Here’s another reason why being an adult f**king sucks. We still love everything about music festivals – the music, the dancing, the booze, the parties – but we no longer have the stamina or the cool factor of our uber-hip-Instafabulous-20-something counterparts.
Coachella may have ended months ago, but don’t hang up your flower crowns and Indian headdresses quite yet! Even though that disaster in the desert is over, festival season is still in very much in full swing with different events happening just about every weekend through the end of the year.
I joke about Coachella, but I have gone many times and I have always enjoyed myself. This year, however, we decided to travel to San Francisco for Outside Lands because we thought both the lineup and the food and drink offerings were better. Outside Lands is usually considered Coachella for the “older” generation (think somewhere between Coachella and Desert Trip), and with Metallica and The Who headlining, Outside Lands is on pace to live up to its reputation.
So if you’re headed to a festival this year, here are some tips on how to live it up grown-up style:
1. Travel and transportation
Ladies. We are supposed to be grown-ass adults now, so there is no reason to procrastinate. Most of us have to plan a weekend away far in advance (child care, taking off work, etc), so this should be a no-brainer, but accommodations book up fast, especially the good ones. Reserve your hotel or Airbnb as soon as possible so that you’re not stuck paying a fortune to stay in a Motel 6 or sleeping in your car like I did few years ago. Yikes!
When you’re booking accommodations, make sure to consider transportation to the festival. There are usually thousands of Ubers and Lyfts in the area, but the price can be astronomical (surging 6x last time I was at Coachella!) and depending on when and where you’re travelling from, you might have to wait in a ridiculous line. I promise, after spending an entire day drinking in the sun, your dusty, tired ass does not want to wait in an hour-long line just to hitch a ride home.
Most festivals have shuttle services, so staying near a shuttle stop is another option. Or, if you are super on top of things, book an Airbnb that’s walking distance from the venue. We did this last year at Coachella and it was clutch.
2. Make a Schedule
I have always been a bit of a wuss and a complainer, and that has only gotten worse with age. I can’t spend 12 hours wandering around in the sun at a festival anymore. I just…can’t. So instead of arriving when the music starts and spending 12 hours being miserable, figure out which acts you and your friends and/or SO want to see and plan a schedule for yourself. You don’t need to follow it to a T, but at least it gives you an idea of who you want to see and when they’ll be on.
Last year, my boyfriend and I each made two lists of bands: “must-see” and “would-like-to-see”, so we were able to figure out what time we needed to get to the festival, and what time we would probably leave each night. Instead of arriving when the gates opened and spending the entire day there, we spent about 5-6 hours at the festival each day. It was totally manageable, even for a whiny bitch like myself.
3. Pack smart
Packing for a day at a festival is tricky. You need to find a healthy balance between not having anything you need and lugging a whole bunch of crap around all day. My first instinct is usually to travel light (i.e., I don’t want to carry anything), but as I get older that instinct is quickly being replaced by a different one: the mom instinct, which means planning for as many contingencies as possible.
Therefore, I always make sure to bring the essentials like something warm to put on at night, Advil or any other meds I might need, tissues (assuming that the porta-potties will be sufficiently stocked is not a great idea) and an empty water bottle.
And as much as I love the way I look with a beautiful bronze glow, I love my health and youthful skin even more. Wear loads of sunscreen (and bring extra with you to reapply often), and make sure to bring a hat and sunglasses. Don’t forget that each festival has very specific rules about what you’re allowed to bring in with you, so make sure to check their website before packing anything.
I should also note that a lot of festivals have lockers, which are totally amazing because you can bring all the crap you need without having to schlep it everywhere with you. But lockers are usually first-come, first-serve, so unless you’re one of the first people through the gates (see above: don’t do that), don’t plan on snagging any coveted locker space.
4. Hydrate (but remember, alcohol ≠ water)
This should be a no-brainer, but you would be shocked at how many people get so caught up in the festivities that they forget to eat and stay hydrated. Most festivals allow you to bring in an empty water bottle and refill at their hydration stations (which are basically spigots of water at the most inconvenient location on the festival grounds), but they almost always have ridiculous lines.
If you’re not willing to hike 3 miles and wait in line for water, than you can usually buy a bottle for the low, low price of your first-born child. Whichever shitty option you choose, make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially if the sun is blazing. Better to pay $10 for a bottle of water than have to spend the day in the med tent because you passed out from heat stroke or drinking too much alcohol.
Also, it’s totally fine to rage at a musical festival. After all, the kids are at grandma’s house and we don’t have to work for three days, so why not make the most out of it?? Just make sure to pace yourself so you’re not blacked out by the time the headliner hits the stage.
5. Get enough sleep
I am not your mother. You can stay up as late as your festival-loving self wants, but as much as I hate to admit it, most of us are generally functioning adults with families and careers and we can’t afford to go even one night without sleep. Getting enough rest during the festival will ensure that you have enough energy to actually enjoy it, and it will also prevent you from getting too run down to function when you have to return to the real world on Monday.
Don’t feel pressure to wear what the 20-somethings are wearing. Unless you actually are a native American, there is no reason to wear a feather headdress in public…like, ever. And shimmery bodysuits with serious sideboob are fine if you’re fresh out of college, but not so ideal for 30-something festival attire (p.s., try using a porta-potty while you’re wearing a bodysuit).
That doesn’t mean you can’t still rock out in style. One of the benefits of being 30+ is that our wardrobes can be a little more polished, and we don’t need to show a ton of skin to look great. This post and this post both have some great ideas about post-30’s festival fashion. Be prepared to get dusty and have all kinds of shit (e.g., beer, wine, nacho cheese, etc.) spilled on you, so don’t bring your best clothes.
You will walk A LOT, so wear comfortable shoes. And drunk people will definitely step on your feet at least once during each set, so I highly advise against open-toed shoes.
Also, don’t forget that, for a lot of summer/fall festivals, it will probably be hot as balls during the day and cold as Winterfell at night (OK, maybe not that cold, but I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a GOT reference. And on that note, are you guys watching this season!?!). My point is, layer that shit up.
7. Beyond the Music
One of the best parts about music festivals is that they are so much more than just music. These days, a lot of the bigger festivals are highly-curated full-sensory experiences that offer gourmet food, wine, art installations, comedy shows and more. If you have a little downtime between your favorite bands, I highly recommend taking a stroll around the festival grounds and experiencing some of the non-musical offerings.
Basically, the key to rocking a music festival in your 30’s is planning ahead, taking care of yourself, and having fun! Will report back on this year’s festival once we get home!
Do you guys have any great festival survival tips?