How to Save Money at Music Festivals

Music festivals are a great excuse to round up a group of your best friends, see your favorite artists and hang out with thousands of other music lovers in a beautiful location.

Unfortunately, these events – often held over several days – can be expensive. Not only that, but the recent Fyre Festival disaster elevated the term “buyer beware” to a whole new level. In the case of Fyre, festival-goers paid $1,200 for tickets to what they thought would be a luxury music experience in the Bahamas. They arrived to find sparse unassembled tents, cheese sandwiches, and canceled bands. If these festival-goers learned anything, it was this: Do your research and choose a festival with an excellent reputation and track record. You can start your search on a site like The Festival Guy, which offers up information on a variety of festivals and performers. It’s also a good idea to check reviews on sites like Consequence of Sound (COS) and of course, ask your friends which festivals they like the best.

Once you’ve done your due diligence, it’s time to plan an affordable trip to a music festival. Before you do this, however, here’s a dose of reality: The $1,200 ticket price to Fyre isn’t that much higher than a frugal Coachella experience, which will run you about $1,006, according to Time Magazine. But, if you’re mindful of your money and follow these 7 steps, you can still get the VIP festival experience on a budget. Take a look:

Step #1: Decide on A Budget

As a first step, decide how much you’re willing to spend on the festival. Maybe this is your big splurge of the year and you want to go all out, or maybe this is merely the first of a summer filled with music festivals. Once you’ve come up with your max number, you can then decide how much you want to spend. If you don’t want to cut back on any festivals or travel costs, all is not lost. Perhaps you can work a side hustle for a few months beforehand to cover the extra expenses.

Step #2: Plan Ahead to Save on Ticket Prices

One of the biggest expenses associated with music festivals is the admission ticket. In fact, Coachella 2017’s general admission ticket was $399, while the VIP ticket was $899. Yet, with a bit of planning, you may be able to avoid paying for tickets altogether. Here’s how: Festivals run on volunteers. By volunteering, you get free admission. In return, you help check people in, clean up after performances, or work in another capacity. The trick is to apply months ahead of time as volunteer spots fill up fast.

As a volunteer, the perks are plentiful. For starters, you get access to areas and events that the average ticket holder doesn’t. Sure, you might be at the Kendrick Lamar private party because you’re there to pick up empty bottles. But, at least you’re at the Kendrick Lamar private party!

If volunteering is not an option, planning ahead can still save you money as some festivals offer early bird discounts for tickets purchased months in advance. At the very least, buying early means you can snag general admission tickets, which are often hundreds of dollars cheaper than VIP packages. For example, ACL General Admission tickets are $255, whereas the VIP passes are $1,100. General admission tickets often sell out in the first few days of sales, so acting fast saves you big time.

Step #3: Skip Festival Food and Drinks

Everyone knows festival food tent prices are inflated and generally not so healthy either.

So, why not skip eating the food sold there altogether? You can do this by brown-bagging it. Although some festivals may not allow you to bring in your own food, you can often get away with this by putting small snacks in your pockets, like granola bars and fruit. Also, if you plan ahead, you can eat before arriving at the festival. This way you won’t crave the tent food and spend money unnecessarily.

If you’re camping at the festival, you can certainly bring your own food and this makes perfect sense. You can cook what you want and save money. If you drove to the festival, you can even shop ahead of time at low-priced grocery stores so that you can avoid shopping at more expensive convenient stores near the festival grounds.

Step #4: Plan Your Travel Wisely

Depending on how far away you live from the festival, transportation costs can vary widely. If you have to fly, be sure to research flight prices on comparison sites like Kayak or Priceline. Southwest Airlines is not part of third party flight aggregator sites so be sure to check Southwest flight deals separately.

If you can avoid purchasing airline tickets, explore bus fares and train ticket costs. You’re best bet: carpooling. Getting four friends in a car together means you can split parking and gas costs.

Step #5: Fashion on a budget

Let’s face it: music festivals are an Instagram free-for-all. You’ll want to frame the perfect shot and load it up with the perfect hashtags.

In order to get that perfect shot, you might think you need to spend a ton of cash on clothes and photo tools. Yes, a shot of you in a Free People top, paired with your Ray-Bans, might score a lot of likes. It can also wipe out your budget. To save money on the clothes you’ll be rocking to concerts during the day, skip the name brands. Festivals are a no rules playground. Pick up your threads at a thrift store, or borrow from a friend. Better yet, pair clothes you already own together in new ways to make your outfits feel fresh.

By saving money on your fashion-forward clothes, you can spend a bit extra on important outerwear that you may need, especially if you’re camping. For deals on outerwear, be sure to check out sales at stores like REI and L.L,Bean. This way you may be able to score some high-quality outdoorsy clothes that last for several music festivals.

Step #6: Where to Stay

If possible, camping at a music festival will give you the VIP experience. Tent camping at Coachella, for example, costs $113/night. You might think of camping as roughing it, but you’ll be on festival grounds 24/7. That means any pop-up parties, shows, or random dance parties will be yours for the taking.

If you prefer to stay off-site and camping isn’t your style, check out nearby options on  Airbnb. You and your friends might be able to score an affordable house rental and split the cost or perhaps you can split up and rent a couple of rooms with local Airbnb hosts.

Step #7: Festival Insurance

If you’re concerned about protecting your investment in your music festival experience, you might want to consider purchasing travel insurance. Yes, it’s an added expense, but it’s also a good way to ensure that you won’t lose your money if you get sick and can’t attend. Or, if the festival is canceled or a complete mess, like Fyre, you can file a claim with your travel insurance company to try to get your cash back. To shop for affordable travel insurance, check out InsureMyTrip.com and Smartmouth.com.

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