How to Save at Coachella and Other Pricey Music Festivals


In 2013 there were 80,000 people in attendance just for Coachella: Weekend One. That’s right, tickets for Coachella (Indio, CA) were in such high demand that beginning in 2012 Goldenvoice made it a 2-weekend event. But who can afford it? Aren’t these things just filled with dumb girls wearing flower crowns and butt-to-nuts-crowds of drunk, sweaty hippies? Whooooa! Calm down, NARC, don’t harsh my mellow with your negativity! Just surrender to the flow!

Whether you’re heading to Coachella Weekend 2, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Sasquatch, Telluride or just want to plan ahead for next year, I’m fresh off the Magic Bus (my silver Saturn) from Weekend 1 of Coachella and ready to share some sweet inside-tips to help you do two of my favorite things- save money, and GET TO THAT FEST!

Have a solid purchase plan and commit to it. Know when tickets go on sale, and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for pre-sales or early bird specials. Prices can increase as it gets closer to show-time, so always buy early. If the promoter offers a layaway plan- JUMP ON IT. Even if it turns out you can’t make it when the time comes, rich kids on the Internet will pay you lots of daddy dollars for your precious sold-out goods. While I would never ever EVER condone the monster act of scalping (quit taking tickets from the real fans, man!!) I do know that a sold-out festival ticket can sell for up to $1200 at the last minute.

Motivate yourself to save up by kicking habits and giving up some vices and treats. My favorite little treat is buying fresh cut flowers, but not at festival time baby! Think of any little habit you might have- guilty-pleasure magazines, those fancy cookies you like, designer gum – whatever, just have a little discipline and give it up for awhile. You will notice the difference in your bank account. Maybe throw all of your change and one-dollar bills into a place that isn’t too accessible for at least one month before go-time. I did this and ended up with about $60. BOOM! Gas money.

I promise you it’s fun. It’s leaps and bounds cheaper than a hotel’s weekend rates, or a condo/house share, and it truly makes the festival experience come alive (I swear this is not a hidden drug reference). My friend admitted to paying almost $600 for a hotel she split with three other girls. Yikes! A Coachella camping pass will run you less than $100, and you can split that cost with whoever is in your car. Also, you’ll make fast friends with your camp neighbors, and if they’re really cool, they’ll offer to share stuff (as you will too) and you’ll all end up doubling your supplies! FREEDOM, MAN!!

This step is MOST IMPORTANT because this is where the money can really add up. Of course, check the rules and know the policies, because every fest is different. But from experience, poor meal decisions can drain your fest funds before you can even yell “FREEBIRD!”

With it being my 7th festival, I did a little experiment this year. I tried to do food at Coachella for all 4 days (arriving at camp the day before) with $100 or less. And it WORKED! But I did have to do my part. I planned and prepared some great things that could hold up well in a cooler and also be easily accessible.

At Coachella, you can bring whatever you want into the campgrounds, but “no outside food or drink” is allowed once inside the venue. There are ways around this, TRUST. While I don’t condone rule-breaking, I would like to tell you that I know a little birdie who will bring in granola/protein bars, salty snacks in little baggies, and if that birdie is feeling bold, she’ll even smuggle in a half sandwich. The best way to do this is to roll or fold the snacks into a pair of light pants or sweatshirt in a small backpack. You will get searched, but if you open your bag and move stuff around to kind of “help” them with the search, they won’t find it. These are some of the things I prepared and kept at home base:

  • Two sandwiches, cut in halves. I made one turkey and one salami and spaced out the halves over the first two days. Perfect for a light lunch before you head in to the venue, or a late night snack after the headliner.
  • Pasta salad. Delicious and filling on it’s own, or the perfect compliment to those sandwiches. Gluten free? Gluten free pasta surprisingly makes for a nicely-textured salad.
  • Persian cucumbers with lemon. This was my best idea. Naturally hydrating, these were a perfect campsite snack. Just buy 1 lb. pound of the mini cucumbers, slice them lengthwise into quarters, and squeeze some lemon on when you’re ready to eat. If you’re really ambitious, bring a Dollar Store salt shaker and sprinkle a pinch on top. So refreshing.
  • Morning snacks: Bananas, honeydew melon balls, granola, breakfast bars.
  • Iced coffee and O.J. can really enhance you’re morning snack situation, while avoiding the long coffee lines.

A lot of these festivals have some of the same foods, if not very similar vendors. Look around first and see what other people are eating, and don’t be afraid to ask if something looks good. The worst thing you can do is get a crappy slice of pizza for $8 when you could have paid $10 for an amazing buffalo chicken sandwich. And unless you’re out of snacks and starving, you don’t need to spend $6 on a side of fries. That chicken sandwich will fill you up, plus that’s $6 more you can use for beer. Just play it smart.

Whether you’re a sweaty hippie, a tired waitress (ahem) or Joe from HR just looking to get away from it all, there is simply no other environment where a diverse group of humans can come together to bond over their passion music, while truly letting their freak flags fly. We all deserve to get away from it all once in awhile, and we work hard to do it. Might as well save a buck or two. At the very least? You can justify buying that dumb flower crown.

Erin Lampart is a comedian and story-teller living in Los Angeles with her cool dog, Jan. Part-time waitress and full-time dork, you can follow her on Twitter @ThatsSoLampy


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