Festivals on a Budget: Maximize Festival Fun, Minimize Festival Spending

It’s that time of year again, festival season is upon us. If you’re like me, this has got you feeling excited as you begin to plan out your summer circuit. This excitement however also comes with an underline feeling of dread as you begin to think about how your summer circuit is going to affect your finances. I am writing this article to give the financially challenged among you some pointers on how you can maximize your festival fun while saving a few bucks in the process. If you are willing to put in a little work and have a little bit of forward planning you can reduce the cost of attending any music festival dramatically.

We are going to take a look at the three major money sinks of attending any festival at what you can do to reduce these costs. The three areas we are going to take a look at are food costs, transportation costs and the cost of the festival ticket itself. All the tips you will find here are tried and true and based off of personal experience. With them you will be able to stretch out those dollars and get the most bang for your buck.

Ticket Costs

Depending on which festival you are attending the ticket price may be your biggest expense. There are a few things that you can do to reduce this cost or even eliminate it entirely. The first thing you should do is to follow all of your favorite festivals on social media. Most festivals nowadays have a social media presence and have pages on multiple social media platforms. Music festivals use these pages to announce things like when tickets will go on sale, and since most festivals sell tickets based on a tier system, the earlier you get your tickets the cheaper they will be. A lot of festivals also have ticket giveaways that require you to do nothing more than share a post and tag some friends, it’s obviously not guaranteed to reduce your costs but it doesn’t hurt to enter anyway. It will also put you in touch with attendees who may be selling tickets at lower prices and keep you informed on musical acts and schedules as well as informing you on application deadlines for things such as media and volunteering.

All festivals require a large amount of people power to keep them running smoothly. The vast majority of this people power comes from teams of dedicated volunteers who are willing to trade their time for free entry into the festival. The time commitment can be anywhere from 6 to 36 hours, depending on the festival, and some festivals will even provide you with a few free meals. Volunteer duties can include anything from parking attendant to site maintenance to meal time cook. If you are more of a creative type, festivals are always looking for people with artistic skills to help create and propagate the festival vibe. If you paint, write, dance, make music, take photographs, run workshops or are good at building things check out the festivals website to see what jobs need filling and how you can get involved artistically with the festival. When you dedicate your time to a festival, you get a behind the scenes look at how the whole thing comes together and it will leave you with a sense of pride knowing that your contribution helped to make the whole thing possible. When you get involved in this way you will feel a deeper connection towards the festival and it’s attendees as they show their gratitude towards you, and hey, you might even get backstage access out of the whole thing.

Food

Food is one of the most important things you will be spending your money on over the course of a festival. It is the fuel that will keep you on your feet and dancing all night. If you plan on buying all of your meals at the festival you are easily looking at about $10-$15 per meal. Times that by three meals per day over the course of three or four days and that adds up quickly. With a little forward planning and preparation you can reduce your meal costs while filling your stomach with healthy and nutritious food that will keep you feeling great.

I highly recommend that you invest in a half descent cooler. There is nothing worse than bringing a bunch of food only to have it go bad on the second day. As an alternative to dealing with ice and the threat of soggy sandwiches, fill up a dozen or so empty water bottles (depending on the size of your cooler) and freeze them. When these inevitably thaw you are left with nice cool drinking water instead of gross concoction of cooler water.

Prepare things like sandwiches and salads in advance. They are easy to make, filling and decently healthy for you. Make sure to include some sort of protein in your meals, it will help to keep your energy levels up and is what your muscles crave after a long night spent dancing your face off. I like to bring things like beef jerky, trail mix or chicken salads. It is also important to bring things that you can snack on like granola bars, cut up veggies or fruit. My go to snack is bananas, I always bring a couple bunches to any festival. They are cheap, delicious, easy to deal with and contain tryptophan, which is a pre-cursor for serotonin and will help to keep your mood elevated. If you have a portable camping stove bring things like soups, chilies or pasta that just need to be reheated.

I’m not saying don’t enjoy any of the delicious food that the vendors have to offer. I’m a sucker for a good breakfast and usually find myself indulging once or twice in a big plate of bacon and eggs. But if you can keep your vendor visits to a minimum it will help to mitigate those food costs.

 

Transportation

Depending on the distance you have to travel, this cost will differ greatly between individuals. Whether you are travelling by plane or by car the first, and most obvious, tip for reducing travel costs is go to festivals that are closer to home. It’s basic math, the closer the festival, the less you have to travel, the less you have to spend on travel. There are great festivals all over the place and, chances are, there is probably a smaller festival near you that you might not have even heard of. They might not be able to pull in huge international headliners, but that feeling of community and togetherness, that I think the majority of us are looking for, is present and thriving. I personally prefer the atmosphere more at local festivals; some of my favorite festivals tend to be on the smaller side.

Another thing you can do to reduce the cost of travelling is to car pool with other festival goers. If you know a large group that is going to be in attendance, drive down together and split the gas. If you are travelling by yourself, most festivals have a ride share page that you can join. These pages are great at connecting attendees who are looking for a ride with people who have space in there vehicles. The bonus of this approach is you will be helping out someone in need, whether they need the gas money or the ride, and you will be making a new friend in the process. It is also very useful if you are flying in, instead of renting a car hook up with someone on the ride share page.

If you are travelling by plane consider signing up for some sort of rewards program like air miles. Most credit card company’s offer rewards cards that give you a huge bonus just for signing up. Put all of your daily expenses onto your rewards card to collect the miles and then just pay it off right away. Websites like skyscanner.ca are a great way to find cheap flights! If you are willing to spend a little bit more time travelling and don't mind dealing with layovers you can usually find something on the cheaper side.

       Like I said, these tips stem from personal experience and are what I do to be able to make all of my summer festival dreams come true. If you have tips you would like to add, please leave a comment and let us know how YOU reduce the cost of attending a festival.