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Tips For a Great Festival Experience

Your first festival experience is just like your first attempt at anything else; There are definitely going to be things you felt like you were missing or wish you had done differently. Practice makes perfect as you learn by trial and error what works for you. But, you can save yourself the trouble of learning these several things the hard way since I already did that for you! The last days of school are nearly upon us and the sun is beating down in full force. Summertime is just around the corner, which means festival season is finally here!

After a wild four-day camping adventure at Bonnaroo, and then a very different but similarly whirlwind two days in the Big Apple for Panorama, I’ve made my hefty share of festival errors. Although, all of my rookie mistakes proved to be valuable teachable moments where I realized what I can improve on next time for a smoother ride. Here’s what I’ve learned so far!

Bring multiple portable chargers

This is the one I really screwed up at Bonnaroo, because all I brought with me was a cheap portable charger from Five And Below that died the first night there. There were charging stations at the festival but with back-to-back shows all day and night that we absolutely could not miss, no one wanted to waste time waiting for their phone to charge. We could only afford to hang around the charging station for a few minutes each day, so all I could do was let my mom know I was still alive and maybe snap one or two pics before my phone was dead again. If I could go back in time, I would’ve brought four portable chargers, one for each day.

Bring a camera

Smartphones have basically made digital cameras obsolete, but I highly recommend bringing a back-up device for documentation, especially if you’re going to be camping. I sadly only have a handful of photos from Bonnaroo because my phone was either dead or dying the entire time. Obviously lugging around a DSLR isn’t the most practical choice, but you could always pick up a disposable camera at a drugstore and kick it old-school. 

Bring as much water as you possibly can

I didn’t realize how much water meant to me until I was parched and covered in dirt and grime in the middle of a hot, dry Tennessee valley on my third day without a shower. They were charging $20 for a short shower in a rather unfavorable facility, so my friends and I opted for simply dumping gallons of distilled water on each other. Laugh all you want but it was better than nothing! Oh, and you’ll also learn to rely on baby wipes a lot more than you’d probably like to. 

Pack plenty of layers and all weather options

Since both festivals were in the dead of the summer, I almost exclusively brought shorts, crop tops, bralettes and overall skimpy attire. I had luckily thrown in one sweatshirt for Bonnaroo, and I ended up wearing it to bed every night. I didn’t account for how much cooler it gets at night, especially when you’re sleeping in the open air. While I sweated through every day, I shivered in my tent each night. Don’t make my same wardrobe mistake!

Leave your expectations at home

Like everything else on my list, I learned this the hard way, but luckily it was early enough in the festival that I still had an amazing, unforgettable time. We had been planning the trip for months, so I couldn’t help but have high hopes and idealized visions for my very first festival experience. This was especially since all I knew about music festivals was what I’d seen on social media and read about in blogs and articles.

Although, I quickly realized that no one really posts or talks about the ugly, frustrating aspects of festivals. You’re going to miss some shows that you were dying to see due to logistical impossibility and some artists and acts are going to let you down. You’re going to spend an uncomfortable amount of time on your feet waiting in crowds and lines, so bring comfy shoes!

If you’re going with a group, be prepared to make sacrifices and be flexible when not everyone wants to see the same shows or head back to the campsite at the same time. Perfect is what you make of it, and the fewer expectations you have the more likely you’ll feel like you had a perfect time despite whatever inevitable bumps in the road arise.

Because of the extensive planning I did for Bonnaroo, when things started to not go according to plan, it really dampened the mood. I learned from my mistake and went to Panorama with a much more open mind and boy, was it worth it. If you find yourself feeling disappointed or overwhelmed by how things are going, take a deep breath and a step back and remember how fortunate you are to be collecting such a valuable experience.

Noelle is a senior at VCU pursuing a B.I.S. with a minor in Media Studies. She knows this will be of great use to her when her lifelong dream of becoming a stand-up comedian is actualized. When she's not working at the animal shelter, or busy avoiding her schoolwork by doing yoga, you can find her attempting to sleep while her cats do everything in their power to prevent it.
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