The Ultimate Guide to Summer Music Festivals

By Tamiera Vandegrift on June 22, 2018

Summer music festivals are one of the best ways to make the most of the summer, while also guaranteeing a really cool experience in the intense summer heat. Everything about summer music festivals screams fun and excitement, from performances of some of the most popular, talented musicians out there to the wide variety of special attractions and entertainment to be experienced. Summer music festivals offer something for everyone to enjoy and the best part? There are so many to enjoy!

Some of the most well-known music festival events, such as Coachella and Bonnaroo, host larger-than-life talents like Eminem and Dua Lipa. Smaller music festivals, such as Next Big Thing or Mo Pop Festival, host more obscure musicians, like Bon Iver and St. Vincent. No matter what size and scale, all summer music festivals offer fantastic experiences and sounds unlike anywhere else. Before you get overly hyped and book a ticket, there are a few things you need to know!

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Attending summer music festivals might sound overwhelming. What do you need to pack? What can you bring to the fairgrounds and what do you need to leave at home? What safety measures should be put in place during your time there? What should you do about food and water? How can you make the most out of your time to see the most performances as possible?

Don’t worry! Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from an amazing experience. Summertime is here and the music is waiting for you. Keep reading for an extensive guide to summer music festivals!

Before The Festival

The majority of planning for summer music festivals should definitely take place before you set foot on the campgrounds themselves. Your job is to do your homework on every aspect of the event before you hit the ‘Purchase’ button for your ticket. Here are three crucial things you need to do before attending your music festival.

Choose your event

This might seem like the most obvious and straightforward step of the process, but it still requires the same amount of forward-thinking and deep consideration as the rest of the steps. There are a ton of summer music festivals to choose from. There are your large-scale events, like Pitchfork or Lollapalooza, but there are also smaller events and festivals that are often more accessible to college students both in terms of location and finances.

First, think about location. Some music festivals take place up north in temperate, chillier areas, such as Washington state or New York. Others take place in the southern heat, such as in California or Florida. If you don’t see yourself having a good time at a concert covered in sweat in a large crowd, you might need to reconsider a concert if it’s located in a hotter area.

Next, consider travel costs. If you live in Chicago, but need to make it all the way to Atlanta for a music festival, will you be able to afford all of the costs in question? Can you afford to take a road trip or buy flight tickets? What would your housing situation be like? Some music festival tickets cost as little as $40 for a weekend while others will cost up to $400! Finally, and most importantly, you need to consider the style of the festival. An EDM festival and a folksy music festival will yield two totally different types of experiences. If you aren’t a fan of bright, flashing lights and loud, aggressive beats, a summer music festival event like Electric Forest or Ultra might not be your cup of tea. Consider what your ideal summer music festival experience would be before purchasing a ticket.

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Image created by Tamiera Vandegrift

Make preparations

Now that you have successfully picked the perfect summer music festival event and purchased a ticket, it is time to make sure you have prepared everything necessary to have a fun, stress-free experience. First, let’s talk weather. Check the forecasts regularly before the trip and make sure you have everything you need handy to survive the weather. Pack a rain jacket or poncho just to be safe!

Next, if you don’t plan to camp out in your car or on the fairgrounds themselves (which is honestly the best way to fully immerse yourself in music festival culture), book a hotel room soon after you purchase your plane tickets or finalize other travel arrangements. For tech-savvy people, it might be worthwhile to see if there is a festival app available for your smartphone. This would make it easy to keep track of the lineup, fairgrounds maps, and more. Speaking of lineups, it’s an unfortunate truth that you probably won’t be able to watch every performer you’re obsessed with

at the festival. So, make a short list of all of the musicians and/or performers you absolutely MUST see before you step foot onto the festival grounds. Finally, before you embark on this awesome journey, make sure everything is organized at home before you leave. Tell people where you are going. Music festival cell phone reception can be unreliable, so it might be difficult to keep in touch with the folks from home. If you have pets, make arrangements to have them taken care of well in advance. Once you have a solid plan in place, you’re one step closer to enjoying your summer music festival adventure.

Pack effectively

Comfortable clothes? Check. Comfortable shoes? Check. Wallet with cash? Check. What are you missing? Well, here is a list of items to make sure that you bring with you before you check your luggage or throw your suitcase into the trunk:

  • A portable phone charger

  • Baby wipes (for quick refreshers and clean-ups!)

  • Sunglasses

  • Chapstick

  • Sunscreen

  • Hand sanitizer

  • Biodegradable shampoo and conditioner (some festivals allow visitors to clean up in streams rather than paying for showers as long as their products are environmentally-friendly!)

  • Basic travel needs (toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, medications, and other essentials)

woman, concert, tents, music festival

Image via: Unsplash

At The Festival

All of your planning efforts have paid off and now it’s time to enjoy your summer music festival experience! The crowd is going wild as your favorite band slowly approaches the stage. Some wild guy wearing a dog-eared headdress is dancing along to the music, much to the entertainment of a group of women wearing flower crowns and laced up gladiator shoes. You’ve finally made it and you’ve never felt more alive. So, how can you make the most of your time here?

Follow festival etiquette

Like all events with large groups of people, summer music festivals have their own set of etiquette rules. For instance, it should be expected that audience members will be rowdy and excitable. However, this can make a summer music festival experience less fun and more irritating. Avoid the so-called “mosh pits” or other areas where there seems to be trouble brewing. Follow any rules and guidelines placed by the festival officials. Think twice before bringing any kind of drugs or alcohol onto the fairgrounds. Bringing these items can be extremely dangerous and possibly lethal.

Be kind and respectful to those around you by treating fellow festival goers as you would like to be treated. Don’t cut in line to the showers, bathrooms, or meet-and-greets. Be courteous to the music festival staff members no matter how much you may disagree with the music festival’s policies or rules. Even though you can see other festival goers acting crazy and belligerent, you should not use that as an excuse to get in trouble. Doing so could end up with you being thrown out of the music festival, or worse, involved with drama with other audience members.

If you decide to smoke cigarettes or drink while on the premises (assuming you are allowed to do so!), make sure you are not doing so disruptively or disrespectfully. If you are with a group of friends, keep an eye on your friends to make sure they are safe and having a good time at the music festival. These events can get crowded and crazy, so it’s important to be around people you trust. Follow the spoken and unspoken summer music festival rules and you will be just fine!

Prioritize self-care

In the midst of excitement at summer music festivals, from watching artists perform to interacting with other audience members, it is easy for some to become sidetracked and forget to take care of their bodies. It is very important to point out that music festivals, particularly summer music festivals, can be extremely strenuous on the body. It is extremely important to make sure you are keeping up with your body’s needs by drinking plenty of water and eating healthy snacks. As you are standing in the summer heat, your body will lose a lot of its fluid content. If you plan to drink alcohol or engage in other dehydrating activities, your body will lose a lot of water, which could have deadly consequences. Summer music festivals in the past have seen a lot of tragedy due to dehydration, alcohol poisoning, and drug usage. It’s important to be safe, alert, and responsible.

While summer music festivals are a lot of fun and a unique experience, the experience should not come at the cost of your health or life. Make sure you are drinking several bottles of water per day. Most music festivals offer refillable water stations where you can stay hydrated and healthy. We have all seen videos of that one unfortunate soul being carted off on a stretcher because they did not follow this rule. Don’t be that one unfortunate soul. Finally, for your sake and the sake of everyone around you, keep it clean. It’s easy to forget about body odors when you’re lost in a sea of sweating, stinking people, but trust us. All attempts to maintain good hygiene will be appreciated by everyone near you. If you can’t brush your teeth, rinse out your mouth with a water bottle. If you can’t shower, use dry shampoo and baby wipes. Overall, keep it clean and keep your body happy for a wonderful, unforgettable experience.

Make the most out of your time

Like all good things, your experience at summer music festivals will come and go very quickly. For this reason, it’s extremely important to make sure you are making the most of every single moment you have and not letting any of it go to waste. This is the perfect time to put your phone away and completely disconnect from the outside world. For just a weekend or however long the length of your summer music festival event, make sure to genuinely immerse yourself into the world and culture of the festival. Strike up conversations with people who are enjoying the same music as you. Truly, make an effort to get lost on the fairgrounds at least once. After all, you never know what you might find if you do not let loose and allow yourself to explore.

Treat yourself to merchandise and swag from the event so that you will have a tangible memory to carry home with you after your festival tent comes down and the music ends. Turn off Facebook Live and wait until you return home to upload those gorgeous pictures to Instagram. Every moment you spend outside of the moment is a moment wasted at a summer music festival. Take this time to do the things and have the experiences you might not ever have had otherwise. Do things that intrigue, excite, and maybe even scare you while you’re at the event, as long as they aren’t dangerous or unhealthy. Now that you have made your dream of attending a summer music festival come true, it is time to make that dream come to fruition by making as much magic happen as possible!

Summer music festivals are the best way to soak up the magic of summer and remind yourself why you have fallen in love with music. Before you go forth to make your own music festival dreams into a reality, make sure that you have done enough research to confirm that you are making the best choice for yourself, your health, and your happiness. Summer music festivals offer visitors an experience unlike any other. The magic offered by summer music festivals is simply worth more than the price of admission.

Tamiera is an alumna of Florida State University, having earned a BA in Editing, Writing & Media and a BA in Digital Media Production. Tamiera is an aspiring novelist and screenwriter, inspired by the works of Lars von Trier, David Fincher, and Darren Aronofsky. Tamiera has previously written for the FSView and Florida Flambeau, College Magazine, and more. She has recently published a creative thesis containing short stories based on mental illnesses in the media. In the future, Tamiera aspires to win "Best Original Screenplay" or "Best Picture" at the Academy Awards with one of her film projects. Besides writing and storytelling, Tamiera enjoys cooking, traveling, spending time with friends, and geeking out over movie trivia.

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