Planning tips and survival guide for music festival getaways

Aside from writing and traveling, music plays a big role in my life. You see, international artists RARELY go to the Philippines and if they do they tend to come during the end of their careers. That’s why when I began my expat life in the U.S.A. I also began a full throttle music binge. Having lived in LA for most of my time in the US afforded me access to great music venues like the Hollywood Bowl, Greek Theater, Wiltern and smaller ones like the Viper Room, Hotel Cafe and Troubadour. I’ve also traveled outside of LA to attend concerts or to see artists that I love. On top of that, I make it a point to check out local music when I’m traveling overseas.

However, I have never been to a music festival. I finally had the chance to attend the 2011 Coachella Music and Arts Festival last weekend. I was with fellow music aficionado Alex of Europe to La La Land and you can check out a day to day account of our first Coachella experience at her blog. It took some planning but I am happy to report that Alex and I survived the three (3) full days under the desert sun. We had a blast and I think it was due to the fact that we came prepared.

This is why I have decided to put together a guide with tips on how to make the most of your music festival getaway. Note: click on images to enlarge.

1. Plan your music festival getaway ahead of time

The first thing to consider is the type or genre of music you like to listen to. Make a list if it helps. Then from that list you can start searching for a music festival close to where you live. There are also a lot of international music festivals that have a good mix of genres and headline heavyweight performers that don’t usually go on tours. For example, if you like electronic music  you can check out the Creamfields Festival in the UK or if you like rock and hip-hop then check out Lollapalooza in Chicago (tip: they are celebrate their 20th anniversary and will be revealing a good line-up on April 26).

The choice to travel local or go international really depends on your time and your budget (budget for ticket, food, accommodation and transportation). For some people they will go all out to follow an artist that they love.

For a list of music festivals around the world you can go to the following:

Your Festival Guide – worldwide guide to music festivals

Festival Searcher – guide to music festivals in Europe

JamBase Festival Guide – lists the music festivals around North America

Festival Finder – also lists the music festivals around North America

2. Book accommodations early

Keep in mind that music festivals on an average last for 2-3 days. Most of the time they are held in some large field that is away from public transportation or tourist accommodations. So you may have to rent a car and consider home or condo vacation rentals. Some organizers provide camping options but space gets sold out if you are too slow to book.

We stayed at the Doral Princess Resort, it was pretty decent and had a good price!

A budget friendly option is to look for friends or family who have vacation property or timeshare around the area. I’m sure the only charge would be cleaning or some administrative fee for booking. You can also couchsurf! But if you don’t want to worry about accommodations some music festival organizers offer travel packages. This will definitely be more expensive!

I’m already in my 30’s so camping in Coachella was out of the question. When we were trying to book for accommodations 2 months before the event we could only find one that was 30 miles away. It wasn’t actually that far and we were able to enjoy most of the resort’s facilities pre-festival.

3. Buy your ticket immediately after it goes on sale

Most of our phones, computers and email applications have features to set reminders. So as soon as you find out when those music festival tickets are going on sale put it on your calendar. The last thing you want to do is to buy it from ticket scalpers. A music festival ticket normally ranges from $200-$400 which is good for the entire event.

You would think that this is pretty straightforward but believe me we were lucky to buy our Coachella tickets the day it went on sale. It was sold out the next day!

4. Check the weather

Due to the massive size of the event, most music festivals are held outdoors. It’s composed of different areas that play different types of music at any given time. There may be some cover but everyone including performers are exposed to the elements. Knowing what the weather is going to be like during the festival will help you know what to pack and what to wear.

Attire or almost lack of it is completely a personal choice. As I discovered, you can wear whatever you want during music festivals. Anything from casual cool, to hippie chic, to costumey and to almost naked.

Pretty much sums it all up!

5. Pack appropriately and don’t forget the essentials

The most essential things to bring are sunscreen, sun glasses, wet wipes, a hoodie (it gets cold at night), a disposable poncho (it may rain in some places), a hat and a swim suit (for those pool parties). Also, don’t forget to bring cash and small snacks if you get hungry easily. I suggest having a small shoulder bag or a fanny pack (there are stylish ones out there) to carry all of these since most you can already wear. Please do not carry a big backpack around. It is not only annoying to other people around the stage but it is also tiring to lug around the whole day.

This makes me very afraid to have kids!

For Coachella Fest, we rented a locker that cost $63 for 3 days. We used it to stash our big backpack which contained water, snacks and extra clothes (we thought it was going to get really cold). As it turns out you don’t really need all of that so you can cut costs by just having everything on you. Worse thing that can happen is you leave a lot of your extras in the car where the parking lot is a 10-15 minute walk.

6. Carpool with friends or fly cheap

For local music festivals the best option is to carpool with friends or to find one through online forums. If you are flying out to the event, make sure to get cheap tickets. Canvas and book in advance or look at last minute deals during the summer season when anything rarely goes on sale.

Sunset near the Do Lab Tent

For me, carpooling with Alex was a good decision. We listened to a play list of Coachella artists on the road which got us in a rockin’ mood!

7. Organize your band line-up but make room to check out new artists

The objective of doing this is to create a loose guide for you to follow. You don’t want to miss out on artists you like so I advise you to look at when and where they are playing. Each set time is around 30-60 minutes and most often 2 or 3 of you favorite performers are on stage all at the same time. The best way to approach this is to just divide your time and walk around from stage to stage. You don’t have to finish the whole set unless you want to. Also, make room to check out new artists. When you pass by a stage or tent that plays something interesting stop and experience the music.

Rows of tents for music binging!

The Coachella website had a Coachooser application which allowed us to print out a personalized schedule of events. Good thing my friend and I had similar tastes in music so we went around to see our must see artists. But we also made room to go with the flow. We also picked a meeting spot in case we wanted to go in different directions. You may want to do this too if you and your friends do not like like the same performers.

8. RSVP for free parties and special performances

Brands would usually sponsor after parties around music festivals to promote their merchandise. All you need to do is to search online and RSVP to get in. There’s tons of free drinks, freebies and exclusive performances from other music artists.

The Oasis Dome looking like a biosphere.

We did not really do this for Coachella since we were already too tired at the end of each day. There were parties from Rolling Stone and Belvedere at multi-million dollar estates which we skipped. We were primarily there to listen to the music and we could always do the partying back home. We did, however, go to a poolside pre-party. This is another option if you have a network of friends. Ours rented a nice Palm Springs house with a pool. It was a chill shindig.

9. Stay hydrated and get lots of rest

It’s very important to drink a lot of water and to get a good night’s sleep. Let me tell you, there will be a huge temptation to party and consume lots of different substances during music festivals. Try to avoid it or at least do it in moderation. Especially if you are by yourself you will have no one else to take care of you. I suggest that you bring a water canister since most organizers provide water filling stations around the venue.

The desert sun beats down on everyone.

I saw a lot of young folks dropping like flies on the desert field. This often happened at night when all of the days activities and lack of hydration finally hits them. Tsk, tsk, tsk. There were actually a lot of water kiosks around the area and water was not that expensive. Plus, the organizers were offering a free bottle for every 10 used bottles returned. I thought it was a cool idea since it encouraged most of the kids to pick up those that were littered on the field.

10. Have fun but remember don’t do anything stupid

This is always the golden rule. Clean fun folks, clean fun! Attending a music festival is a chance to experience awesome music and to meet fellow music lovers. So always keep your cool and your wits about you. Enjoy and stay safe my friends!

First time music fest attendees having fun!

11 Comments Planning tips and survival guide for music festival getaways

  1. Cathy Sweeney

    What fun you had! Good tips for those to follow in your footsteps or at any music festival. Actually some very good tips for many kinds of events. Nice job on the pics!

  2. Grace

    Thanks Adam…I did not think about the Gold Bond. Or you can just wear a speedo so there is less textile friction =) I saw a few guys wearing bright orange ones.


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