MUSIC FESTIVALS: Traveling to the Beats on a Budget

DEMF. Mutek. Coachella. Decibel. Earthdance. Esthetic Evolution. Prosperity. High Sierra.  Photosynthesis. Joshua Tree. Shambhala. Operation Apex. Bobolink. Harmony. Sonic Bloom. Emerge-N-See. Hempfest. Burning Man!

FestivalWith so many bad-ass music festivals right outside your door, up and down the West Coast, across our beautiful country and around the globe, it is enough to put a music-loving freak in a deliciously lingering state of euphoria!

Combining my love of travel and dancing makes me happier than a hippie in a hot tub: a rainbow of music varieties, friends from all over the world, lots of screaming and laughing and Tecate, campsites with shag carpet and clubs with lasers- I live for music and art festivals and want to go to every single one!

FestivalBut how do you get to all these festivals when money is tight? And when isn’t it? Most people are stretching their budgets and cutting back these days. Maybe you’re broke. Maybe you’re hella broke. Maybe you were laid off from your job writing for a website and decided the best course of action in this lame economy was to relocate across the country and try to make it as a freelance music writer.

Either way, you still want to party your rocks off, right? Here are some tips to help you get to those music festivals, whether you want to go to a city party requiring flights and hotels or outdoor festies with tents and dogs. Or both. LIFE IS SHORT, people, and if we are lucky we will all be old and wrinkly before we know it. Don’t let the summer pass without getting down proper like you know you want to. 

Festival1. PLAN AHEAD. Buying presale tickets will save you cash at almost every festival, and if you are flying anywhere, purchasing domestic air tickets at least one month in advance is highly recommended. Planning on DEMF or another Memorial Weekend festival? Buy your air tickets and book your hotel room yesterday.

2. PICK AND CHOOSE. This part sucks. I want to go to every festival, every weekend, every year! But in order to get to the parties you really want to go to, you have to pass up some of the festivals you aren’t too keen on. Having trouble deciding? Do what I do, and go where the good music is. Compare the lineups, and see which artists are really gonna do it for you. Factor in distance, make a decision, and stick to it.

3. GO WITH FRIENDS. This part rocks! When you share expenses like hotel rooms, food and gas, it becomes cheaper for everybody. Pack your cars and hotel rooms full of friends and you will save money! Are you the only one of your tribe intent on getting to Shambhala but you live in San Diego? Hop online and meet new people who want to carpool and save money as much as you. They are out there.

Festival4. STAY THE WHOLE TIME. It seems counter-intuitive, but since a big part of festie expensive is travel and pass-type tickets, the longer you can stay, the better value it will be.

5. DON’T BUY EXTRA SHIT. Yeah yeah, I know you want a cute new outfit for the dance floor or a swank-ass pimp tent that all your friends can hotbox, but you don’t NEED this stuff. What you already own will work, and no one is even gonna notice that new purple skirt when you are dripping sweat in the club. Ever returned from a campout with a cooler full of food you didn’t eat? Yeah. You have. Don’t buy shit you don’t need.

Camp Don't Be Jealous6. FESTIVAL IN YOUR TOWN? Offer to let people stay with you. They get a deal, you get a unique experience waking up to Heinz from Berlin on your couch, and when you head to Germany you will have a place to stay as well. Again: Google is your friend, and check out as well.

7. FLYING TO A FESTIVAL? Book ahead, at least a month for domestic travel. Check sites like Kayak, Mobissimo or Sidestep to compare prices, and when you get ready to purchase your tickets, CLEAR THE COOKIES on your internet browser. If you don’t, Zeut Hoops!travel websites will remember you have already been there and jack up the price of your ticket. Once you find the lowest price, then book directly with the airline’s website for the best protection in case some bullshit comes up. If you are checking luggage, read the airline’s baggage allowance- some domestic airlines are charging $15 per bag. You may be better off with another airline whose ticket price is $10 more.

8. EAT CHEAP. When you travel it is easy to become tired or rushed and opt for a pricey meal or snack at an airport lounge or crappy restaurant close to the festival. Plan ahead. Bring granola bars if you get hungry and ornery like me, and know that there ain’t NO shame in PB&J- that’s one more show you get to hear!

Festival9. DRINK CHEAP. AKA: PBR & Tecate. Or get your buzz on with your own bottle of vodka BEFORE you’re in the venue where drinks are eight bucks a pop. Sneak in a flask and order a lemonade- bartenders will often give free refills!

10. JUST DO IT. The awesome thing about money is that it’s printed on paper that comes out of machines mounted on walls and you trade this colored paper for life experiences! What a freaking deal! Your bills will be there next month. The supersweet festival of your dreams with you on the dance floor surrounded by your friends, face hurting from smiling so much, a growth-inducing experience that becomes part of you as a person? Not so much. Quit worrying and buy your damn tickets already.


Helen Keller

See you on the dance floor!

16 Responses to “MUSIC FESTIVALS: Traveling to the Beats on a Budget”

  1. Cathal O'Rourke Says:

    I could not agree more!

    So hows about me and you hit the MElt ! festival in Germany? 😉

    HAHAHA ~ IT’s too true, you only live once,,,and no one comes out of it alive, so live it while it’s there to be lived !

  2. dancefever5000 Says:

    You know I have heard really good things about Melt! Hmmmm….I’ve got no plans for mid-July….although plane tickets will be KILLER that time of year!

  3. OMG mid july is Emerg-N-See and the mystic garden festival with Dr. Emoto doing the water crystal thang… come back to the NW for this epic two weeks…. See #6 above…. you can come stay with meeeeeeeee!!!!

  4. #5 is sooooo true…-and I would add one more thing… dont buy that shirt or hat or whatever before you go, if you HAVE to buy something cool WAIT till you get to the festival. There is some of the most amazing things for sale that are made directly by the most amazing people at the show. Im not saying go buy a $1500 hand made leather vest from Bali… but if you really rock #5 and save a little bit to spend AT the festival, even $10, you will take home some magic that will remind you of that epic epic experience for a lifetime. See you on the other side… bless your path…

  5. Hey Shilo,

    I love this blog. Great suggestions. I couldn’t agree more!

    Thanks for adding Esthetic Evolution to your little festival list. It was an honor to see it up there with so many awesome events. If you don’t mind, could you link the name to the website ?

    Thanks so much!

  6. This is an EXCELLENT post – thank you Shilo!


    Don’t forget you can always check out (is a worldwide network for making connections between travelers and the local communities they visit).

  8. Look at that moron passed out in the Gold’s Gym shirt-ha ha what a goober….oh wait…..shit I think thats me! DOH! WTF-mustve been when I was outpartying everyone at Apex…..that’s right-Whos the man-Sho-nuff!
    Who’s the baddest?!!? Shonuff!! Who’s the master?!?- SHO-NUFF!! (Sho-nuff=MichaelB) *This message brought to you by the council for MichaelB for PResident & Good times………*

    Yo girl! What s a fine specimen like you doin in a petri-dish of a world like this?!?!?

  9. Oh, the cookies thing I never knew about-dope shit! I’m gonna erase cookies all the time! Whoohoo! The fun never ends!

  10. dancefever5000 Says:

    Ha ha just be glad the photo was taken before you had “GAME OVER” written across your face!


  11. dancefever5000 Says:

    And thanks for the awesome website Tim, I am now putting it in the body of the post so nobody misses it! ROCKIN!

  12. cymatics Says:

    this is awesome. great topic and ideas. respekt 🙂

  13. 3 thumbs up Shilo!

  14. cupKate Says:

    the pics made me itch for summer and festies. good work, i’m officially drooling over the great outdoors from my desk at work.

  15. Outdoor season is where its at for sure! Thanks for the mention on Operation Apex, was great times for sure last year. We’ll be doing it again this year Aug 21-23. It would be sweet if Camp Don’t Be Jealous came to party again 🙂

  16. And has links

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