IKEA stores are enormous — depending on the store, they can range from just under 200,000 (Saint Louis, MO) to over 450,000 square feet (the soon-to-open IKEA in Burbank, CA.)

Follow these tips, and your maiden voyage to IKEA should be a snap, which is more than we can say for assembling the stuff you’ll bring home:

14 tips for surviving your first trip to ikea (1)

Make a List

It’s easy to get overwhelmed and distracted by shiny object syndrome if you don’t set a goal, plan your trip and make a list. The Swedish retail giant offers a handy IKEA shopping list feature on its website, so you can make your list and know where in the store you’ll find your stuff.

Check Stock

Before you go, check stock levels at your local store online so you can avoid the hassle of finding out IKEA is out of the item you want.

Pretty, young woman choosing the right furniture for her apartment

Plan Two Trips

Just wandering the store can be a fun way to get design ideas for your home, but one experienced IKEA shopper recommends you keep your inspiration trip separate from your buying trip to minimize stress.

Scout Deals and Discounts

Join the IKEA Family program, and you can get special discounts on featured items, free coffee or tea in the IKEA cafeteria and bonuses like a chance to win a $100 gift card.

Sign Up For The IKEA Moving Program

If you’re moving or just moved, sign up and get $25 off a purchase of $250 or more.

Wait For The Kitchen Sale

If you’re planning to install an IKEA kitchen, call the store to ask when the next kitchen sale will happen. IKEA periodically offers kitchen deals, like 15 percent back in the form of a store credit when you buy a kitchen. When I bought my IKEA kitchen, I saved 20 percent by waiting a month for a sale, then used that extra money to splurge on a quartzite countertop.

The warehouse complex for the storage of consumer goods

Fuel Up Properly

Make sure you get a good night’s sleep and eat a light, nutritious meal before a trip to IKEA. After a few hours in the store, you’ll probably get hungry. Try the IKEA cafeteria, which serves everything from coffee to salmon dinners to IKEA’s famous Swedish meatballs. If you go during lunch hours, especially on a weekend, be prepared to wait in line.

Take a Deep Breath

Are you shopping with your significant other? Relax, try to keep a sense of humor and don’t take the trip too seriously. Some couples have had their worst fights in IKEA, and it turns out that an “IKEA meltdown” is actually a thing.

Bring the Right Company

If you and your main squeeze have really different shopping styles, it might be best to go with a pal who’s more your speed. I only go to IKEA with my husband when we’ve got a specific item to buy because he would hate to spend five hours of browsing weird kitchen gadgets, textiles and garden gear.

Go On a Weekday

When I was in the midst of planning my IKEA kitchen, I once asked a harried IKEA employee what day of the week was least busy, and he told me Tuesday. However, you should be fine making your first trip any weekday when most people are at work, except maybe Friday afternoon.

Avoid Saturdays

The worst day for a newbie to visit is definitely a Saturday, unless you love being pushed along by throngs of shoppers, dodging triple-wide strollers, and standing in line for 30 minutes to get lunch. 

Blue Depot factory

Know The Layout

An IKEA store is set up like a giant maze — you go in and travel through showroom after showroom until finally, maybe hours later, you reach the checkout area and finally the store exit. Study the store map before you go and take note of the many shortcuts you can use to navigate the store.

Control Your Impulses

The IKEA store layout is intentionally designed to be confusing to zap shopper willpower and make you more likely to succumb to impulse purchases. So, remember that before you throw that LATTJO Brain Hat or that GULLHOLMEN banana fiber rocking chair into your cart.

Don’t Expect Stellar Customer Service

The IKEA business model relies heavily on self-service, which helps keep IKEA stuff dirt cheap. The store is designed to be easy to navigate so ideally you never have to track down an IKEA employee — also known as an IKEAN — to ask for help. If you do need to assistance, don’t expect getting it to be easy or quick, especially on a Saturday.

Be Ready for Assembly

If you’re buying anything bigger or more complicated than a set of plates or a soap dispenser, be prepared for assembly, IKEA-style. The wordless IKEA assembly instructions consist of mysterious drawings and no words. If squinting at instructions and wielding allen wrenches isn’t your thing, you can always hire out your IKEA assembly, though it’s not cheap.




Top photo via Wikipedia. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

Allie Johnson