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Congrats! You’ve purchased your ticket to go to a music festival! Now what?
When I attended my first two-day music festival I was WOEFULLY unprepared. This was way back in 2013 at Lights All Night in Dallas. I’ve learned so much since then. The mistakes I made could have been completely avoided had I done a little research. Don’t be like me and end up at a show completely unprepared. I’m compiling what all I’ve learned since then here. NOTE: this post is for a non-camping music festival.
- Stay in an event affiliated hotel- If you’re not lucky enough to live in the same town as the event, you’ve got to plan somewhere to stay. Sometimes the festival works deals with local hotels in order to give the attendees a discounted rate. I would definitely check the event website to see if they have this option. I did this when attending Something Wicked in Houston a couple of years ago and it was kind of awesome because we were able to make friends with lots of other festie people back at the hotel.
- Airbnb, but book way in advance- If you’re going to go this route I highly recommend booking it ASAP as possible (#officejoke hehe). The good ones book up fast and you don’t want to be left with slim pickings in a rough area or extremely far away from the event. Those uber rides add up y’all!
- Utilize lodging that provides shuttles when possible (& DON’T forget to tip!)-Speaking of uber rides, think about your transportation. We especially prefer to stay in affiliated hotels if they offer a shuttle to and from the event. The hotel I stayed at for Lights all Night 2018 offered a shuttle to the event which was really nice. You get to ride over with all your buddies in one vehicle and again, save on Uber costs.
Also, tip the driver! From my friend John: “If you remember, we were on the last shuttle over to LAN and it filled up and our whole crew didn’t make it down on time to get on. When he dropped us off, I talked to him for a minute to ask how his night was going because he seemed a little grumpy. He said something about how they probably wouldn’t do this shuttle again because the tipping was terrible. It never even dawned on me to do this. Think about it, he’s dealing with a lot of crazy stuff going back and forth. I happily gave him a tip which put a big smile on his face. I mentioned our whole crew didn’t make it over and he said he’ll make a trip back to get them, call them and tell them to be waiting.” It’s important to tip if you’re not directly paying for the ride.
- Exercise beforehand- You’ll be exploring the festival for a good part of the day, hopping from stage to stage, and most importantly, dancing to your favorite artists throughout the night! Stamina is key here! Use this as motivation to get into an exercise routine if you don’t have one already! Besides the obvious day to day benefits (I feel so much better when I’m exercising regularly), I’ve noticed festivals are much more enjoyable when I’ve been sticking to my exercise routine than when I’m slacking. (And there’s the added benefit of feeling good in my outfit!) After a long day of walking around and dancing, you’ll still want energy for the most important part of the day; the headliners! They’re always the last ones on for the night and this is where you’ll notice your exercise paying off because your legs won’t be on fire!
- Bring a Hydration pack– Get yourself a hydration pack before to take with you. If you’re doing a lot of walking and dancing into the night you’re going to need to rehydrate. Purchasing water bottles and carrying them around with you is A. a pain and B. costs money. A hydration pack frees up having to hold anything and holds a lot more water than one water bottle so that way you don’t have to leave the crowd every time you’re thirsty and risk losing your spot and your friends. There are usually free water stations located around the event to refill up your pack between shows. Find those on the map and know where they’re at! Make sure they’re empty when you arrive, can’t bring them in full. Use the code HOLLYDAY10 for 10% off your order at Vibedration!
- Be mindful of what you do decide to take & consider a fanny pack- Be conscious of what you put in the pockets. At one festival during a set, I witnessed a man trying to steal a cell phone out of the girl’s backpack right in front of me. It’s uncommon but it does happen. Fanny packs are another great option for if you have an item you’re really concerned about. And don’t just get a plain one! Get one that stands out. I’ve got my eye on this sling pack from Vibedration, rn!
- Must-have’s to bring in: These are some items I always bring: cash, ID, gum, earplugs, hotel key (or whatever you’re using to get back into your lodging), credit or debit card, your ticket if you printed it, and a mobile juice pack with a charging cord. I usually have them scan my ticket from my phone and if you would prefer to do this make sure your phone is fully charged before you leave!
- Read the event website for prohibited items- Don’t be that person who waits an hour in line just to realize when you get to the security check that your bag doesn’t meet the requirements. Then you’ll have to either A. throw it away or B. have to go all the way back to the hotel and go through the security line again and risk missing a show you really wanted to see! It takes two seconds to find the list on the event website and read it.
What to wear:
- Comfort above all else- you may think I’m crazy since I am totally all about servin’ up a ~lewk~ but I’ve totally learned my lesson that being in pain all night from cute AF shoes or freezing because you just had to wear that crop top is not worth it. You will be moving around a lot so you can imagine why most people wear stretchy clothing! When picking out my shoes I like to have my feet entirely covered. If you like to push up in the crowd it’s good to have your feet protected. And wear shoes that you’re not afraid to get dirty. My go-to shoes are my New Balance sneaks, Converse, or recently I purchased a pair of Vans and Doc Martens.
- Then what do I wear?- Seriously, whatever you want. This is a judgment-free zone. If you’re wondering what I like to throw on for events, check out my Instagram page for a few options. I like leggings, bodysuits, high-waisted flares, COMFY shoes, BRIGHT colors, sparkles, and anything that people will actually appreciate at an event like this. Have fun with it but I’m serious about putting comfort first!
Some of my favorite brands are SeaDragon Studio, Forever 21, Victoria Secret (Swim & Sport), iHeartRaves, & Princess Polly.
- Bring something to keep you warm- I’ve attended festivals before where I dressed for the day time temperature but once that sun went down and I was outside of the crowd, I was very much regretting my outfit choice. The best purchase I ever made was a pashmina. Those are the colorful scarves that you see at just about every fest. It is honestly is so versatile. And they’re fun to dance with! My friend John always stuffs a long sleeve Under Armour shirt in his bag just in case. It’s thin, lightweight, doesn’t take up much space and makes a world of difference if you need it!
- A bandana/face mask- I got a one of these as a gift for my friend when he first started coming to festivals with me. They’re really versatile. They keep your face and neck warm when it’s cold & I’ve used mine as a dust mask before. Lastly, they’re just a fun lil touch on your outfit.
- If it rains: Clearly, check the weather before you go to see if there is any chance of rain. If there is you’re going to want to plan accordingly. Some of my good friends have started a company called (hugs:) Universe in which they’re creating the perfect festival poncho. Not only will it be fashionable but they’ve taken great care to craft it specifically for festival goers. Their company isn’t just about a rain poncho though, their mission is much greater.
From the (hugs:) website: “hugs:) Universe is a space for good people to create and share new experiences that develop and support mental fitness, health and total wellness.”
Make a game plan:
- Plan who you want to see- Obviously, some of the acts on the line up caught your eye which is why you purchased your ticket OR your friends are going, you don’t know who’s on the line up, but you know it’s fun and want to go along (like me circa 2013 LAN). By now I usually know most of the top acts but there are always artists on the line up who I’ve never listened to so I like to take the time before the event and listen to the other artists to see if that’s a set I’d like to try to catch. You never know who your new favorite will be!
- Look at the Event Map– After narrowing down who you want to see, check the daily schedule set times so you can plan out the logistics. And YES it’s important to do this because they’re usually not all at the same stage! You’re going to have to map out who is playing where and at what time. Sometimes there are conflicting set times for artists we want to see and had split the set so we could see both.
- Make the day’s set schedule + your name and a friend’s phone number your phone background- Honestly, the majority of the time I’m at the actual event, I’m looking at my phone for the set times to understand who is playing at the moment (yes, sometimes you’re not sure because their name isn’t projected on the screen behind them the whole time) or what time the next set starts so I know if it’s time to start moving that way in order to get a good spot or if I have time to go to the bathroom or refill my hydration pack before the next set starts! If you do happen to lose your phone, make it easy for whoever finds it to get it back to you. In the past, I’ve put my name and a friends phone number as my lock screen for this exact reason. See example below!
- Set a permanent meet up spot- It’s always a good idea to set a permanent meet spot for your crew. You need a game plan for if your phone dies, you lose signal, or your phone is lost/stolen. It really does happen. I did this when I attended Bonnaroo and I was glad I did because I did lose signal and was needing to find my people before the next show. I found them at the meet-up spot and was thankful we had that plan in place.
These are all things I wish I knew before my first event. It would have made my time much more enjoyable. I hope these help you when planning to attend your first festival! If you have tips or tricks you’ve learned over the years I’d love to hear them in the comments!