Coachella. Glastonbury. Roskilde. Summerjam. The list of open-air music festivals is seemingly endless, and with a great variety of opportunities comes the difficulty of choosing one that meets all expectations in terms of music genre, size, location and personal budget.
dockville festival 09

Once you’ve made your pick and rounded up a group of friends to come along for a weekend of pure madness (Fusion, anyone?), it’s time to focus on the necessary preparation. This may sound silly, but there’s a few things that definitely should be taken care of before you embark on your journey.

Usually, visiting the website of your festival of choice will provide you with a lot of helpful information – how to best get there, how long you can stay on the camping grounds after the festival is officially over, etc. In many cases, the websites come with a discussion forum, in which festival-veterans tend to gladly pass on their experiences to “newbies”. Check these forums for insider-tips, for example what the weather tends to be like, how to best smuggle in forbidden items or which camping spots are “ideal” for partying all night/actually getting some sleep/being close to hygienic facilities.

However, having attended a number of festivals as the only girl in a horde of guys, I’ve found that there’s certain things even advice from an online forum or Festivalguide (enter link: http://festivalguide.de) can’t prepare you for. Therefore, I’d like to share my experiences to make sure all Travelettes out there have the best possible festival experience.

Getting there.

As the German says, “Der Weg ist das Ziel” – the journey is the reward. This can be true if you organize your transportation timely. I’ve never actually done so, but taking a mini road trip across Europe with your friends and ending it by attending an open-air festival does sound like a very romantic idea – if everything works out, which of course it usually never does. There’s a plethora of alternatives to this that can be a lot cheaper and just as much fun.

Taking the train is probably the easiest (and very eco-friendly, for all you tree-huggers out there). If you’re a group of up to 5 people travelling within Germany, for example, transportation across the country can cost you as little as 11€ per person, per ride. I’m not very well-versed on railroad systems in other nations, especially outside the EU, but I assume there’s similar offers if you take some time to investigate.

This year, friends and I have booked on to a (self-proclaimed) “party bus” that will take us straight from Berlin to the Hurricane festival in northern Germany. 40€ to and back, a busload of like-minded people and the carefreeness of being able to get on and off without having to worry about much else seem like a pretty good bargain (this is something we came across after having a look at the festival’s online forum – if you’re also looking for a ride, this may be the place for you!).

Packing intelligently.

A lot of guys I know simply throw a few t-shirts, a toothbrush and a sleeping bag into a backpack and feel like they’re good to go. For girls, it tends to get a little more tricky. Generally speaking, it’s definitely best to think in practical terms – this is not the place for flowy skirts or high heels. That doesn’t mean you have to abdicate your fashion sense. While labels like H&M and Topshop have already launched their fashion lines for the upcoming festival summer, keeping in mind a few key points will make any girl’s wardrobe festival-friendly. No matter which festival you are planning to attend, certain items will prove to be indispensable – this includes sun glasses, a hat, rubber boots, a warm sweater and a rain jacket. Wearing a skirt may be practical when having to pee in a port-a-potty, while getting caught in a mosh pit or crowd-surfing involuntarily in your new high-waisted mini may scar you for life. Denim shorts are usually a safe bet – pair them off with your favorite t-shirt, a vest and a pair of gum boots and you’ll be rocking the festival ground à la Kate Moss.

festival 101

Indispensables

Make sure you bring along something to eat on your first night – amidst finding a spot on the camping grounds, pitching the tent and having a beer with your new “neighbors”, you wont want to worry about how to escape starvation. Ravioli noodles and any other forms of canned food are usually pretty popular with festival visitors, my friends and I prefer to bring (instant) Ramen noodles because these are extremely light to carry, don’t take up a lot of space and (at least technically speaking – I’ve never noticed a difference) come in a variety of flavors.

I can also highly recommend taking along baby-wipes or something similar – festival grounds tend to be very dusty when it’s hot (or muddy, depending on the amount of rainfall), and a quick-fix in the tent is always better than trudging twenty minutes to the next washing area/water source. For a list of things you absolutely need to bring, I can once again only recommend the corresponding online forum, as items tend to vary, depending on which festival you’ll be attending.

the whitest boy alive at dockville

the whitest boy alive at dockville

Practical tips

Showers – While many members of the opposite sex find it O.K. to skip the shower for a couple of days, most girls simply can’t go without, especially after dancing and partying hours on end. Don’t even attempt to shower anytime between the morning and early afternoon, that is unless you don’t mind waiting in line for up to three hours. I’ve discovered that right before going to bed (at four or five o’clock in the morning) is the best time to avoid queues.

Forgotten utensils – Bear in mind that in case you should forget to bring something absolutely vital, there will most likely be the opportunity to purchase this on-site, albeit the price may be a lot higher than what you’d usually spend. In that case, I recommend taking a short walk around the camping ground and asking anyone you encounter for help. Chances are, they’ll have just what you need (an extra tent peg, aluminum foil, tweezers, …) and be glad to give/lend it to you in exchange for one or two cans of beer.

Note: beer is the inofficial currency at most festivals. Make sure you always have enough to supply yourself and friends, to trade in for other (of course less important) necessities and to ward off ninjas.

Boys – Practice playing flunky ball so you can impress any festival hottie you come across.

Check-List – Last but not least, remember to bring sun screen, painkillers, a pocket knife (it’ll come in handy), little money and no valuables, hair ties (I once forgot to take any- it was an absolute nightmare) and some cutlery/crockery to eat with and from. A tent, sleeping bag and at least some form of mattress might not be a bad idea either. Take along a few band aids just in case, although there will always be an on-site ambulance should you seriously injure yourself.

As attending a festival traditionally involves drinking a lot of alcohol (usually beer), I’d also suggest you take along a pack of crackers or something else to eat thats dry and won’t upset your stomach. I’ve had beer (and instant noodles) for breakfast, lunch and dinner multiple days in a row, and let me just say my digestive system paid me back alright.
Whether you’re going as part of a larger group or with just one or two friends, you’re bound to meet loads of like-minded and outgoing people – and you’ll always have a similar music taste to act as an icebreaker! I’ve come to love summer festivals, not only because of the incredible amount of live performances by my favorite artists, but also because they’re a great way to go on a mini holiday with friends, especially if you’re on a low budget.

Check the links below for a list of open air festivals and feel free to add any other helpful information via the commentary box!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_festivals
http://www.ukstudentlife.com/Life/Entertainment/Festivals.htm

Happy travels,
Ina*

ina photo

*If, like Ina, you have a great travel-related story to tell or advice to give, please send your story to contribute@travelettes.net along with some photos. We will publish the best ones.