C. Taylor Crothers
So you were lucky enough to land a pass to Bonnaroo 2014? 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 20 Must-See Acts. You’re welcome.
Flying / Driving
If you somehow haven’t booked your flights yet, you’re actually not in as much trouble as you might normally be during festival season. Fortunately for you, the travel-planning slacker, there are quite a few airports within a three-ish hour drive of Manchester, TN. Land at Nashville International Airport for the quickest ride to Bonnaroo, or at airports in Chattanooga, Knoxville or Atlanta for not-so-bad drives.
Undoubtedly, the best way to actually enter the festival is to be in a car (or RV) with the rest of your party. You’ll be able to park, walk to your campsite and settle in for the weekend. It’ll be best if you bring everything you need for the entirety of the festival, too. The Bonnaroo site is essentially a miniature city, complete with convenience stores, and driving in and out of that city can be a pain.
By the way - if you happen to have extra space in your car or want to trade gas money for a ride, the festival recommends using Zimride for carpooling.
The main shuttle that Bonnaroo offers takes you from the Nashville airport to the campgrounds, but there also some hotel shuttle options in case you aren't down with camping. Learn more here.
WHERE TO STAY
Unfortunately, all on-site camping at Bonnaroo is sold out....and all of the festival’s hotel packages are no longer available online. If you’re looking for a short-notice place to stay, you’ll be in a (hopefully nearby) hotel, or you can check out one of the “alternative” options...
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 "Bonnaroo," 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
A good single word you can use to describe Bonnaroo is...um...hot. It’s Tennessee in June. It’s a ton of people on a farm in Tennessee in June. So bring your light summer clothes, and check out our festival fashion guide if you want a few pointers for a new outfit. Make sure to bring comfortable clothes for nighttime, because you’re probably going to be sleeping in a crowded tent. Another good read is Bonnaroo's rundown of their facilities. Here are some other essential tips:
- 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 - Flip-flops and heels are terrible life choices. Bring sneakers or boots or something you know will keep your feet comfortable for 12+ hours each day. And this is no time to buy a new pair of shoes, either...you’ll want to make sure your kicks are broken in already. If you do feel blisters coming on, it’s time to use that second pair of shoes we told you to bring.
- Shorts – Honestly, just take all your pants and shove them under your bed or something. It’s either going to be too hot or too wet for them. Long skirts might be all right, but if it rains they’re just as bad as pants. Short skirts present another set of problems. Whoever made shorts is the man.
- Raincoat – Because of the rain.
- Bandana – This is your most versatile tool. Pull it over your face to keep out dust. Drench it in water to cool yourself down. Keep the sweat out of your eyes. Or make an impromptu tube top.
- Watch – Your iPhone has many purposes whilst at a festival. You’ll need to update Twitter and Instagram, obviously. Keep in touch with friends when you split up to watch different sets. One thing you don’t want to do is keep whipping it out and wasting that precious battery life just to check the time. Bring a cheap watch that you won’t care about getting wet.
- Extra socks – Because soggy socks can make you homicidal.
- Dont wear black. Period.
WHAT TO PACK
At the end of the day, it’s better to be overprepared than to regret not bringing something. Keep most of this stuff in your car or tent, but bring a backpack for the essentials. Check Bonnaroo’s official list of what to bring and what to leave at home as well. Remember that they'll check every vehicle to make sure you're not smuggling any prohibited items! Onto our checklist:
- Water – Bonnaroo specifically mentions no glass bottles, so buy the biggest plastic water bottle you can find and drink it while you wait in line to get in. You’ll be able to refill it all day.
- Cash – Most transactions will require cash. There will probably be 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. Effective enough, anyway.
- Hand sanitizer – You'll be using Porta-Potties and sweating all day.
- Toilet Paper – It’s not just a festival, it’s a camping trip.
- Phone charger – I mean, this is Bonnaroo! Your phone isn’t gonna last four days.
- Lightweight towel – To sit on during down times.
- Small folding chair – If the towel isn’t good enough for you!
- Hoodie – Because you're camping!
- Spare shoes / boots – You'll be glad you listened to us if it rains. Also, a poncho is a good idea.
- Bug spray
- Extra bobby pins/hair ties
- SPF chapstick
HOW TO HAVE THE MOST FUN
Make a Plan – With Bonnaroo, you’ll need to make plans for the whole weekend and for each day. Make sure you know where your group is meeting up each night so no one gets lost on the way back to the tent. It’s a long walk from Centeroo to where your tent will be, so you’ll want to walk together! Don't expect to rely on your phones, since without fail, they’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 meet somewhere (at a specific stage or landmark) at a certain 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. Try to plan some time to just sit in the shade, maybe during an hour when the lineup is thin for you. For a long festival like Bonnaroo–which is one of the hottest festivals every year–it’s pretty important to keep your energy up for the entire weekend.
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 (among whatever else you’re putting inside your body) 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. Bonnaroo will have plenty of food on site, so there's no reason to skip meals. Eat light and healthy to keep your body feeling ready to go.
Don’t Overdo the Booze – Yes, beer and live music are an excellent pair, but pace yourself. Nothing kills the fun like walking a sun-drenched mile to Centerroo on 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 your festival experience will be much better if you’re actually experiencing it, so let your social network wait. Take photos but upload later. Save tweet as drafts and choose the best ones when you’re more coherent. And let’s be honest: You’re never going to watch those iPhone videos again anyway.
Check out the "Bonnaroovian Code" for more advice.
Got any festival tips of your own? Add them in the comments below!