NEW YORK - As the air gets warmer and spring blossoms, the season of music festivals is upon us. From Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Tennessee in June to Lollapalooza in Chicago in August, music lovers across the country will soon begin to flocking to festivals, which can draw hundreds of thousands of fans.
It's easy to get caught up in the excitement and spend a bundle, on everything from tickets to accommodations to bottles of water. But with a little foresight, it's easy to cut down on excess spending and enjoy the music and excitement without breaking the bank.
BEFORE YOU GO: Tickets are usually pricey, but if you plan enough in advance, you can at least shave off a little money and buy with early-bird discounts. For cheaper rates, consider if you want to buy a day pass or two instead of a full festival pass.
Camping is the cheapest lodging option of course. But if that isn't an option, or if you prefer to stay at a hotel, book your hotel first, before your airfare, recommends Andrew Young, editorial director, North America of travel site Travelzoo. The cheapest hotel rooms book up quickly, and flights can be more flexible.
Also make sure to check for a secondary airport in the region of the festival that might have cheaper fares. And if you have a day or two to spare for your vacation, come a day early and leave a day late, when airfare will likely be cheaper, Young says.
The more information you have, the more likely you are to make smart spending choices. Download the festival's own app as well as apps like Festival Ready, which includes navigation and weather forecasts. Yelp and travel apps like Travelzoo or Expedia can also help you find your way around or get last-minute discounts on spots around town.
Carpooling is one of the best ways to save, Young says, and there are even some hidden benefits when festivals seek to reward carpoolers. At Coachella earlier this month, for example, carpoolers with four or more people in the car could print out a sign for their dashboard that said "Carpoolchella," and were entered into a contest that could result in winning VIP tickets to Coachella for life and other prizes. Check with the festival you're attending to see if it does anything similar.
AT THE FESTIVAL: If you're committed to saving cash, consider volunteering. That has the obvious advantage of getting you into the festival free, but make sure you consider the drawbacks, Young says.
"Those lists often fill up quick, and depending on what's involved, you may see the festival from a distance, but you may get a little bit of off time," he says. "Whether you volunteer depends on what your willingness is to work during the festival."
The biggest money drain can be things that you could have brought if you'd just prepared in advance. Water is a big one. It can cost several dollars a bottle, and when you're out all day in the scorching heat, that can add up. Bring your own water, or if the festival does not allow that, bring a water bottle or CamelBak. Most festivals are required to offer free drinkable water, though it might be well water that doesn't taste the greatest.
Bringing snacks if the festival allows that can save a lot of dough, too. And make sure you have essentials like sunscreen and a hat, so you don't have to buy them at the festival at a markup. Young recommends buddying up with fellow festivalgoers and dividing up what to bring, so you don't end up with seven bottles of sunscreen but no Band-Aids.