The sun is shining, the snow has (mostly) melted and festival season is in full swing — signaling a time when we can dress up, let loose and indulge in some much-needed adventure. Unfortunately, the thing no one tells you about adventure is that it has the potential to get exhausting. While there’s no wrong way to enjoy musical gatherings, avoiding common mistakes like forgetting to eat, drink enough water or bring appropriate clothing, can make the difference between surviving and thriving this festival season.
A little preparedness goes a long way in helping you soak in all that these experiences have to offer. Whether you are camping, traveling out of town or enjoying a local festival like the Underground Music Showcase, here are some tried and true tips to ensure that you nurture your mind, body and budget while still having the time of your life.
Know Your Limits
It’s a marathon, not a sprint — and nothing ruins a good time like too much of a good thing. The combination of lack of sleep, sun exposure, not enough food and too much booze, can be a dangerous one. Chances are you paid a pretty penny for your ticket and travel expenses, so do yourself a favor (and your friends who have to take care of you) and try not to overdo it on the brews.
While watching your alcohol intake is an obvious and necessary precaution, don’t be afraid to honor your limits in other ways as well. Particularly at multi-day camping festivals, it’s easy to get overwhelmed — especially for people who are typically more introverted. Don’t be afraid to retreat if you feel like you need a break from the action. Activities like coloring books, making bracelets and even playing with play dough are simple and fun ways to relax after a long day of dancing. Finding a shady spot to meditate or taking a power nap in your tent are also great ways to recharge.
Respect the Venue and Fellow Attendees
Festivals give us the space to connect with ourselves and others through novel experiences. They are a space where we can embrace that childlike curiosity that still lingers in every one of us. So, please — don’t kill the vibe by disrespecting the land that you occupy, your fellow festival-goers and the staff that are there to keep everything running smoothly.
Some common disrespectful practices include — but are not limited to — leaving trash behind after cleaning up your campsite, littering cigarette butts and other waste (just because it’s small, doesn’t mean it isn’t harmful), urinating anywhere that isn’t a restroom or port-o-potty and treating festival staff like they are solely there to serve you. Think of yourself as a guest in this space — it is your privilege, not your right to be there. Act accordingly.
This one is a given — but often easier said than done. In addition to the ticket itself, expenses add up quickly after factoring in travel costs, refreshments and merchandise inside the venue and supplies if you are camping. Set realistic budget goals and do your best to stick to them. If you think setting aside $20 a day when you plan on having several beers plus food inside the venue is a viable plan, you may want to reconsider your budget. Be realistic about what you can spend so you aren’t scraping by — it’s no fun getting home and realizing that you have $15 to stretch until your next pay period.
If you have lofty summer festival goals but not the income to match, look into volunteering. Many volunteer programs require a few hours of work a day in exchange for a free or reduced price ticket — like this program at Electric Forest. This is also a great option if you are looking to gain experience in the music and event industry.
Take Care of Yourself
Amidst the excitement, it’s easy to lose track of the things that keep our bodies running optimally. It would be a shame if something as preventable as a blister or dehydration derailed your adventures. First, pay attention to your nutrition. Pack nutrient-dense foods like granola bars, nuts and dried fruit to keep up your energy levels. Apart from being uncomfortable, dehydration can be dangerous. If you haven’t already, invest in a hydration pack like this compact one from CamelBak or these from Vibedration if you’re looking for something more stylish. Emergen-C packets and powdered Pedialyte are also great ways to introduce vitamins and electrolytes into your diet that will help keep you hydrated and feeling your best.
Second, if you prefer not to have dirt permanently crusted on your feet, baby wipes will be your best friend. Wipes are also immensely useful inside of the venue since many bathrooms run out of toilet paper as the day goes on. While most camping festivals have showers available, they often cost money and require waiting in line — it may behoove you to pack a portable solar shower that you can hang from a car or tree.
Next, don’t neglect your hearing by forgetting to pack earplugs — you’ll be grateful you have them when your neighbors are inevitably blasting trap music at 6 a.m. While foam earplugs work for music as well, you may want to look into higher-end options that protect your ears but preserve sound quality like these or these. Lastly, don’t be afraid to sacrifice some style for comfort when it comes to shoes — keep in mind that you’ll likely be walking 5+ miles per day.
Keep Track of Your Crew
Whether you’re in a group of two or 20, having a game plan for meeting up with your crew is essential — no one wants to spend the festival wandering around aimlessly for their lost friend. Make use of the buddy system so if you both get lost, at least you have a friend by your side. Have a map handy and designate meeting areas if you become separated. Totems and flags are a great way to make yourself visible to a lost member of your group and are relatively cheap to make with PVC pipe (check first to make sure they are allowed inside the venue).
Portable two-way radios are also helpful since cell phone service is sparse or nonexistent at many venues. If you do happen to have cell phone service, be sure to time stamp texts sent to friends since reception may be spotty and cause delayed messages. A text sent at 10 p.m about meeting at a certain stage will not be helpful if received three hours later.
Expect the Unexpected
Be prepared for hiccups in your plan because they will undoubtedly happen. Sudden weather changes, stage malfunctions, transportation delays and long lines are realities when planning an event for thousands of people. Operations of this size will always have their downfalls and every year is an opportunity to learn. Don’t let factors that are out of your control ruin your experience.
Instead, focus on what you can control. Even if the weather forecast says 75 degrees and sunny, pack warm clothes and a raincoat or poncho anyway. And socks — you can never pack too many socks. While you don’t want to overpack, having extra layers is a must, especially if there is a large discrepancy between daytime and nighttime temperatures. Having compact layers that easily fit into a small backpack will serve you well when that midday monsoon catches you by surprise.
Be Prepared for the Post Festival Blues
Maybe it’s the fact that you were looking forward to the festival for so long or that you desperately need to catch up on sleep before heading back to work — regardless of the reason, it’s natural to not quite feel like yourself when you get back to reality. If you can, schedule a buffer day (or even just a free morning) between returning home and jumping back into everyday life.
Keep a list of movies or television shows you’ve been wanting to watch so you can skip the mental anguish of endless scrolling and be sure to stock up on your favorite quick and easy meals. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, schedule a massage or spa day — or maybe a comfy chair and a good book are all that you need to feel balanced once again.
Remember that it’s natural to feel gloomy after returning home and that this mood will eventually pass. Whether self-care means taking a long nap, eating plenty of tasty snacks or indulging in a Netflix binge (or all of the above), allow yourself this time to recharge and gear up for the responsibilities of the days ahead.
Be Open to New Experiences
While you may be tempted to plan out every minute of your day, don’t pack your schedule so tightly that you miss out on the joy of spontaneous discovery. Make note of musical acts you don’t want to miss, but be flexible as well. Many festivals offer a wide array of workshops like yoga classes, permaculture, gardening workshops and even improv classes — take a step out of your comfort zone and try something new, you may just discover your next favorite hobby.
In addition to trying new activities, be open to making connections with new people. Festivals are a great place to meet friends and gain fresh perspectives. If you are camping, be sure to introduce yourself to your neighbors. Remember that many people attend festivals solo in hopes of meeting people along the way. Set aside judgments and preconceived notions and welcome new friends into your circle — you never know who will change your life for the better.