Travel Tips for Surviving Summer Music Festivals

Lorde performs “Royals” at the Grammy Nominations Concert Live! on Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)
Grammy Award-winning singer, Lorde, is among the list of performers at this year’s September Boston Calling Festival.
Matt Sayles/Associated Press

The summer months are the biggest season for outdoor music festivals. With the release of the Boston Calling line-up and dates, the season has officially kicked off. If you’re planning on traveling to or attending a festival, here is what you need to know.

Tickets. Buy early. The earlier the better. You’ll save money, in most cases, with early-bird discounts. Plus, tickets for most festivals sell out quickly so watch the calendar and check when they go on sale, suggests to the Associated Press. Consider day passes or weekend passes for cheaper rates too. You’ll experience a lot more at the same—or even lower—costs. Do not wait until you arrive to buy tickets—many people have fallen victim to counterfeit scams after purchasing fake or scalped tickets.

Getting there. Airports often raise prices during peak seasons and for events. If you plan on flying, check for a secondary airport (think Chicago Midway vs. Chicago O’Hare). Sometimes, they’ll offer cheaper rates than central airports, the Associated Press reports. Carpooling is the cheapest and best way. Some festivals even have benefits and rewards for carpoolers, such as Coachella’s Carpoolchella contest.

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Lodging. Many people camp out, which is definitely the cheapest option. If you prefer a hotel, says the Associated Press book early, before airfare or other travel arrangements. Hotel rooms book up quickly and the cheapest options can go fast. Use apps like Travelzoo and Expedia to view and score deals.

Bags. A lot of festivals have policies for purses and backpacks. Look them up right after you buy your tickets. Bring a bag that’s sturdy and medium-sized, so it holds all the essentials. Make sure you can carry it comfortably, since you will most likely be moving around a lot. Keep valuables with you at all times, USA Today says, and watch out for pickpockets. Sadly, thefts are not uncommon as music festivals.

Boston, MA 5/25/2013 Fans reacting to Matt Johnson (cq) and Kim Schifino (cq) with the band, Matt & Kim (cq) performing on the main stage at the Boston Calling Music Festival on City Hall Plaza on Saturday May 25, 2013. (Mattthew J. Lee/Globe staff)Topic: 28bostoncalling_photosReporter: James Reed
Attendees at last May’s Boston Calling Music Festival.
The Boston Globe

What to Bring. Check out lists, like Festival Survival Guide’s Ultimate Packing List, to get an idea of what most people bring. Definitely pack a toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer, reports USA Today. Overcrowded public bathrooms often run out of supplies, so save yourself the trouble and bring your own. Other must-haves are sunglasses or a hat, sunscreen, and a first-aid kit. If you’re worried about packing too much, buddy up with other festivalgoers and divide up packing lists. Check out festival websites ahead of time, too, for an overview of items allowed and not allowed in.

Research. Learn as much as you can about the festival ahead of time and get tuned in to secret tips to save money and have a better time, says the Associated Press. Download the festival’s mobile app, along with apps like Festival Ready, Yelp, and other travel apps, to get minute-by-minute updates on discounts and other fun promotions. Festival Ready also includes navigation and weather features.

Food and drink. Mostly everything at festivals is marked up at least a little. Save money—and time waiting in lines—by packing your own snacks. The top thing to bring, reports the LA Times, is water. If the festival has a no-water policy, bring a bottle. Most festivals provide free water stations and it’s important to stay hydrated when outside all day. Bring along non-perishable snacks too—such as crackers, dried fruit, and nuts—to keep your energy up.

What to Wear. USA Today suggests wearing closed-toed shoes. Do yourself a favor—and save your toes from injury—by wearing comfy shoes, like sneakers. Check the weather ahead of time and bring weather-appropriate clothes, including an extra layer or two in case the temperature drops.

Be Aware. When researching the festival, pay close attention to drug and alcohol policies. Many people think music festivals are an excuse to party hard. Festival overseers are responding and some have strict policies—and even bans—on substances, like Boston Calling’s drug and alcohol regulations. There’s nothing wrong with having a good time, but be mindful of the rules and exercise good judgment.