By Bruce Watson
The first task in attending a festival is finding a way to get there; unfortunately, some of the best take place in some of the most out-of-the-way venues. Several festival organizers noted that carpooling can save cash, and Kelly M., a veteran participant in the unique cultural event that is Burning Man, noted that "sharing food and transport with a group is definitely the way to do it."
On the other hand, at urban events, like Chicago's North Coast Music Festival, it's parking that can be the problem. Zach Partin, North Coast's publicist, suggests that attendees ride a bicycle or take public transportation: "We've worked closely with the city, and they provide extra public transportation for the festival."
Photo by Dustinj, Flickr.com
Another problem is finding a good place to stay. After all, festivals draw tens of thousands of visitors to areas that often aren't well-equipped to house them. Veteran festival-goer Chris Burgoyne favors budget hotels, and plans ahead to book them: "I just need a bed where I can crash after a long day of music. I don't pay for comfort and luxury on a festival trip." Some festivals even negotiate with area hotels to offer discounted rates.
Burgoyne also suggests camping: "It is usually much cheaper than a hotel, and can be quite a fun experience. If you want to save on camping supplies, most universities have outdoor clubs where you can rent good equipment cheaply." Some festivals even add the cost of camping into their ticket prices, eliminating the hidden cost of lodging.
Photo by Gentlebird, Flickr.com
The food options at festivals are attractive, but can quickly add up. Most festival planners advised packing at least one meal per day, and some noted that in-festival camping facilities make it easy to cook your own food on site. A fan of the All Good Festival suggested that festival goers "try not to buy food that requires ice, since you spend a lot of money keeping things cold in the summer."
Photo Dani P.L., Flickr.com
Bottled water can get expensive, too. Most organizers advise that visitors bring their own bottles and refill them at the venue. Partin notes that North Coast offers hoses and water fountains, and that, when it gets especially hot, "We've even given away bottles of water for free."
An added tip: freeze your water bottles ahead of time. As the day goes on, they'll defrost, offering you cool, clean water in the afternoon -- when you'll need it most.
Festival organizers like to plan ahead, to ensure that they have sufficient facilities to take care of all their attendees. With that in mind, they often offer discounts to early ticket purchasers. As Partin explains North Coast's "Ticket prices go up with every announcement" as the festival releases further information about the musical acts.
Groupon isn't just for manicures and restaurant discounts: Many festivals also offer huge price cuts on tickets through the coupon site.
Veteran festival goer Burgoyne suggests a great way to save on admission. "Most festivals employ volunteers to staff up for what is usually a once-a-year operation," he notes. "Volunteers usually get in free in exchange for a fairly light schedule of work ripping tickets or emptying trash or whatever the fest needs." In addition to the free pass, he pointed out that volunteering has other benefits: "You might get a T-shirt, you'll get backstage, and you'll meet people, which will make the experience better."
North Coast's Partin agrees. "We have a tab on our website for volunteers. In return for a handful of hours worth of work, you can go to the festival for free. Alternately, members of our street team also get in free."
Photo by MoBikeFed, Flickr.com