In honour of festival season in Australia (honestly, I’m not sure if it ever actually stops. There always seems to be SOMETHING happening. And I love it. My back account however, does NOT), I thought I’d share some of my shifty advice for all of this year’s newbies.
I’ve been going to music festivals yearly since 2011 when I was 16, with my first being Groovin the Moo in Townsville. In my opinion, Groovin is the perfect-sized festival, especially in Townsville (which I have travelled to 4 times now for that beloved long weekend in May) as the Murray Sports Complex isn’t as big as some of the other venues and therefore has a much more relaxed vibe. Don’t get me wrong, there’s always going to be dickheads no matter WHERE you go, but it’s all about making the most of that sweet 12 hours and remembering why you’re there (hopefully for the music! haha).
Since I’ve have to travel to every festival I’ve been to so far (and by travel I mean either get on a plane or drive 4 hours+) I thought it would be handy to chuck in a few travel and planning tips as well. I know everyone’s different, but personally, I like to have all of the details organised as early as possible, so when the weekend arrives I can literally just pack my bags and go!
After much deliberation (a.k.a. 10 minutes in between editing a playlist on my phone) I have decided that the easiest way to break down things is to go step-by-step. Obviously you don’t have to do it in any particular order, but this method is just what’s worked for me in the past and I have always managed to make it to the festival jusssssstttt in time 😉 (who am I kidding, I’m usually embarrassingly early for these things?! With the exception of missing Circa Waves at Splendour this year 🙁 but I blame the retarded bus system for that one. They did NOT have my back that day).
WARNING: I feel like this may be a long one, but it’s better to just have it all in one place rather than me attempting to split it into two witty posts. Enjoy 🙂
Step 1: The Crew
So, the dates have just been released for a killer festival and you a) are actually able to afford it and b) have heard early enough to get shit organised without having to take all the last minute expensive options. But before you can go ahead and book anything, you need to work out who you’re going with.
As dramatic as it is to say, the people you go with to a festival really can make or break the day. If you’re going just to have a laugh with your mates then who to take is gonna be a pretty easy decision (the fun ones – duh!) but if you’re like me and run around all day chasing bands then you’re going to want to sieve through that friends list a little more.
Ideally, the perfect festival companion is someone who wants to see the same artists as you, or even if they don’t – are willing to tag along as good, NON-SULKING company (trust me, I’ve had the latter, and it’s the freaking WORST mood-killer). They’ll want to be there to have a good time and won’t ditch you half way through for someone else (don’t even bother trying to call them, even if you have 5 bars, because chances are it won’t ring through :/ ).
I’ve been to festivals with nearly all of my friends at one stage or another, and the vibe definitely differentiates depending on the chemistry of the group. There’s no secret formula or quiz to find out “who your perfect festival squad is”, and sometimes the people you hardly know end up being your best pal by the end of the day.
Going solo is also an option (I’ve done Soundwave alone) but I would definitely recommend seeing if anyone else wants to go, even if you do your own thing throughout the day and share a hotel room. Saving $$$ is NEVER a bad thing.
Step 2: Budget
[I’ve made this Step 2 because if you’re going with a group, or even just one other person, your costs are going to be cut. You can split the room, the fuel, the taxi fee… Going with someone else is just cheaper. Usually.]
This may be the control freak in me speaking (it’s certainly not the adult), but the first thing to do when planning ANY trip is work out how much it’s approximately going to cost you, and when you’re going to have to pay for it all.
Ticket prices are usually released pretty early on, so you can start saving for those as soon as you decide you’re actually going with, but it’s things like accomodation, transport and spending money that you’re going to have to work out yourself. The main reason that I plan my festival trips so early is so that I have as much time as possible to save up for them and get everything booked and paid for. I’m also terrible at saving money unless I have a reason to, so working out what I’m going to pay for and when makes it easier to set goals and tick them off.
In terms of actual spending money for the trip – well that entirely depends on what you’re doing. Are you going there JUST for the festival? Or are you going to be going to town as well, or shopping or doing touristy things? No, not all of those things have to be organised in advance, but it’s a good idea to have some money set aside in case the gang decides to hit up Dreamworld the day after.
Step 3: Accomodation
Once you’ve determined how many people are coming with you and who’s staying with who, you need to jump on Google and start scoping out accomodation. A lot of the time, hotels raise their rates when they know a big festival is happening in the area, so it’s best to get in early before all of the cheap ones are snagged up.
This year, as soon as the Splendour DATES were released, accomodation rates in Byron sky-rocketed, and even AirBnB hosts had raised their prices for the week. Which is totally understandable, but if you’re like me and only use the room to upend your suitcase and sleep, then the less you have to spend the better. My brother and I ended up booking our Byron accomodation (through AirBnB, which I chat a little about in this post) back in March right after the dates were released, despite not knowing the line up or if our holidays had been approved (a risky move that thankfully paid off), and boy am I glad I did.
Although AirBnB makes you pay upfront, websites like Booking.com have a lot of ‘pay when you arrive’ options (and cancellation options) so it’s not such a giant stress to book your accomodation early.
Step 4: Tickets
Pretty self-explanatory. By now, the lineup has been released and your absolutely frothing and nervous as fuck for that first initial ticket drop. Do yourself a favour and find out if there are any presales available because they are actually a lifesaver and are less of a phone-clog than trying to buy tickets during the general sale.
Depending on the line up and the festival itself, you may not need to worry about getting the tickets STRAIGHT away, but I am a compulsive stress head when it comes to these things and I just know that the ONE TIME I delay buying my tickets they will sell out. It hasn’t happened before, but I’m way too petrified to test my luck. So yes, get your tickets early kids – just in case.
Step 5: Flights
This step may not be necessary for everyone (and if you live in a capital city then you are one darn lucky person, because you wouldn’t have to pay for accomodation either. Or really have any need for this post haha), and can be done before purchasing your tickets depending on what airline sales are on and when.
Since what dates you will be there are already organised with your accomodation, you just have to find the cheapest and most convenient flights. A lot of people don’t bother about paying for checked in luggage, and I wish I could pack anything under 7 kilos, but I just don’t have that talent – so make sure you take the extra baggage prices (usually between $20 and $30 these days) into consideration when you’re comparing the cheapest flights.
I’m old school and like to surf all of the websites and write down the flight times and prices manually, (Qantas, Virgin, Jetstar, Student Flights) but I recently had a go at Webjet and that seems to be a good option when you don’t have a lot of time/patience and just want to see all of your options at once. Whatever site you go through, just make sure you have a copy of your itinerary in your email or saved in your phone (and if you’re really paranoid, print it out and write the times on your calendar in the kitchen. Yep, even with all of that I’ve mixed up flight times, so it pays to be prepared) that you can access any time throughout the trip.
Step 6: Packing
I actually loath packing for festivals. Don’t get me wrong, I love trolling all of the online shops and picking out the perfect outfit, but actually packing all of my clothes leading up to leaving absolutely SUCKS.
I usually do two main rounds of packing. Round 1 is throwing everything I know I’m going to wear, plus what I might like to wear into my suitcase then leaving it open in the lounge room for a couple of days so I can look at it as I walk past and contemplate my choices (haha, sad but true). Then usually the night before I go I sort though everything that’s in there and plan out outfits for each day/night, as well as one spare and a backup for town (because as a girl, I am genetically programmed to change my mind at the last minute).
Try to pack light on the toiletries (although don’t sacrifice your straightener for the sake of having a ‘lighter bag’ – you will seriously regret it later!) and I wouldn’t pack any more than 3 pairs of shoes (including the ones that you wear on the plane/drive/etc.). Honestly, it all just depends on how long you’re there for and what you’ll be doing. I’m not going to mum out on you all and give you a lecture on how many pairs of socks you need to bring. But again, three is always a good number.
Step 7: Those Other Tedious Details
Like: how are you getting to the airport? Or – who is driving and in what car? What time are you going to leave, keeping in mind crappy peak hour traffic? Do you need to check the bus or train times? Who’s checking into the hotel? Have you organised someone to feed the cat/dog/guinea pig/fish while you’re away?
And the even lamer things like: do I have any bills/rent due while I’m away? Have I got money put aside for that stupid car insurance that ALWAYS seems to come out at the worst possible times?
I think you get the picture with that one. And as much as you want to have a rad, spontaneous time, it really pays to tie up all of those loose ends before you go, even if you’re just away for the weekend. I usually have the worst sleep before going away because I have 110 things running through my mind and I’m worrying about stupid things like locking my house keys inside and forgetting my ID – even though I never take it out of my wallet.
Writing out a checklist a few days before is the best way to ease this tension so you can visually see that yes, everything has been organised and put into your handbag and you may actually be able to sleep.
Step 8: Have fun!
As silly as that sounds, remember WHY you went through all of this hassle in the first place. Whether it be because your favourite band is playing, it’s your first festival or you’re just going to have a rad time with your mates – try not to let the mundaneness of the planning get in the way of having a great day/weekend/whatever. Trust me, when you’re boogying in the sun with a beverage in hand, this will all be worth it. Just try not to get too drunk and forget that you saw Hermitude.
Sending happiness, postive vibes and good times,