How To Make Sure You Have A Good First Music Festival
It was incredible: non-stop good music, friendly vibes, camping and the summer sun.
Needless to say, I've already bought tickets to another festival this summer, and I am anxiously counting down the days.
Like I said, I'd been to many a concert before last year, but music festivals are a whole different creature.
Fortunately, I went with an experienced group of festival-goers who saved me from some rookie mistakes. But even so, I learned a few things the hard way.
For those of you attending your first festival this year, let me save you some of my mistakes, sunburns, blister and hangovers.
Here are the biggest lessons I learned last year on how to nail the festival experience:
1. Choose your clothing wisely.
I cannot emphasize this point enough.
I beg you, put down your credit card and step away from the "must-have festival gear” section of whatever clothing company is currently spamming your inbox.
I get that everyone wants to look cute in all of their Instagram posts, Snapchats ad whatever, but consider what you'll actually be doing.
You will be outside in the sun, jumping up and down, walking and standing for many hours.
Really, packing for a festival should resemble packing for a hiking trip more than a beach vacation: good shoes, comfortable clothing, hats and so on.
Accept that your hair and makeup, no matter how much effort you put into them, will look like a mess by the end of the day. (You magical creatures who have managed to subvert this, show me your ways.)
It may not sound sexy, but you will thank me for this advice on day two when you can still walk.
Dress for comfort and function.
1. Wear good shoes.
Avoid those gladiator sandals. Whoever decided these were perfect shoes for the occasion is full of garbage.
You will be walking, standing and jumping around in a crowd for the majority of your day, and let's remember that “festival grounds” are dirt, grass and mud.
You'll definitely get blisters (and stupid tan lines), and your toes will be stomped to bits in the crowd.
Trust me, I wore sandals for approximately six hours my first day last year, and the combination of sweat, walking and mud gave me blisters that required me to wrap both feet in bandages to be able to walk the rest of the weekend.
I switched to athletic sneakers shortly after.
They looked ugly with my clothing (turns out bright blue Asics don't really go with much), but my feet felt MUCH better than they would have in other shoes, and my toes were mostly protected.
Your feet will hurt more after each day of this festival than they ever have in your entire life, so take care of them.
2. Avoid white clothing.
I left my campsite on day two wearing a cute crop top and high-waisted white shorts.
They lasted for ONE SET before turning brown from all the dust kicked up by the crowd.
I had to rush back and change before the next show, and the dirt never came out. After several washes, those shorts went in the trash.
Remember, you will be dirty and sweaty. Dress accordingly.
3. Your hair and makeup will be a mess by the end of the day.
Sweat plus sunscreen, plus dancing, plus humidity, plus desperately trying to cool off by getting wet makes this hard to avoid.
4. Dress for comfort.
As I've said, you will be dancing, running, standing and sweating a ton.
Whatever you put on your body, make sure it will still be comfortable once all of these forces are applied.
Chafing and blisters make your life harder for the rest of the weekend.
2. Stay (as) healthy (as possible).
I know, this can be a tough one.
Music festivals are a beautiful combination of things that are bad for your body: loud noises, extended sun exposure, heat, terrible (delicious) food, drinking (and possibly other substances) and no sleep.
By all means, do whatever will make your festival experience the best possible time.
However, if you can sneak in some healthy habits around the fun, your body will thank you, especially when it's 5 pm on the fourth day and you're starting to wonder what possessed you to actually pay money to live outside and be tired for four days straight.
1. Get as much sleep as humanly possible.
I know I'm a cranky bitch when I haven't slept enough, but I wanted to stay up as late as possible to experience all the fun.
My compromise with myself? I stayed at the shows until I was ready to pass out.
Then, I dragged myself back to my tent, drank some water, put in earplugs, slipped on a face mask and passed out.
The mask and earplugs (and probably exhaustion, but whatever) worked wonders. I actually slept like a baby and woke up feeling relatively refreshed.
Do whatever you need to do to get as much sleep as you can around your schedule of fun. This is clutch.
This is super important.
Heat and sun plus dancing and alcohol is a recipe for dehydration, and you don't want to be that guy who faints in the middle of Blink-182's set because you didn't drink enough water.
Start hydrating before you leave home, and keep drinking water, Gatorade, Pedialyte or whatever does it for you when you have a nasty hangover.
I drank a Gatorade before I went to sleep every night, and my mornings were far less of a struggle as a result.
3. Wear sunscreen.
Not to sound like your mom, but your life will be much easier if you can avoid getting sunburned during your festival weekend.
Trust me, it doesn't get EASIER to spend your entire day out in the sun when you're already as red as a lobster.
4. Eat a vegetable.
It can be tempting to grab your 14th slice of pizza and call it dinner after a day of partying when you only have 10 minutes until your next show.
However, I promise you, your body will start to rebel before the festival ends if you only feed it Red Bull, vodka and Doritos.
Bring as much food as you can (this also saves money), and try to pack some moderately healthy things along with the junk food and cheeseburgers.
Granola bars, fruit and nuts make an easy breakfast or a quick mid-day snack that your body won't hate you for.
Some food vendors actually offer vegetables and healthier options for sale inside the festival grounds.
I know there's no way a salad beats a grilled cheese, but your body can only take so many meals that your 5-year-old self would have chosen before it feels like garbage, especially when you throw in the other stressors of sun and heat and alcohol and lack of sleep.
Eat, like, one apple and some carrots. Trust me on this.
3. Prepare for the elements.
This is another area where “pack for camping” is useful advice.
Remember you'll basically be living outside for several days, and so you will be at the mercy of the weather.
Check the forecast before you pack, but be prepared for conditions that change quickly.
It will be hot, and you will be outside in the sun, so dress and act accordingly.
If you're camping, create some shade by putting up a canopy and hanging curtains or tapestries from the sides.
It might rain, so consider clothes and shoes that won't feel awful when wet, as well as a poncho.
Rain equals mud, so pack shoes that can hold up and won't get sucked into the ground like quicksand.
It cools off at night, so bring layers.
This one is a little weird, but prepare for dust! When the wind kicks up, it can create a small dust tornado on festival grounds, so be ready.
Have a bandanna you can cover your face with and sunglasses to protect your eyes, and wear clothes that won't be harmed by a little (or a lot) of dirt.
The point i, before you put something in your suitcase, ask yourself, “Can this hold up in every weather condition?”
If the answer is no, leave it home.
4. Have a plan for what you want to do, but be open to new experiences.
Festivals can be overwhelming.
There's always something to do, like socializing in your campsite, playing pick-up volleyball, trying new foods, having drinks at a festival bar and seeing the nonstop music playing on multiple stages at all times.
Go in with some sort of plan, even if it's very loose.
You and your group should choose the bands you don't want to miss.
Then, schedule your days accordingly, and figure out how to navigate any schedule conflicts.
Fill in the remaining time with other activities.
However, the fact that you have a plan doesn't mean that you shouldn't be open to spontaneity and new experiences!
Stop by a random stage and see a band you've never heard before. Ask your camping neighbors if they want to play flip cup or throw around a frisbee.
Go to the Silent Disco, even if you don't know exactly what that is. See what you want to see, but be open to new experiences, too.
You won't regret it.
As an aside, try not to get so drunk that you can't make it out of your campsite. You miss both plans and new experiences when you pass out before the first show starts.
5. Make friends (also, don't lose your friends).
The advice surrounding friends is two-fold.
First, be open to making new friends! The vibe at festivals is amazing.
Everyone is happy and excited to be there, and everyone wants to meet everyone else.
If you're camping, befriend your neighbors. Talk to people while you wait in line for beer.
High-five strangers. Bond over your mutual love for The 1975 with the others around you in the crowd.
The friendly vibes are one of the things that makes the festival experience so special, so take advantage.
Also important: When hanging out with friends, new or old, try not to lose them.
Cell service in campsites and festival grounds is garbage, and unless you come prepared with a charging solution, your phone will probably die at least once.
Anytime you split up from friends, have a designated meeting place and time where you'll find each other. Even if you're just getting in different food lines, choose a place you will meet up when finished.
This sounds like a bit much, but I promise it will help you.
When you say, “Meh, we'll just *find* each other after this bathroom break,” and you emerge to a crowd of 800 people also waiting for bathrooms, trying to find friends or standing around, “just finding each other” becomes somewhat harder.
Be specific: “I will meet you next to this garbage can after you get your pizza and I get my salad (because I read this article and am eating a vegetable).”
6. Have fun.
Festivals are an amazing weekend of great music, friends, camping, new experiences and fun.
Think about what will make this weekend the most fun for you, and then do it.
Don't worry if your outfit is less “Kylie at Coachella” and more “James Franco in '127 Hours.'” (You probably won't have enough service to post that Insta anyway.)
The point isn't to look pretty or to check certain boxes that you "should" be doing. These weekends are packed to the brim with fun experiences waiting to be had, and you're right there in the middle of it all.
Take advantage, take lots of pictures and have one of the most memorable weekends of your life.