AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 12: Atmosphere at SXSW 2008 on March 12, 2008 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)
Tim Mosenfelder

So you're lucky enough to attend South By Southwest, taking place on March 11-20 this year? Sweet! Now you’ve got to research where you’re staying, figure out what to pack, sift through the festival’s FAQ, etc. Oh wait. No you don't because we already did it for you! Consider this your SXSW cheat sheet, detailing how to get there, where to stay, what to wear, what to bring and, most importantly, the inside tricks to maximize your fun. Stay tuned for more of our SXSW guides, including a list of the must-see artists this year!

GETTING THERE

Flying
Check out the major discount flights and try to fly into Austin directly if you can. The airport is conveniently located only about 20 minutes away from where the action happens downtown. The SXSW website has more details for folks flying domestically and internationally.

SXSW Shuttle
If you’re staying in one of Austin’s downtown hotels, the South By venues are at your doorstep. For everyone else staying further out, consider investing in a hotel shuttle pass, which the festival provides as a service. 

The routes hit over 50 hotels outside the downtown area and run from roughly 9 AM to 2:30 AM!  The cost is reasonable, too: $120 for a 9-day pass, $80 for a 5-day pass or $20 for a single ride. The hotels on the route are listed on the SXSW website and shuttle tickets can be purchased here.

Car Rentals & Taxis
If you need to have your own vehicle, keep in mind that parking will be tricky and there are a lot of road closures to contend with once you're there. More info about car rentals and street closures can be found here. If you book through Enterprise, you can score yourself a discount with the code L65SXSW (PIN: SXS).

Taxis are seriously hard to get during SXSW, but if you wanna try your luck, hit up these guys:

  • Yellow Cab Austin – (512) 452-9999
  • Lone Star Cab – (512) 836-4900
  • Austin Cab Company – (512) 478-2222
AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 18: General atmosphere on 6th Street as part of SXSW 2009 on March 19, 2009 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by R
Roger Kisby

Public Transit
Austin's public transit, Capital Metro, is a convenient and inexpensive way to get around. There are a couple routes that make stops near South By venues. Some routes may be different during the festival, but all that info can be found here

Bikes
Since traffic will be a mess, biking is a really great alternative to walking everywhere. South By even has a bike sharing program, SXcycles. It's open throughout the entire festival. Scroll down to the end of this page for the details you need if you're interested in doing that.

Walking
Accept it. You'll be standing and walking A LOT. If you want to save yourself the cost and hassle of tracking down a vehicle, then you can probably make it to most places with just your two feet. It's a good way to work off all those festival foods and drinks, right?

WHERE TO STAY

Hotels
People usually start booking their hotels really far out in advance, so we hope you've already done that if you're planning on staying in one. If you haven't, SXSW's website has a really comprehensive section all about booking hotels, including recommendations for the best ones and even a hotel map so you can decide what area to stay in.

Camping 
If you can't stand the idea of going to a music festival and sleeping indoors, fear not. There are campsites nearby. Check out some of the spots below:

  • Austin Lone Star RV Resort
    7009 S IH 35  
    Austin, TX 78744
  • McKinney Falls State Park
    5808 McKinney Falls Pkwy.
    Austin, TX 78744
  • Emma Long Metropolitan Park
    1706 City Park Rd. 
    Austin, TX 78730
  • Hippie Hollow Park / McGregor Park
    7000 Comanche Trl.
    Austin, TX 78732
  • Leander NW Austin KOA
    1351 County Road 269  
    Leander, TX 78641

Alternative Lodging
Air BNB is an innovative alternative to hotels. If you’re not familiar, the site lets people list their extra rooms, apartments, homes, whatever and rent them out for a night, weekend or more. Click here to see remaining availability in Austin during the SXSW music weekend.

SXSW also has a new "Alternative Lodging" section of their own website featuring a couple more recommendations in addition to Air BNB. Check that out here.

Maybe this is obvious, but just in case, see if you’ve got any buddies who’ll let you crash for free. Facebook and Twitter should make your search pretty easy but it's also easy to forget to ask!

READING, ENGLAND - AUGUST 24: Music fans attend the first day of Reading Festival at Richfield Avenue on August 24, 2012 in R
Marc Broussely

WHAT TO WEAR
Austin is a young city and as its “Live Music Capital of the World” nickname attests, a trendy one, too. You’ll want to look hip but before you pack those skinny jeans and flannel shirts, consider this: The temperature in Austin fluctuates a lot in March with highs in the upper 70s and lows hitting 50 degrees. This means layers are the trick to staying comfy, and more comfy equals more fun. Here's what you'll need:

  • Backpack – You’ll be carrying at least a couple of pounds and a backpack distributes that weight evenly. Save yourself unnecessary pain and leave the shoulder bags at home.
  • Two pairs of comfortable shoes - Most SXSW showcases are indoors, which really frees up what you can wear on your feet. Without having to contend with rain or mud all day, feel free to go with sneakers or boots or whatever you're comfortable in. Just make sure to bring something comfortable and already worn-in – new shoes love to give blisters when you need to wear them for 18 hours a day – and bring a back-up pair of kicks as well, just in case.
  • Watch – You’ll be checking the time constantly to hit up your choice sets, so spare your phone battery and pack a watch instead.
  • Extra socks – You'll thank us if you wind up getting caught in the rain.
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
People don rain ponchos as a thunderstorm suddenly hits at the Carolina Fest street fair, on the eve of the Democratic Nation
ROBYN BECK

WHAT TO PACK
You might not see all these items as necessities, but we think it’s better to be over-prepared. Plus, SXSW has lockers available to rent if your hotel is far away. Bring a smaller bag for the essentials, and keep the emergency items in a locker. Onto the checklist:

  • Water – Bring a refillable bottle to save money, so you can spend that money on band merch instead!
  • Cash – Cards should be fine at most places, but you don't want to get hit with ATM withdrawal fees if you end up in a bind.
  • Sunscreen – It's Texas.
  • Poncho – Much easier to pack into a bag than an umbrella.
  • Phone charger – Don't leave it in your hotel room!
  • Extra bobby pins/hair ties
  • Gum
  • Earplugs
  • Band-Aids
  • SPF chapstick
AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 20: General atmosphere at the Levi's Fader FORT as part of SXSW 2009 on March 20, 2009 in Austin, Texas.
Roger Kisby

HOW TO HAVE THE MOST FUN

Make a Plan
It might be hard but try to have a schedule figured out ahead of time. If you’re with a group and want to meet up during the day or at the end of the night, agree on a specific meeting place. Don't rely on your phone too much since there's a chance you won't have service—or your phone will just be dead. Most the venues are in close proximity but there are a few outliers. Take walking time into consideration when you plan your schedule. Don't forget that a lot of the showcases will fill up really fast, so get there early if a band is on your must-see list.

Break Your Plan
Festivals are about adventure so don’t treat your plan like a class schedule. See the sets you want to hit up even if your friends aren’t as jazzed about them. If you’re walking past a band you don’t know but dig the sound, stop and listen...SXSW is all about discovering the next big act.

Drink Water Constantly
Passing out is the opposite of fun. As is nursing a brutal headache, taking a trip in an ambulance, etc. Keep the water chugging steady to avoid dehydration, and if you start to feel bad, take in some Gatorade and seek shade.

Eat Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner 
When it’s hot or when you're having a ton of fun, finding time to eat can feel like a chore. With constant walking and standing, you’ll need all the energy you can get. Austin has amazing food so there's no reason to skip. Eat lots of tacos.

Don’t Overdo the Booze 
Yes, beer and live music are an excellent pair, but pace yourself. Nothing kills the fun like a massive hangover.

INDIO, CA - APRIL 14: Coachella music fan and his sex doll attend during Day 2 of the 2012 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Fest
Frazer Harrison

Prepare for the Worst 
Make sure your name and phone number are in your wallet in an obvious place. Change your phone's lock screen to an image that tells a stranger what to do if they find your phone on the ground. If you make it easy for a nice person to return something valuable to you, you're only helping yourself!

Live in the Moment
Instagram, Twitter, Facebook—they’re hardwired into our lives now. But shows are always better when you’re absorbed in the experience, so let your social network wait. Take your photos but post them when you have some downtime.

Got any festival tips of your own? Add them in the comments below!