So you were lucky enough to get a ticket to Coachella? 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. You don’t because we already did it for you! Consider this your 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. Oh yeah, and we've also detailed 30 Must See Acts. You’re welcome.
Flying / Car Rental
Don't have a flights to California yet? We envy your laid-back approach to life. The closest airport to Indio is Palm Springs International and if you can afford round-trip flights there, then more power to you - but you'll probably want to look into landing in LAX. Even with the added costs of renting a car to make the 146-mile trek to the festival location, you'll end up saving money.
If you're staying at one of the hotels near Indio, shuttles will be your best friend. They'll save you the hassle of dealing with waiting in long parking lines and actually having to trek from the parking areas to the festival's gates. Plus, it's probably a good thing for your group to have a designated driver...in the form of a shuttle operator. All hotel shuttle information can be found here.
If you aren't staying on the Coachella site or in a nearby hotel, you're going to be driving your rental car or your own car out to the field. This isn't a terrible idea - just remember you're going to have to deal with traffic and parking. General driving and parking directions can be found here.
If you wanted to carpool to California but then your friends chickened out because they're lame, the festival recommends Zimride so you can split rides with strangers. As I'm writing this, there are over 800 rides available from places all over the country!
It may not be the most cost-effective way to maneuver yourself around during the weekend, but the festival does offer a list of authorized cab franchises:
- American Cab - 760-322-4444
- Yellow Cab of the Desert - 760-340-TAXI (8294)
- Desert City Cab - 760-328-3000
WHERE TO STAY
Yes, camping is the first option for Coachella. Being on the Indio site is a lot like living on campus during college - you can roll out of bed and walk to classes, erm, the festival. Unfortunately, a few options, like car camping and normal tent camping, are already sold out.
The remaining on-site camping options are definitely a bit in the higher price range, but if you have the dough to spend, you'll definitely enjoy your experience. You can still reserve four-person spots at Lake Eldorado or go all-out and get a safari tent.
It's not ideal compared to camping on the festival grounds, but with those cheaper options sold out, this is an affordable alternative. Coachella lists its recommended off-site camping places (this includes options for RVs) on its website.
Maybe camping isn't really your thing and you want a bed and Wi-Fi every night. We definitely don't blame you. But if you haven't booked a hotel room yet, you're going to want to do that right now! There aren't many hotels near the festival - most of them are about 25 miles away at least - so options are limited.
Air BNB is an innovative alternative to hotels. If you’re not familiar, the site lets people list extra rooms, apartments, houses, basements, closets, bathrooms - whatever - and rent them out for a night, weekend or more. If you search for "Coachella," you'll find a variety of different places to rent for a range of different prices.
Couch Surfing is similar to Air BNB, and has a reputation for making friends out of strangers. Your best bet here is probably to find someone in L.A. who's going to the festival each day and will let you pitch in for gas.
Don't forget the obvious way to crowdsource a place to stay. Odds are you don't personally know everyone who follows you on Twitter - so send out a tweet asking about any extra rooms! The same goes for Facebook.
WHAT TO WEAR
Coachella festival goers are some of the trendiest in the country, so now might be a good time to break out that outfit that's a bit much for your conservative Midwestern town. Check out our list of 9 Must-Have Festival Looks for some inspiration. And while Coachella is typically scorching during the day, the temperature drops like crazy at night, so be prepared with some layers. Now on the the necessities:
- 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 and cross-body bags at home.
- Two pairs of comfortable shoes - I personally prefer Keds or Vans, but many advocate boots. Either way, these shoes should be broken in to avoid blisters. (If blisters do crop up, that’s when you break out the second pair of shoes.) And please oh please, don’t wear flip-flops or heels. Your little piggies will get stomped or you’ll break an ankle. Major festival fail.
- Shorts – I avoid pants like leaves-of-three. If it’s sunny, you’ll be sticky as hell. If it rains, you’ll feel like there are shackles around your ankles. Long skirts are practically pants. And short skirts? You don’t want to pull a Britney.
- Bandana – This is your most versatile tool. Pull it over your face to keep out dust. Drench it in water to cool your self down. Keep the sweat out of your eyes. Or make an impromptu tube top.
- Watch – You’ll be checking the time constantly to hit up your choice sets, so spare your phone’s precious battery and pack a watch instead.
- Extra socks – Because soggy socks can make you homicidal.
- Dont wear black. Period.
WHAT TO PACK
You might not see all these items as necessities, but in my 10 years of attending festivals, I’ve learned it’s better to be over-prepared than under. Bring a small backpack for the essentials, and keep the emergency items in your car, at your hotel or in a locker. And don’t forget to take a peek at Coachella’s DOs and DON'Ts. On to the checklist:
- Water – Bring an empty water bottle (no metal though), you'll be able to fill it when you get inside. If you’re worried about leakage, carry it in a Ziploc bag to keep your other items dry.
- Cash– Most transactions will require cash. Sure there are ATMs, but expect long lines and hefty fees.
- Spray sunscreen – Spray is quicker than lotion and gives you better coverage.
- Poncho – Lighter and easier to pack than an umbrella, but just as effective.
- Hand sanitizer – You'll be using Porta Potties and sweating all day.
- Tissues or TP – Because the Porta Potties will no doubt run out of TP by mid day.
- Phone charger – You never know what will happen at a festival, so pack it just in case.
- Lightweight towel – To sit on during down times.
- Notebook and pen – You’ll be discovering new bands and songs along with making new friends and memories. Be prepared to jot down those details.
- Caffeine pills – These are more effective than energy drinks or coffee at kickstarting your day or giving you a second wind. Extra bonus: They don't make you have to pee.
- Bug spray
- Extra bobby pins/hair ties
- SPF chapstick
HOW TO HAVE THE MOST FUN
Make a Plan – Get the festival guide as soon as you get through the gate and make your game plan for the day. If you’re with a group and want to meet up during the day, agree on a common meeting place for each stage and for the end of the night. Don't expect to rely on your phone, since without fail, it’ll either be dead or without service. Also remember that as the day progresses, the grounds will get more and more packed. So if you're trying to be somewhere at a specific time, take walking time into consideration.
Break Your Plan – Festivals are about adventure and discovery, so don’t treat your plan like a class schedule. See the sets you want to 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. Just go with the flow.
Avoid the Hottest Time of the Day – If you can’t stand the heat, go later in the day. You might miss out on discovering some new bands, but you’ll have loads more energy going into the night.
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 a medical emergency.
Eat Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner – When it’s hot, eating can feel like a chore, but with constant walking and standing, you’ll need all the energy you can get. Coachella has amazing food, so there's no reason to skip. Greasy food will suck the life out of you, so stock up on the light and healthy.
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. And how bummed will you be if you don’t even remember the best set of the weekend?
Prepare for the Worst – Make sure your name, e-mail address and phone number are in your wallet in an obvious place. Consider putting labels on your phone and camera too. Nice people return these items all the time, so make it easy for them to find you.
Live in the Moment – Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, iPhones – they’re hardwired into our lives now. But concerts are always better when you’re absorbed in the experience, so let your social network wait. And let’s be honest: You’re never going to watch those phone videos again anyway.
Don’t Be That Guy – This isn’t a private show, so be respectful of fellow festival-goers and the friendly vibe. If you’re tall, don’t wear a top hat. Don’t block other people’s view with a giant inflatable monkey or lots of sitting on shoulder. Don’t shove aggressively through the crowd. If you can’t get any closer without groping people, stay where you are. Don’t litter. Just be a nice person.
Remember the Golden Rule – If you take nothing else from this guide remember this mantra (it came from a memoir on neurosurgery, but that doesn’t make it complicated): “Never stand when you can be sitting, never sit when you can be lying down and always eat and sh-t at the first available opportunity.”
Got any festival tips of your own? Add them in the comments below!