Regardless of whether you’re hitting up one or ten music festivals this year, there’s still some amount of preparation required for each one. You and your group are put up against massive crowds, unfamiliar territory, extreme climates, and questionable states of mind. You might end up as group leader, you might be tagging along for a good time. Either way, make sure your asses are covered.
These things take planning. Buy your festival tickets and figure out where you’ll be sleeping as early on as possible. It can literally save you hundreds of dollars. Most festivals offer cheaper pre-sale or layaway tickets if you buy far enough in advance. Those tickets sold on Craigslist a week before the event are often posted at more than the original cost.
When it comes to your sleeping quarters, camping spots can sell out and require additional planning, but really do offer the full festival experience. Whose cars will you be taking? Who has tents? What kind of food won’t spoil over the course of three days (hint: apples and oranges, tortillas, peanut butter and jelly, and protein bars)? Are there bathing amentities? If you decide to rent out a hotel or condo, prices are also cheaper the earlier you book. Make sure to look into parking options, what all is provided (like bedsheets, towels, refrigerator, air conditioning), transportation options for getting to the festival itself, and what the security deposit is like.
Accept the fact that no matter how large or small your group is, you will be separated at some point, and you’ll likely only stick with one to three other people for any extended amount of time. It’s okay. In fact, it’s ideal. Say hi to friends, plan to meet up at some point, and move on. Smaller pods of pals are better for crowd-maneuvering, standing in line for food and port-o-potties, and agreeing on a basic plan. Find your core group and use the buddy system. We really did learn everything we needed to know in kindergarten.
When it comes to your more extended group, plan general meet-up points a couple of times per day. Pick an easy landmark, but not the same one that every single other giant group at the festival is going to use. And, remember that cell phones normally have very limited service when so many festival-goers are frolicking in one space. Avoid relying on your phone, and when you must text, include a timestamp in case your text is delayed when it’s sent. “Meet at 11:15” is better than “I’ll be there in five minutes.” Also, use statements instead of questions to avoid having to send multiple texts: “Meet at the flaming mermaid” is more productive than “Where do you want to meet?”
Try to plan out your lineup schedule at the beginning of each day, ideally when everyone is together. There will be a zillion acts that you’ll want to see, but the schedule is normally set up so that a few major acts play at the same time. This way, the giant crowd of people is split between a few different stages at once, instead of all crowding at one. Have each person look at the schedule and list their ideal day. Compare schedules, then plan out who’s teaming up with whom, and when. This avoids frustration and confusion later on, and saves you time when figuring out when to head to the next act.
You’ll want to have minimal baggage at the festival itself, so take time to plan accordingly. Some groups are okay cramming everyone’s stuff into one bigger backpack and then switching off holding onto it – the success of this method largely depends upon how much you trust every member of your group not to lose the bag/themselves. Fanny packs or personal small bags and pockets also work. Either way, make sure that you always have (or have access to):
- Your ticket
- Lip Balm
You might also want to consider bringing gum, tissues, hair ties for girls, snacks, and eyedrops, but some security checks may prevent you from bringing foods or liquids in to the venue. If you’re not bringing your own food, leave time and cash to eat, and make sure that you’re constantly drinking water.
Dress appropriately for the climate, including day and night. Deserts are sweltering while the sun is up, but can get unbearably windy and cold after sunset. Forests get foggy and will be cold. Consider renting out a locker to store pants and jackets. You don’t want your favorite act’s set to be marred by discomfort. Festivals are also increasingly becoming destinations for fashion statements. Before you shimmy into those tight new jean shorts that ride up your butt or let that random chick paint swirly rainbows on your face, consider how it’s going to feel when you’re dripping sweat/about to sit down in dirt/attempting to bathe out of a bucket with no mirror around. If it’s a harmless adventure, go for it. If it’s not worth the trouble, move on.
Most importantly, be flexible and don’t take anything too seriously. Having the best festival weekend isn’t necessarily about how many bands you catch, how close to the stage you get, or how many friends you meet up with. It’s about rolling with the experience and being there. You’re going to have a great time.