So you're planning on heading to Coachella this year? 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! Sweet deal, right? 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. You’re welcome.
Flying / Car Rental
Don't have a flight 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 at 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. Hey–there's even an airport shuttle!
Check out Expedia if you want to book flights and rental cars at the same time. If you're not into that, Avis and Budget offered discounts on cars for Coachella last year...check back to see if they're doing the same for 2016!
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 grounds. 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.
Coachella is also super big on carpooling; they've got a whole portion of their website dedicated to it here.
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 grounds 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 can be found on Coachella's site, but some are a bit on the expensive side. You can still 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!
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.
WHAT TO WEAR
Coachella festival-goers are some of the trendiest in the country (just see above!), so now might be a good time to break out your best looks. And while Coachella is typically scorching during the day, the temperature drops like crazy at night, so be prepared with some layers. Now onto the necessities:
- Backpack – Distributing the weight across your body instead of on one shoulder is crucial!
- Two pairs of comfortable shoes – If it rains, you'll be glad you listened to us.
- Shorts – Seriously.
- Watch – You’ll be checking the time constantly to hit up your choice sets, so spare your phone’s precious battery and wear a watch instead. Extra points if you drive down from Palo Alto with an early edition of the Apple Watch.
- Extra socks – See above. Rain sucks and so do soggy socks.
WHAT TO PACK
You might not see all these items as necessities, but 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.
- Cash– Most transactions will require cash. Sure, there are ATMs, but expect long lines and hefty transaction 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.
- Phone charger – Duhhhh. Portable, man!
- Lightweight towel – In case you're worried about grass stains on your butt.
- Bug spray
- Earplugs – By the time your ears are buzzing after day 2, you'll wish you brought a pair.
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 need all the energy you can get. Coachella has amazing food, so there's no reason to skip meals.
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.
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 iPhone 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. Don't wear a huge hat or block other people’s view with a giant inflatable monkey. Don’t shove aggressively through the crowd. Don’t litter. Leave that Native American headdress at home (actually, why do you even own that?). Just be a nice person.