July 7, 2017
Andy in Budget

How to Go to a Festival on a Budget: Everything You Need to Know

Is dancing the night away with thousands of people at a festival on your bucket list? No problem. We know how to get you to that festival without breaking the bank.

Summertime means lots of things and one of them is that it’s festival time. There are the big names like Coachella, South by Southwest, Burning Man, Lollapalooza that maybe you have dreamed of going to, but there are also other festivals all across the US. Everyone who goes to these festivals seems to rave about the amazing time they had. But when you think about going, what happens? The problem is that your bank account doesn’t always agree with your plans. Going to a festival or multiple festivals is not always friendly to your finances. But don’t worry, your summer is not lost. We've got you covered. There is a way to attend a festival on a budget or you could attend some of the best free festivals across the US!


Budgeting

Budgeting

The first step is to figure out how much money you have and how much of it you can spend. After you have a budget you can then figure out what festivals you can go to. When you budget, keep these things in mind.

  • Create a checklist

Start planning early and list everything you need to take with you. That way you will give yourself time to see what you need to find and what you need to buy or borrow.

  • Pre-festival shopping

If you know what you need, you will save money if you know where to get it. A good first step is to see if you can borrow things from friends and family. For other things you might need, start shopping early. Look online for deals, find coupons, and try to use store rebates and other promotions.

  • Money

If you decide to go to a festival, make sure you have enough cash and that you take it with you. It takes some calculations to know how much you have to take with you. Too little and you have to pay those crazy ATM fees, too much and you may be tempted to overspend. If you are one of those people who when they have money, it burns a hole in their pocket, maybe let someone else help you with finances.

  • Merch

Festivals are full of merch. That’s how festivals and bands make most of their money. While it can be great to get once in a lifetime merch at a festival, don’t budget for too much. Most of the merch they sell is wildly overpriced. If you can get it somewhere else, it might be better to skip the merch tables.

  • Use your tech

Many festivals have apps and allow you to download and print maps and other material. Either use an app or print off everything you need before you get there so you don’t have to buy the expensive versions they sell at the festival.


Buying tickets

Buying tickets

Buying tickets can be the most expensive part of any festival, unless you go to a free festival of course. There are some ways you can save on ticket prices though.

  • Volunteer

If you simply have to go to a certain festival, start stalking their website early. You might be able to sign up to be a volunteer. Many festivals have opportunities for people to work at the festival and get free tickets in exchange for their work. You might not be able to explore the festival too much and it might not be too relaxing at times, but you will be able to hear the music and see some of the performances for free.

  • Low income

Some festivals have discounts for low-income people. Take a look at their sites and see if you can provide a pay stub, W2, or student loan to get a discounted ticket.

  • Last minute deals

Some apps and festivals have promotions for last minute tickets. These tickets are usually priced lower than other tickets. The only problem is that they usually go fast and there is no guarantee that you will get a ticket.

  • Buy early

Some festivals have last minute deals and some festivals have early bird specials. See what the festivals you are interested in have and buy early if that will save you some money.

  • Partnered organizations

Most festivals are partnered with other organizations. If you are an employee at one of those organizations or have some other connection to them, you might be able to get tickets for the festival at a reduced price.


Getting there

Getting there

It’s great if you live close to a festival. All you have to do is jump in a car and you're there within an hour or so. Most people are not that lucky. And many festivals are difficult to get to. They may require planes, trains, cars, public transportation, and a mix of a couple of them. So the challenge becomes how do you get to the festival without burning through your budget.

  • Cheap travel sites

There are many travel sites that offer great deals. Try to do some research into the sites that offer reduced prices. Some of the biggest names in travel aren’t always the best when it comes to prices.

  • Book early

If you're buying a ticket, especially for a plane, book early. It pays to prepare in advance and get your ticket as soon as you know when you have to get one.

  • Reward points

Maybe you use a credit card often and have a stash of reward points waiting to be spent. If so, you can spend them to get good deals on travel.

  • Low-cost travel

Even though it might take a bit longer, there are alternatives to flying. Try taking the train or a bus. Sometimes they are cheaper if you book early. They could also have special festival rates.

  • Renting a car

If you are going with a group of people, splitting the cost of a car rental is a great way to get to a festival.

  • Ridesharing/carpooling

Whether you own a car and are inviting friends or joining some friends for a ride, carpooling is a great way to get to a festival. It is cheap and many festivals offer free parking to people who come with a group. If you don’t know anyone with a car, check a ridesharing site. Other people who are going to a festival might be looking for people to ride with them.

  • Parking

Any drive to a festival means trying to find a place to park. Parking in a festival lot can be convenient but it can also be expensive. Try to find discount parking or free shuttle services.


Finding a place to sleep

Finding a place to sleep

Once you get there, hopefully you have a place to stay. In case you are still searching, here are some cheap options that should help you stay within your budget.

  • Camping

For many people, camping is the main way to experience a festival. Sleeping on the ground, public toilets, sporadic showering, the heat, the rain, it all creates the festival experience that many think of when they think of going to a festival. This is also one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest way, to stay at a festival.

  • Hostels

For people who just want a bed and not too many perks, a hostel is the way to go.

  • Cheap hotels

There are many hotel chains or travel sites that offer great deals on hotels.

  • RV Park

If you have an RV or a camper, a great way to save some money is to find a spot in an RV park.

  • B&B

You can find classic B&Bs on various websites or you can try to find an airbnb. These can be cheaper than hotels if you are not the camping type.

  • Couchsurfing

Nothing is better than free, right? Well, if you are okay with a couch and strangers, couchsurfing is an excellent way to find a place to sleep for cheap.

  • Reddit

If you check out Reddit or other similar boards, there are many people posting about specific festivals and various accommodation offers.

  • Student housing

If the festival is near a university, check the university website to see if they offer student housing rentals. Some universities let people rent beds like a hostel or hotel during the summer months when not as many students are there.


Filling up

Filling up

There’s no way you are going to be able to dance the night away and party 'til the sun comes up on an empty stomach. Festival food is expensive, so make sure that you have all your food needs planned out before you get there.

  • Plan your meals

Before you leave for the festival make sure you plan your meals. Think of simple foods that you could survive on for three days or so. You might not be eating the best food for those days, but it you plan ahead you can save yourself a lot of money.

  • Avoid alcohol

Yes, a festival is a great place to get a little drunk, but make sure you plan for all those extra costs. If you really want to save money, try to avoid alcohol for most of the festival.

  • Pack the snacks

Food, as well as alcohol, adds up. Before you get to the festival, bring a snack stash so that you don’t have to waste all your money on festival food. If you have planned your meals correctly, you could last the entire festival without having to buy a single thing.


Enjoying it all for free

Enjoying it all for free

Hopefully, these tips have been helpful and haven’t scared you away from wanting to go to a festival, because we've saved the best for last! One of the best ways to save money at a festival is to go to a free festival. These are some of the best free festivals across the US.

  • BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn!—Brooklyn, New York—Early June into August.
  • Norman Music Festival—Norman, Oklahoma—April. This free festival includes a mix of country, bluegrass, rock, and hip-hop.
  • French Quarter Festival—New Orleans, Louisiana—April. New Orleans is known for jazz, so it makes sense that they would have a free festival dedicated to all kinds of jazz, Cajun, swing, rock, and funk music.
  • Festival International De Louisiane—Lafayette, Louisiana—April. Artists from all over the world come to celebrate the rich French history of Louisiana.
  • Musikfest—Bethlehem, Pennsylvania—August.
  • Chicago Blues Festival—Chicago, Illinois—June.
  • Hardly Strictly Bluegrass—San Francisco, California—October. As the name states, the main focus of this festival are bluegrass and folk music, but their seven stages are also full of other genres of music.
  • Make Music Pasadena—Pasadena, California—Early June.
  • Comfest—Columbus, Ohio—June.

A large community festival that supports local artists and community service.

Festival on a budget

The next time you think of Coachella, don’t think of the price tag, think of how much money you can save with these tips. If you're still not convinced, just head to some of the best free festivals. Either way, make sure you find some time to rock out over the summer!

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