we had about a 5 to 6 hour drive back.    We stopped at several more stores on the way back, and ended up arriving back a little after 2:00 AM Sunday. In total on inventory I spent a little over $1,000 on Saturday.

Proof the van was filling up (this was around 5:00 PM on Saturday): 


So, here’s a recap of what the total numbers for the trip were:

Total spent on Inventory: $3,263.61

Expenses: Food – $51.65, Boxes – $24.14, Hotels $110.82, Cargo Van Rental – $200.78, Gas $106.62, (Total Expenses: $494.01)

On the expenses, the hotel, van rental, and gas are each half of the actual charge as costs were shared with Jon.  Jon purchased around the same amount of inventory as I did on the trip.

Overall, the trip covered about 900 miles and was a great experience and should be quite profitable as well.  I definitely learned some things along the way that I will be sure to apply next time.  I will plan on posting an update in how the items specifically from this trip have sold in 2 months to help give an idea of if the items will sell for enough to cover the added expenses of sourcing on the road (I am confident they will).

As mentioned in my initial 2014 goals post, one is to take a 2,000 mile road trip around the US buying items to resell so this was a good “practice run” for a more extensive trip.  I am definitely still planning on doing this, likely around September 2014.  I will be covering many cities, and the exact destinations are yet to be determined, so if you would be interested in potentially meeting up with me on this trip to do some sourcing, grab some food/drink, etc, send me an email ( and if I am end up coming through your area we can potentially meetup for a bit.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments below.  If you want to see 12 additional photos of this trip not included in this post, you can find them on the Online Selling Experiment Facebook Page.

39 thoughts on “Roadtrip Recap – Amazon FBA from the road”

  1. Hi, did you have a chance to identify the sales proceeds from the stuff purchased on this roadtrip? I was wondering the net profit from the trip. GREAT post! James

    1. Hi James,

      I believe that might be explained in a financial results post I did around that time, but not 100% on that.

      After all expenses, I believe the profit was around $2,000 for that trip.

      Best Regards,

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  3. Ryan,
    Your blog is a great resource.

    My question is regarding your road trip and what tools/equipment you took along to process inventory in the hotel room and get it shipped out the next day.
    I would assume that you took a laptop and thermal printer(s) with labels, and a tape gun.
    Did you create a mini prepping/shipping kit for road use? If so, what is in it?
    How did you connect to the internet via hotel wifi or via your phone?

    1. Hi James,

      I literally took all of the main tools that are included here:, and then I set them up on a table/desk at the hotel. I have found that bringing all of the supplies with saves time and makes things more efficient while there. As far as internet, I just connect via the hotel’s wifi.

      Best Regards,

  4. I am new to your blog and new to selling on Ebay and Etsy. So far, I am loving all of it. If you are ever in Pittsburgh, I would love to meet up and pick your brain. You are a wealth of knowledge.

    1. Hi Diane,

      Glad to have you here! I will be sure to reach out if I end up in the Pittsburgh area.

      Best Regards,

  5. Ryan, great post! If you’re ever in the Philly area hit me up (215) 941-6650. You may have to just go out and buy a van eventually if you’re planning on hitting the road a lot. $200/weekend adds up quick if you’re doing this a lot.

    1. Hey Brian,

      Thank you, and I will be sure to let you know if I am going to be in around Philly! I am currently looking into what makes the most sense as a sourcing vehicle. Currently the debate is between a cargo van or buying a truck and trailer. Either way, I definitely plan on buying a more sourcing friendly vehicle, as $200 a weekend does add up real quick.

      Best Regards,

          1. Thanks so much! Do you have business insurance, if so how much does it cost and who do you use? Also do you have to register your business in the states amazon has Fulfillment Centers cause your product is there?

  6. Wow, that’s awesome. Loved reading this post as it showed how much effort you are ready to put into your business!

    1. Ryan,

      Can you share a bit on what you actually do when you enter a store to find inventory? Do you have a specific plan or do you just go to the clearance section and scan everything?

      I spent 2 whole hours at a TRU store last evening and walked out empty handed. I have to admit that I went in with a list of hot toys that aren’t available online and stuck to that list. But I did scan 10-15 other items randomly but the profit margin wasn’t noteworthy or there were too many FBA sellers. I try to buy items that have at least a 100% ROI because Amazon prices fluctuate so much that I want to keep a buffer. Do you buy items with a lower ROI?

      It will be great if you can give some tips on how to buy inventory in-store. I look at the aisles of 100s of items and don’t know where to start!

      Have a great weekend and Happy July 4th!

      1. Hi Carol,

        I am planning on putting out a guide within a month that will address all of these questions. Stay tuned!

        Best Regards,

    2. Glad to hear you enjoyed it Carol! There definitely is a good amount of work involved as well.

      Best Regards,

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  8. Me and my wife used to sell on ebay, before amazon got big, in 2002-2005, raid a certain local dept. store for $500-1500 during sales each. Go to all the stores in Houston. We got so many cash back coupons during their sales, employees thought we stole them, lol.

    1. Hey Mark,

      I use a unique “SKU” within my seller account for all of the items that I buy on a road trip. This allows me to look back and determine the total profits for the trip.

      Best Regards,

  9. Hey Ryan,

    Great post. I wonder if you’ll ever make it down here to Miami. If so, would love to meet you.

    I was looking at your photos and I have a question. Was most of your merchandise bought in big lots or in small onsie, twosie lots? Your picture of the boxes show a couple of what looks like individual items but maybe the others are in the boxes already.


      1. Hey Mark,

        I did a lot of scanning. I scanned the vast majority of the items I purchased, and I scanned an even larger number that stayed at the store. I know that’s not exact numbers, so in an effort to provide an estimation, I probably scanned well over 1500 items during the trip.

        Best Regards,

        1. Wow! That’s a lot of scanning. What’s really impressive is that you are able to get all these items listed and shipped in only a few hours. That’s my biggest problem. It can take me days to get things listed after 1 sourcing trip.

    1. Hey Mark,

      If I make it down to Miami I will be sure to let you know. Most of the stores that I went to I purchased an absolute minimum of $50 worth of inventory, so I was coming out with a good number of items. In terms of the number of each unique items, there were some items I bought as many as 20 of, but there were a lot other items that I was only able to buy one of. Let me know if you have further questions.

      Best Regards,

      1. That’s been my experience too. Yesterday at Big lots I bought the entire stock of 1 item and then another I was only able to get 4, still another only 1.

  10. Thanks for sharing your adventure! Just curious, do you think that you found items of the road trip that you would not have found locally?

    If you come to St. Louis, MO left me know. Lots of retail and thrift stores here.

    1. Hi Cheryl,

      I think most of the items I could have found anywhere, but there were probably a few that I wouldn’t have found in my local area. I will be sure to let you know if I make it to the St. Louis, MO area!

      Best Regards,

  11. Wish I knew you were in the area, would have liked to have had a meet up. Road trips are a blast. So if time wasn’t a concern, how long do you think you could have made this little road trip last? Do you think you could have done a day in each city with a shipment to FBA every day?

    1. Hi Jeff,

      What city are you in? I can definitely let you know if I make it out that way again. It’s hard to say exactly how long I could have made this trip last, but I definitely think it would be possible to buy enough stuff to do a shipment in every city. I think you could really make a road trip sourcing product as long as you wanted, so if I had enough cities mapped out, I could probably go for weeks or even months at a time buying and shipping along the way.

      Best Regards,

  12. Yolanda @ Extra Student Loan Money

    I enjoyed reading the overview of your trip Ryan! If you plan to stop through Northern California when you take off on your 2,000 mile trip, drop me a line and I’ll show you around the liquidation stores in our area and maybe you can show me a thing or two about retail arbitrage. 🙂

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Yolanda! I will definitely let you know if I end up making it into Northern California!

      Best Regards,

  13. Ryan, thanks for sharing. Sounds like a very productive trip. Hope most of the finds will be flying off the shelf. Let me know if you will be coming through my area and would love to meet and thank you. Lei

    1. Hi Lei,

      Thanks for reading, and I hope many of them will be flying off the shelves as well. I will be sure to let you know if I end up coming through your area!

      Best Regards,

  14. Love the post and hearing about your successful road-trip with Jon. I love the fact you stayed focused on the goal at hand. We all have an idea of how we will achieve our end goal. We see it in our minds one way but inevitably the way we arrive there is many times not what we pictured. The point I wanted to make is you and Jon stayed focused on your objective and although the trip did not go exactly as you planned you still arrived at your main goal. Success! Much more success to you my friend!

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