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How To Make the Most Out of a Music Festival

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Music festivals are, for many people, the purest and most enjoyable way to experience live music. However, they can be physically and mentally exhausting. You can always spot an experienced festivarian; they're the clean, relaxed, non-sunburned ones with the hammock, the Nalgene water bottle, and the highlighted schedule. Take their example and you'll have more fun than you've ever had. For more info, read Top 10 Things To Bring To a Music Festival
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: However long the festival lasts!

Here's How:

  1. Get your tickets early. Most music festivals that charge money have graduated pricing, where tickets are sold at "Early Bird" prices, advance prices and gate prices. You can save yourself a fat chunk of change if you get the early bird tickets. Also, at festivals that sell camping, get your camping tickets early. If they sell out, you'll be stuck staying off-site. Take care of other reservations early, too: plane tickets, car rental reservations, etc.
  2. Know the schedule in advance. Music festivals generally publish a preliminary schedule well before the event. Print one out off the festival's website and highlight your "must-see" bands. That said, be careful not to be too rigid! Spontaneous jam sessions, great bands you've never heard of, festival stages running late and so on can interrupt your plans. This is not a bad thing! It just helps to have a game plan going in.
  3. Know the rules. If a music festival allows you to bring your own food and water, do it and save yourself some money. If a music festival doesn't allow pets, know this in advance so you don't show up to the gate with Fido and get an unexpected surprise. If a festival doesn't allow glass, it'd be a bummer to have to pour out all of your expensive microbrews. If a music festival website is unclear about their rules, get in touch and ask for clarification!
  4. Manage your money. If the music festival you're attending runs for four days, it's probably not wise to spend most of your cash on CDs or craft vendors on the first day. Find out when things will begin to shut down on Sunday, and buy your take-home goodies then. First of all, you won't have to deal with them all weekend, and secondly, you won't accidentally run out of money for food on Saturday night.

    More tips: How to Save Money at a Music Festival
  5. Keep yourself comfortable. High heels are never a good idea (unless they're dance shoes which you remove after the dance). Sunblock is always a good idea. Air mattresses are great if you're camping. A variety of clothes are also helpful, because weather forecasts can be wrong. It's also a good idea, if you're at a camping festival with limited shower access, to bring a pack of wet wipes or baby wipes. They're great for sponge bathing.
  6. If you have special needs, make sure that the festival can accommodate you. Find out where handicapped parking will be if you need it. Make sure that the festival has a refrigerator for medicines if you need them. If you have easily-met dietary needs or desires (such as vegetarianism or mild allergies), make sure that such needs can be met. If your dietary needs are severe (major allergies, etc.), make sure you can bring your own food.
  7. Keep an eye on your kids. This really should go without saying, but even diligent parents can sometimes find themselves in the festival swing of things and lose track of the little ones. Walkie-talkies are cheap nowadays, and can be a great way for families to keep track of each other. Also, write your cell phone number on your child's wristband (or a large rubber band) in case they wander off. Keep track of what they're wearing each day, as well, just in case. Snapping a picture every morning with your cell phone camera makes this easy.

    More Tips: Bringing Children to Music Festivals
  8. Don't bring expensive stuff. Just don't. You don't really need your diamond necklace, your iPod, your Rolex or anything else that costs a ton of money anyway. Leave 'em at home -- you're going to feel really stupid if they get lost or stolen, and you probably won't get them back.
  9. Eat, sleep and drink. Festivals are grueling, especially the long-weekend camping ones. Stay hydrated, keep your blood sugar up and get plenty of rest. Catnaps in the afternoon work well, especially if it's hot midday and you can find a shady spot to nap. Also, keep a first aid kit on hand for basic health needs: band-aids, disinfectant, sunblock, aspirin, tampons, etc. If it's small and you think you might need it, bring it.
  10. Go easy on the alcohol. You're going to feel like a fool if you sleep right through your favorite band, just because you were hung over. Especially on hot summer weekends, alcohol is a major dehydrator and you should really be staying well-hydrated. Plus, there's that whole awkward "loss of self control" thing. Save yourself embarrassment and discomfort and cut yourself off at a reasonable level.
  11. Make friends. Festivals aren't just about music, they're about togetherness and community as well. Chat it up with the folks sitting or camping next to you, or whose kids are playing with your kids. Festivals are a great place to meet people who share your interests and expand your circle a bit.
  12. Check out the non-concert activities. Workshops, dances, drum circles, kids areas, arts and crafts vendors and more all take place at almost every festival. Impromptu jams also happen, and festival musicians often join in, so be ready if you're an instrumentalist: you might just get a chance to jam with one of your musical heroes! Even if you don't play, you still get the experience of seeing and hearing your favorite musicians cutting loose.
  13. Volunteer. If you can't afford a festival, or even if you can, consider giving them some of your time. Most festivals will give you a free ticket in exchange. You'll be on the inside, making the festival happen, and that's a really great feeling. It's also a great way to meet people and get some tips from those "in the know" about fun stuff that might not be on the official schedule.
  14. Try something new. Festivals are great for this. Have a go at a square dance or a zydeco two-step. Grab a djembe and join a drum circle. Wake up early for group yoga. Listen to some music you've never heard before, or have previously claimed that you hated. Wear that hippie skirt you haven't ever had the guts to wear to work.... whatever! Just try something, anything new. A largely anonymous festival is the best place to do it, and it's liberating and makes the experience all the richer.
  15. Have an escape plan. At some point, something unforeseen might happen that might just make you want to get the heck out of there, whatever it might be. Don't allow yourself to get parked in (or camped in), if you feel that you need to leave, you should be able to do so in as short a time as possible.

Tips:

  1. Stay comfortable, well-slept, well-fed, and hydrated.
  2. Have a plan but don't be afraid to deviate from it.
  3. Make friends!
  4. Relax... this is supposed to be a vacation!
  5. A good attitude is the most important thing to bring.
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