After a long pandemic hiatus, many large events are returning in 2022. One of the buzziest categories is music festivals.
From Coachella to Glastonbury, there are countless festivals for music fans to enjoy this year, and they are certainly taking advantage. An estimated 750,000 people attended the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April.
Those high numbers inevitably include many first-time festival attendees, who don’t always know how to navigate the experience. And plenty of seasoned festival-goers have taken note of their missteps.
Below, music festival experts share the most common mistakes that attendees make ― and their advice for avoiding these errors.
Burning Out On Day One
“So many festival-goers ― rookies and vets ― can get caught up in the sensory overload that is music festivals and end up going ‘all in’ on the first day,” said Skip Blankley, founder of Festival Survival Guide. “Music festivals are a marathon, not a sprint, and getting caught up in the excitement of the music, dancing, friends, and positive vibes you find in abundance at music festivals can leave people feeling quite drained after the first day, and find the remaining days less enjoyable due to lack of energy, or just feeling super hungover.”
He recommended treating the first day of a music festival the same way you would your first day at school or college. Take the time to get your bearings, establish your crew, familiarize yourself with the landscape and check out the amenities and concessions.
If you start to feel overwhelmed at all, take time to retreat and take a breather. Be mindful about how you’re feeling and what’s going on around you to avoid going too hard on the first day and getting burned out.
“You’re excited and it’s understandable,” said Vito Valentinetti, co-founder and editor-and-chief of Music Festival Wizard. “You’ve been waiting a year (or in some cases, three years) for this festival and the natural tendency is to indulge in everything at once. Pace yourself and have fun. You don’t want the next day to be low energy.”
Relying Too Much On Technology
Don’t assume your phone will work perfectly throughout a music festival. These spaces often have poor service and few battery charging stations. Major festivals like Coachella also have a history of phone theft.
Thus, it’s important to make back-up plans in case your group gets separated and not everyone can get in touch.
“Back in the old days of 2015, our group would designate a central meeting area in case anyone got separated or people were bouncing out to other shows,” Valentinetti said. “Because cell phones can still be lost, have no battery, or service is down, this low-tech method still works best for meetups.”
Not Hydrating Enough
“People are often out on their feet, dancing and moving around in the sun for many hours,” said Joey Sutera, head of live entertainment at SEERS. “While having fun, drinking alcohol or even if you’re sober, it’s easy to forget to consistently drink water. Especially if you are a fan who loves to be up against the rails or in the thick of the crowd, it will be harder to leave and get to a water station or vendor section.”
He implored festival-goers to carry extra water, a hydration pack and even electrolyte tabs to stay healthy and avoid passing out. The exact amount of water a person needs can vary, but it generally ranges from two to four liters ― and increases with physical activity and time in hot temperatures. Pay attention to sneaky signs of dehydration ― like dry mouth, muscle spasms and headaches ― as well.
“I can’t tell you how many times I have seen someone pulled out of the crowd on a gurney, or dazed under a canopy while their friends try to fan them and force water down their throat,” Blankley said. “Staying hydrated is one of the easiest ways to not only stay safe, but also keep your body in motion all weekend long. Hydration is not just about water, but electrolytes as well. Being outside in the heat and dancing all weekend long means your body sweating out all of those essential minerals you need to function at your best.”
Just as you wear sunscreen at the beach to protect your skin, you should also try to wear earplugs at concerts to protect your hearing. They’re especially useful in music festival settings where you’ll be exposed to a variety of shows with different energy and volume levels.
“As anyone (including myself) who has tinnitus will tell you, bring a pair of earplugs,” Valentinetti said. “And bring a backup pair in case something happens to them. Earplugs have come a long way and there are plenty of affordable options (Earpeace, Eargasm) that block out high volumes with little effect on the fidelity of the music.”
Being Unprepared For The Weather
“Most festivals take place in the heat of the summer and often times people are traveling from out of state and are not quite prepared for the conditions,” Blankley said. “Protecting yourself from the sun is of the utmost importance. Sunburn is very real and can ruin your weekend if you get hit on the first day without protection.”
Pack plenty of sunscreen, hats, sunglasses and other layers for sun protection. A scarf or neck gaiter can also be useful for festivals in dusty settings like the desert.
“The sun can ruin a weekend as quickly as the rain can,” Blankley added. “Be sure to check the weather forecast and if rain is even slightly possible, be sure to be prepared at camp and for the festival itself.”
Ponchos, waterproof shoes and extra clothes will make a world of difference if you get caught in a torrential downpour.
Over-Planning And Researching Every Detail
It’s great to do research and familiarize yourself with many aspects of a music festival (like the weather conditions) before attending for the first time. But don’t get too caught up in anticipating and planning every aspect.
“Strike a balance between doing all of your research and going with the flow,” Sutera said. “For example, if you are going to a camping festival way out in an unknown rural area, reach out to the festival representatives, check on Reddit groups and ask questions.”
He suggested factoring costs and convenience when making transportation plans, for instance. Look up the prices of rental cars vs. public transportation and prepare for spotty service areas. But don’t make a rigid itinerary.
“On the flip side, I would say try your best to be surprised as to what is on site instead of worrying so much about stage designs, production, and so forth,” Sutera added. “If you trust the festival enough to attend, let the festival do its job and wow you. In my opinion, it’s better to arrive on site and explore everything for the first time versus consistently looking on social media for previews. Arrive with expectations managed, get lost, enjoy.”
Not Bringing Sanitizing Wipes Or Masks
“Even before the pandemic, festivals were havens of germs and bacteria,” Valentinetti said. “It’s called ‘festival flu’ for a reason.”
Recent music festivals have been COVID super-spreader events, so attendees should understand they’re taking on a level of risk by packing together in large crowds for multiple hours and days.
If you’re concerned about contracting COVID but still would like to attend a festival, be sure to mask up when you’re indoors or in dense crowds.
There are ways to keep health and cleanliness in mind as well.
“Wet Ones wipes are handy for sinks with no soap, cleaning up after eating, and the nightmare this is a festival toilet,” Valentinetti advised. “You never know when you are going to reach into a purse and find it’s filled with vomit ― true story.”