Jul. 07, 2017
Festivals. From Neon Desert to Desert Daze, Burger Boogaloo to CRSSD Fest, these open air kaleidoscopes of dawn-to-dusk entertainment are more popular than ever. At last count, there were more than 2,000 music festivals happening each year around the world, with new ones popping up all the time.
Festival season is upon us and if you’ve been to only handful or are thinking about attending your very first one— you should. Festivals. Are. Awesome. They’re also a world unto themselves, and just like Daniel LaRusso before he was a karate kid, you’ll need a guide. We’re here to be your Mr. Miyagi (without the wax on, wax off business). In this three-part series, we’ve collected everything you need to know to make the most of your festival experience, from what to bring to where to go to how to score free stuff.
Ready to join the caravan? Then buy your ticket, read on, and prepare yourself for a great time.
First things first: Make sure your selfie-stick is allowed. Check the festival website FAQ or Info page to see what is and is not permitted on festival grounds. If you’re going to a camping festival, find out what’s allowed into the campground and what you can actually bring through the gates—the list of items might be different. You don’t want to be stuck hoofing it all the way back to your tent because you didn’t realize that handle of Jim Beam was only allowed near your sleeping bag, not the stage.
You will be searched at security and denied entry if you have any prohibited items—sweet talk will not work here (trust us, we’ve tried). Organizers will not hold anything aside for you to pick up later. If you’re bummed about not being able to bring your drone, laser pointer, hula hoop, dog, fill-in-the-blank: don’t be. They probably won’t help you enjoy the experience any more. Instead, step into the moment and enjoy the incredible, one-of-a-kind experience of being surrounded by thousands of other event-goers in a beautiful setting with amazing art, music, and food.
Once you know what’s allowed, make a checklist so you don’t forget anything important. Here are your festival must-haves:
A light backpack, messenger bag, or fanny pack (yes, fanny pack, or “bum bag” to our Antipodean friends) to stay hands free but still equipped for the day.
Layers of clothing. No matter how hot it is during the day, it’s going to be colder at night. No need to tough it out, bring a sweater. Or, tough it out and offer that sweater to the cute person in front of you who didn’t bring one.
A canteen or Camelbak. Nearly every festival these days has water filling stations. Be kind to both your wallet and Mother Earth and bring a reusable water bottle.
If sunny weather is expected, bring sunscreen, lip balm with SPF, and sunglasses. (And not to sound like your mother, but don’t just bring the sunscreen, put it on—and reapply regularly!)
Chewing gum… and plan on sharing. Remember to throw it in the trash, not on the ground. Someone else’s used gum stuck to your shoes or your shorts is just gross.
Ear plugs. Yes, we all once thought “if it’s too loud, you’re too old.” But, if you want to enjoy great music for the rest of your life, save your ears.
Cash. Hit up the ATM before you hit the festival grounds. Not all vendors accept credit cards, and the inflated ATM fees onsite might kill your vibe. Stash it in a safe place (read: not your pocket). If you don’t mind slightly soggy dollahs, try your shoe..
Wear comfortable shoes that cover your toes. There will be a lot of people doing a lot of dancing, and you will be stepped on. Nobody is going to notice your fancy pedicure, anyway. (Except if you miraculously make it backstage and bump into Wayne Coyne. That guy loves painted toe nails.)
Expect that whatever you may bring or wear will not be in the same condition that it arrived in. So don’t bring anything that you really treasure. Like those brand new, super white Chucks.
If you’re interested in capturing the moment for later, learn how to take great photos, be it on your phone or a fancier camera. The pang of wishing you got that amazing sunset shot but couldn’t figure out the damn settings in time is something we could all do without.
If you have a wristband, register it ahead of time. Each festival is different, but usually registering your wristband gives you access to upgrades, contests, and prizes, plus allows you to easily share photos, videos, and comments to your social channels.
Make sure your phone has enough juice. You don’t want to find yourself lost in a sea of people, unable to find your amigos for the entire duration of the fest. Portable battery chargers (like Mophies) are a great backup plan. Another option is leaving your phone at home and bringing walkie talkies. That way, the iPhone 7 you just bought doesn’t get lost or stolen.
Don’t forget your tickets! If you have print at home tickets, you don’t have to print them, have them ready to go on your phone. Also, make sure your friends all have the same kind of tickets. Nothing is worse than everyone in VIP but you.
Finally, research the parking and transportation. Will there be ample parking (and are you willing to wait in long lines to exit)? How much does a parking pass cost? Check out possible public transit routes, shuttles, or even ways to hoof it.
What makes us festival experts? We’re the folks working behind the scenes with the festivals you love, providing end-to-end event technology and on-site support to more than 200 of ‘em, including Life is Beautiful, Pitchfork Music Festival, Riot Fest, Beale Street Music Fest, and the Broccoli City Festival. We’ve worked 16 hours straight in an outdoor box office on a 90-degree day in Ft. Lauderdale, been on site in the middle of a literal desert for three weeks straight, and taste-tested the best festival food from coast to coast (hey, even worker bees gotta eat). In short, nobody knows festivals better than your friends at the ‘fly.