Here’s How to Attend Expensive Music Festivals Without Going Totally Broke
From Woodstock in 1969 to Bonnaroo’s annual event coming up this summer, music festivals never go out of style.
On paper, the idea of getting together in a hot, muddy cornfield with 40,000 of your closest friends to rock out under the stars might not seem like a lot of fun, but don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.
But while music festivals themselves are amazing, the damage they inflict on your wallet isn’t: travel, lodging, meals, admission and incidentals all add up quickly.
Take a look at 2017 ticket prices for some popular music fests around the country. (Note: Prices may change based on ticket availability.)
- Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee: $274.50 and up for four days
- Coachella in Indio, California: $562 and up for three days
- Lollapalooza in Chicago, Illinois: $363 and up for four days
- Firefly in Dover, Delaware: $299 and up for four days
- Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival in Okeechobee, Florida: $249 for three days, $279 for four days
But most ticket prices don’t include options like parking, camping, meals, and other add-ons many festivals offer. When you tally up those options, it’s easy to spend $500 to $1,000 per person if you’re not careful.
There’s got to be a better way.
Save Money While Getting Your Groove On
Once you’ve pulled together enough cash to cover the cost of your ticket, you’ll need to figure out how to get to the event.
You’ll also have to decide where you’ll sleep and what you’ll eat without going broke.
If you’re pinching pennies, don’t expect to dine on steak every night while lounging on a feather bed in a four-star hotel.
On the other hand, tent camping on-site and cooking over a fire pit is half the fun of attending a festival.
Come for the music; stay for the community spirit.
- If you’re flying to a festival right around a holiday, you’ll want to book your flight as soon as possible.
- No matter what time of year you’re flying, never book on a Friday. Do it on this day instead.
- If you’re renting a car to get to the festival, this smart travel hack will help you avoid an outrageous deposit.
- Whether you’re driving your own car or a rental, be sure to consider all the different ways you can save money on the road trip.
- Buying tickets on a BoltBus or MegaBus? Here’s how to get tickets for a buck.
Where To Stay
- Most festivals have on-site camping but you’ll be expected to bring your own tents and supplies. Find out ahead of time how much camping passes cost and what items are permitted so you know in advance if you can bring things like your own firewood and portable stove.
- If you’re going with a group, consider pooling your resources to rent an RV.
- An Airbnb can be an inexpensive alternative to pricy hotels near the venue.
What To Eat and Drink
- If you decide to leave the festival grounds for a hot restaurant meal, don’t forget to check online food deals before you go.
- Challenge someone to a friendly bet at the beer tent. If you win (and you will), the other person has to buy you a drink.
- Make your own hummus, Lunchables, granola and other snacks to take with you.
- Learn these seven guilt-free menu hacks in case you swing through a drive-thru.
- A lot of cheap gas station coffee is just as good as the expensive stuff.
How Your Fellow Penny Hoarders Save Money at Music Festivals
When you want to know how to get things done, it’s important to talk to the experts — that is, the people who attend music events.
I asked a group of dedicated festival-goers on Facebook for their best money-saving tips and tricks.
Their answers were terrific.
- “Basically just be willing to barter,” said Brenton Rhein, of Orlando, Florida. “Talk to your neighbors and see what you can pool together. Most people are willing to do this, and it’ll save everyone money in the long run.”
- Jeremy V., 37, also of Orlando, recommends, “Make things and be creative with each festival. I always hand make things as a side hustle, so that I can use for trades or cash. I leave festivals with money made.”
- “Plan meals with your group and all pitch in on ingredients and labor. We made stir fry, bacon grilled cheese, and a huge breakfast everyday. We didn’t spend much in food inside the fest, and spent maybe $80-100 per couple on the groceries,” said Alex Gallo, 23, of Woodstock, Georgia.
- “We had a big group,” said Florida resident Courtney Lord, 27. “[We] assigned certain snacks and drinks to singles and couples brought food. Everyone was responsible for bringing their own case of water.”
- “If you are being really thrifty most festivals have an option to volunteer in exchange for a ticket,” suggests Kelli Wheeler, 28, from Orlando. “You usually work about five to six hours per day and get the rest of the time to enjoy the festival.
- “Goodwill and DIY for outfits,” recommended Alexa Mucci, a resident of New York City who turned 24 at this year’s Okeechobee Music Fest. “Lots of people spend a ton of money on their rave gear or festival fashion, but you can repurpose thrift store finds or make really creative stuff out of cheap material and fun dollar store stuff.
Think Outside the Box
Come up with an interesting story angle and pitch it to a website that might be willing to pick up some of the cost to send a freelance writer to cover the event.
When all else fails, sometimes you just have to make your own luck.
“I went to Okeechobee for free because I entered [around] 10 different online contests,” Mucci said.
That’s just brilliant.
Your turn: What’s your favorite money saving music festival tip?
Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She plans to use at least 10 of these tips the next time she goes to a music festival.