How to pack for a music festival

After patiently enduring questionable rumors and countless fake line-up posters during the wait for your favorite music festival to announce their bands, the on-sale day has finally arrived: victory – and festival tickets – are yours!  Now, what’s next?

Whether you’re a complete newbie or a seasoned music festival veteran, smart packing choices are key in avoiding frustrations that can distract you from the very thing you’re traveling to enjoy: the music. Here are some tips on planning and packing for your trip to a music festival.

Plan ahead

Before you begin packing, take a long look at your festival’s list of items not allowed (the Riot Fest list is a great example). Then, be sure to recheck this list again before getting in line to enter the festival. Doing so will save you time, money and suitcase space, with no need throw out prohibited items (selfie sticks, metal containers, etc.) before security lets you enter the festival, or getting out of line to run things back to your car.

Flying to a festival that involves camping takes some advance planning. If you pack carefully, you can take along a good portion of your equipment as checked baggage; learn about what camping gear is allowed in checked baggage when flying. For the items you need but can’t check or carry on, do a little research before you fly to discover the best places near your destination to rent/buy gear.

If you’re more of a collapsing-into-a-big-fluffy-bed-at-the-end-of-the-day festivalgoer, stick to booking hotels or Airbnb properties that are within easy distance of the festival grounds to minimize your travel time. Since both traffic and parking at festivals have becoming increasingly problematic, head to the festival grounds via mass transit, ride-sharing service or a festival shuttle.  If you must drive, look for festival-sponsored carpool programs like Coachella’s Carpoolchella that offer serious prizes or better parking spots as a reward for sharing a ride with fellow fans.

Some festivals, such as Sasquatch and Bonnaroo, offer lockers for rent on the festival grounds – get one!  Renting a locker gives you a place to stash bulkier items like a hoodie, a water bottle, rain gear, snacks, sunscreen, and the external charger for your phone. The less you need to carry around with you between stages, the happier you’ll be.

This is an image of a music festival-inspired poster detailing the packing list outlined in this blog post.

Pack it up

Once your pre-planning is done, it’s time to pack. Beyond your usual clothes and toiletries, here’s a list of some essential items to add to your suitcase when flying to a music festival:

External charger/charging cord for phone – Your phone serves as your lifeline at a music festival. It’s how you post to social and reconnect with friends when you split up for sets at different stages. It’s your camera, map, and set time guide. It keeps you connected to the official festival app, text alerts and promotions. It’s your watch, your notebook, your flashlight. Along with a strong, waterproof case, make sure you’ve got a charging cord and at least one external battery to keep your phone powered up. Festival grounds are notorious for connectivity issues – the ultimate battery killer – so any means you have of recharging your battery will make the whole festival experience better.

Water bottle – Some festivals allow you to bring in an empty water bottle to fill once you’re inside and through security, and it’s a smart bet. You can stay well-hydrated and avoid paying silly-expensive prices for bottled water from the festival vendors.

Earplugs – Magical items that not only protect your hearing long term, earplugs can also help block out nearby conversations and save your sanity during a band you cannot stand.

Sunscreen – Buy a travel size sunscreen, and keep reapplying it throughout the day. You absolutely don’t want to find yourself burned to a crisp right away and then feeling miserable throughout the weekend.

Wristband – If your festival has mailed you your admittance wristband before the festival, do NOT forget to bring it along. Getting yours replaced on site is difficult at best, and even if the festival does allow you to replace it, it will take a long time – time during which you may miss the very bands you traveled a long way to see.  Simply put, follow the instructions sent with the wristband.

Gum/mints/candy – Gum or mints are very helpful when there’s no water around. Also, they’re handy to share with those new friends packed in tightly around you when you’re on the rail waiting for the next band – fresh breath for all.

Sunglasses – See the band, or squint in the general direction of the stage as the sun sets directly into your eyes:  you make the call.  Many festival sponsors hand out free sunglasses, so if you’re not picky about your eyewear this might be one item you can skip packing.

Pain reliever – Headaches, twisted ankles, and toothaches won’t slow you down if you carry a few ibuprofen or aspirin with you throughout the day.

A piece of clothing with zipper pockets – You can throw your essentials in a pocket, zip up, and worry less about dropping and losing anything, or dragging around a bag.

Energy bars – If your festival of choice allows, bring a few in with you. They’re no replacement for the tasty festival food, but will keep your energy levels up between meals.

Bonus items

If you’re one of the wise souls who reserved a locker or don’t mind carrying around a small bag, throw these extra items in your suitcase to make your time at the festival easier and more comfortable.

A hoodie or jacket – Shivering through a set is miserable. Avoid it if you can.

Scarf – Nothing fancy is needed, just a simple cotton scarf will do. If it gets cold when the sun goes down, bundle up. Are you standing at stage in the blazing sun waiting for the next act?  Wet the scarf down and wrap it around your head and neck to cool down quickly. It can also help protect a developing sunburn, or serve as an umbrella during a sudden downpour.

Eye drops – Remote festivals can be windy; having eye drops to get the grit out of your eyes can be priceless. Of course, eye drops are essential if you’re wearing contacts, and a spare pair contacts aren’t a bad idea, either.

Rain boots and a poncho – Pay close attention to the weather forecast, and pack/wear these if there’s a decent chance of rain. With thousands of feet stomping about, festival grounds muddy up quickly and a pair of wellies can be the difference between actually making it to see the next band or standing in one spot trying to dig out the shoe you’ve lost in the mud.

A small roll of gaffer tape or spike tape – This one might seem odd, but gaffer tape has multiple, miraculous uses to repair just about anything you have with you that breaks – shoes, tent poles, purse straps, sunglasses. It’s a little more expensive than duct tape, but is easier to remove and does less damage to surfaces. (Also, it’s handy for making goofy mustaches and eyebrows to wear while you and your friends kill time between sets.)

Mini hand sanitizer – Not all festivals have running water or enough portable sinks and soap.

Mini packs of tissues – Because portable toilets at festivals can, and do, run out of toilet paper. Enough said.

A few bandages – They’re lightweight and take up little space. You don’t want to deal with the first aid tent for a small cut, which will likely be swamped with more pressing cases, anyway.

A printed copy of the festival schedule – A schedule printout can be a lifesaver if you can’t get a phone signal at the festival grounds, or your phone battery dies late in the day.

These are just a few suggestions for items that have been handy at past festivals. Whichever music festival you attend, think ahead and then pack the things that will make your own festival experience worry-free, so that you can relax and enjoy an inspiring day with people and music you love.  And if there are things you’ve found invaluable at music festivals, share them with us in the comments below.

Already have music festival plans on the horizon?  Get started booking your flights, hotel and car here.