Here is the last round of tips for doing festivals smarter this year! My new friend Steff, who runs a cool music blog in New Zealand, is an avid music festival traveler, and today she’s sharing her tips for smarter traveling.
Hi, I’m Steff. I live in New Zealand with my cantankerous drummer husband and a collection of medieval weapons. I spend my summers headbanging from one mosh pit to another. I’ve leapt over rivers of urine to see Amon Amarth play on a viking ship, I’ve seen Blackmore’s Night perform in the grounds of a medieval castle, and I’ve danced on stage with Alestorm. I’ve been kidnapped by enthusiastic German fans and lost my cellphone at a System of a Down set only to have it returned by an awesome dude.
I’ve travelled tens of thousands of miles to see the bands of love, and I’m here today to talk to you about making travel to and from fests a fun and enjoyable experience.
1. Choose Your Festival Buddies Wisely
Whether you’re sharing a car ride to the next state or you’re traipsing across Europe in a campervan for eight weeks, you’ve got to choose festival buddies who are gonna make the trip awesome for everyone involved. The truth is, not everybody gets on well with everybody else, and if two people are arguing, it brings down the whole group.
So how do you avoid a situation where your friend wants to travel with you, but you know she and your partner just won’t get on? Simple – make sure you are the first person with a plan. My husband and I will usually decide where we want to go and how we’re gonna get there pretty early on, and then we will sit down with friends we think might be interested and spell out the plan and ask if they’re keen to join us. This way, we can be sure all our spaces are filled with people we know we get on with.
2. Set Expectations Early On
Not everyone has the same travelling style or budget, and this can cause problems if costs and expectations aren’t spelled out in the beginning. For example, I’m pretty chilled out, and generally try to do things as cheaply as possible, which means tents all the way. My husband, however, is a bit older, and he prefers to rent a camper for festivals, so he always has somewhere warm and dry and private to go, no matter the weather (and we all know how unpredictable festival weather can be!) So if we’re going to a festival with friends, I make sure they know that we’re going in a campervan, and have the costs, etc, all planned out. When we meet up, we establish a few ground rules (such as no shoes on in the van) to make the whole experience nicer for everyone.
3. Book Early
Whether it’s cross-country travel or international flights, the earlier you book, the cheaper the price. Book as soon as you can, and it helps to be flexible with dates (especially with flights) so that you can fiddle around with departure and arrival dates to get the best deal. The more money you save on travel, the more you have to spend on t-shirts and mead.
4. Pack Light
Now, I don’t know about you guys, but I go a bit shopping crazy while at festivals. We go to a lot of festivals in Europe, where the vendors sell stuff you just can’t get back in New Zealand. Plus, there are often medieval markets where you can buy hand-forged jewellery, drinking horns, and artisan mead … which is my one weakness. OK, one of my many weaknesses. My husband (who pretty much only wears jeans and band t-shirts) gets his entire year’s wardrobe from festivals).
I pack the bare minimum I need to get through the festival, because I know I’m gonna buy stuff while I’m there. There is no sense stuffing your pack to bursting – it’s just more stuff to cart around, get ruined, get stolen, and get you in trouble with airport security if it’s overweight.
(just a note on shopping: when you’re going crazy at the festival market, don’t forget about customs. In New Zealand, we have strict rules about what you can carry back into the country, so that wooden tribal mask or viking drinking horn might end up left behind at the airport. Likewise, avoid easily breakable stuff or too many bottles of mead. Honey-soaked luggage is not a pleasant experience. Trust me.)
5. The Perfect Playlist
Get everyone pumped for an awesome week with an appropriately awesome playlist for the car / bus / train / camper / plane ride. I like to mix up my favourites from the lineup with some great classic road-trip singalong songs.
One thing a lot of festival-goers love to do is decorate their vehicle with tape, flags, paint, streamers and festival or band stickers. It gives you a real cool feeling following the line of decorated cars down the motorway toward the entrance. We usually pin up a NZ flag and have also written the festival’s name in black tape across our back window.
7. Arrive Early & Scope Out the Scene
We usually arrive at a festival the day before it officially starts. There are a couple of reasons for this. 1. We usually rent a camper and so the earlier you get there, the better spot you’ll get. 2. If you’re meeting friends at the festival, it’s easier to locate them and stake out a camping spot when there aren’t so many people there and 3. It’s nice to meet your festival neighbours and have a few relaxing beers before the real party starts. Because I’m legally blind, it’s also nice to be able to walk around the festival grounds without the crowds and figure out the lay of the land.
Plus, the earlier you arrive, the quicker you can get into the t-shirt line.
8. Schedule in some post-festival down time.
Whenever I have to leave a festival and say goodbye to all that fantastic music and all the new friends, it’s always a bummer. Not to mention the fact that I’m tired, sunburnt, smelly, and possibly covered in bruises. The last thing I want to do is head off on another adventure or go back to the office.
So whether you’re heading home or on to the next destination, schedule in a day or two of recovery time. Many people I know who travel regularly for festival book a hotel room the next day to shower, sleep and acclimatize to the real world again.
The added bonus of having a day or two of free time following a fest is that you often make new friends who are going off to do cool things, and it’s nice to be able to join them instead of rushing off somewhere.
So there are my travel tips. What can you add to the list? What is the furthest you’ve travelled to for a festival?
Steff Metal is a writer, blogger, artist, wedding celebrant, home brewer and heavy metal maiden. She is the author of At War With Satan, a humorous novel about metalheads fighting the apocalypse that’s been described as “part Dante’s Inferno, part Wayne’s World.” Her second novel, a steampunk dark fantasy about an alternative history Georgian London where dinosaurs still survive, is coming out in July. On her blog, Steff Metal, she reviews metal albums and concerts, documents her travel adventures and her life as an off-grid smallholder, and gets you merry with recipes for mead and fruit wine.
More posts in this series:
How to eat smarter at music festivals
How to do beauty smarter at music festivals
How to good groupie it up smarter at music festivals
How to dress smarter at music festivals