Summer Music Festival Survival Guide
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The summer concert season is upon us, and that means festivals—sweet, glorious festivals. A good festival experience begins long before you watch that first band take the stage. Buy your ticket as early as possible to get the cheapest price, for example. Seasoned road trippers know how to maximize this most wonderful time of the year by planning ahead. Do you? Use this simple guide to make sure you have a rockin' time.
For some, going to festivals is all about camping. Others choose to find a motel with a hot shower and television. My favorite festivals provide camping AND hot showers. Whatever you decide, advance planning is critical to ensure a positive and comfortable experience.
Most folks setup tents in designated spots. Large festivals such as Creation (Pennsylvania and Washington) and Alive (Ohio) offer VIP locations, which ensure a strategic location and shorter walk to the main venue. Ideally, you'll want to be close to restrooms and showers. Other considerations for prime spots may include other stages, the general store and recreational areas. If you're living it up in an RV, be sure to register for the area with proper hookups.
If you’d prefer a motel or resort, check festival websites first. The recommended places usually offer discounts as festival partners. Just don't limit yourself there. Search other popular travel websites, such as Orbitz or Expedia, that offer complete lists by price or distance from the event with the added benefit of user ratings. Don't be the person who ends up getting eaten alive by bedbugs because you picked the first place you saw! Find the motel with the best user reviews at the cheapest price in a reasonable distance from the venue. Don't forget that almost every establishment will offer a discount if you can scrounge up a AAA membership.
Packing for the Festival
If possible, pack the night before you leave. You may have time the next day, but 30 different things will occur to you as you pack and tracking down those items takes more time. Also, weather doesn't always cooperate and no one wants to be loading a car in a thunderstorm that just happened to roll in!
Take necessities, such as sunglasses, flashlights, sunscreen, ponchos and bug spray. Most of all think about the food situation. You'll want a cooler or two and ice. Grab a hibachi grill if you can, especially for week-long events. Load up on all your favorite snacks and remember how many grocery bags will be squeezed into the vehicle during the ride out.
The rule for clothing is to have enough, but don't pack a dozen t-shirts if you plan on buying a couple at the event. Cargo shorts or pants are nice for their pocket space, especially when you're carrying a camera, phone, water, and more. Be sure to have plenty of white for sweltering days. Check online for any modesty rules as some faith-based festivals don't allow shirtless guys or bikini-clad girls. Also, everyone must have something comfortable for when temperatures dip. Many folks prefer hoodies.
General storage also matters. Consider a backpack or shoulder bag if you run with a demanding troupe. If you've got kids, be sure to have a stroller that can handle some serious off-road travel. Think about what type of blankets or chairs you'll want on the lawn night after night, and remember that you might have a long walk to and from the stage.
Showing up hours or even days in advance is helpful when it comes to camping festivals where key spots are snatched up by the early birds. Of course, many people don't have that extra time. Whenever you arrive, be sure to know the schedule enough to avoid missing your favorite band by one hour because you're stuck in a line of traffic or setting up tents. The internet is your friend once again. Schedules and updates (sudden band cancellations and delays) may appear on the event website; so check often.
Study the Festival Schedule
Get to know those schedule booklets well. They usually float around by the thousands. My friend rips out the timeline page for less bulky travel. Pocket space is important. You don't want to be bogged down, especially if you're getting in the mix.
Figure out a daily plan of attack. Events can include worship, speakers, games and more. Youth leaders should seek out special areas designed just for them. Adventurists will want to schedule some hiking or biking.
One of the biggest advantages to festivals is artist accessibility. They often hang around their merchandise booth and will sometimes setup prolonged meet and greets. Do you like autographs, pictures or just a chance to shake the hand of someone who inspires you? Keep alert for announcements of appearances.
Have a Blast
Whether you like to get crazy and sprint into circle pits or just observe in a chair far away from the stage, use your time to reflect and recharge. These events are full of other folks looking for the same thing as you. A beautiful summer week of music and meaning is a great way to build memories.
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