Festival season is upon us! Actually, I should say festival season is upon some of us. The rest of us have to wait a few more months for our turn. If you are a regular reader of the site, then you know I typically indulge in festival season during the month of October when ACL, the big music festival in Austin, TX takes place. It feels like only yesterday I was writing about my very first time attending the event, and now I’ve checked it off the to-do list for four consecutive years! Needless to say, I’ve picked up a few tips when it comes to attending a festival. From what to wear, how to save, and what to bring with you, I’ve got you covered.
How to Survive a Music Festival in Style
OUTFITS | What to Wear to a Music Festival without Trying too Hard
When it comes to festival style, there’s an “anything goes” vibe as long as your look matches the environment. As festivals become more popular and visible thanks to social media, it can be easy to overdo your look and wear something that clearly looks like you’re trying way too hard. What you see on social media naturally influences your opinion on festival fashion, but I find that people are mainly dressed in a toned down version of what you’d imagine. If going above and beyond with risque or extravagant looks fits your natural style, great! If it isn’t, don’t force it.
Personally, I wore the most variety during my first year of ACL simply because I had no clue what to expect. I tried jeans and converse the first day–neither of which I would recommend now. Wearing jeans may fly for some festivals depending on the location, but it’s a rookie mistake for Texas. Find clothes that fit your personal style and that you can ideally wear even after the festival to get the most out of your look.
A few additional style tips:
- Dress for the weather and for comfort first. While I don’t think you should dress for social media explicitly, I am aware that it happens so definitely place that second.
- Try your shoes on before making the commitment of wearing them to a festival and your feet will thank you.
- Always leave the heavy duty pants at home if you can–denim, cargo, etc. If you’re uncomfortable showing your legs, a maxi dress is a beautifully festive way to stay covered yet cool at the same time.
BEAUTY | How to Wear Makeup at a Festival without Melting
When it comes to makeup, the location of the festival really determines how much or how little you can comfortably wear. As I’ve mentioned a few times, I’m in Texas so I attend Austin City Limits Music Festival. For us, even though it’s in October, the weather typically leans on the side of hot and/or humid. Even though we may get lucky with a few cooler days, it’s best to plan for the warmer conditions.
- Foundation: Speaking in terms of festival style, the general rule of thumb is to go with a lightweight foundation or tinted moisturizer. NARS makes some of my favorite tinted moisturizers, but definitely go with what you know. Truthfully, there’s a pretty good chance your base won’t remain on your face for the full day so I wouldn’t stress too much over coverage. Go light and let your highlighter do the talking.
- Lips: Lips are another area to keep bare or neutral because if you don’t, you’ll spend most of the festival reapplying your bold lipstick. Your bag space is super limited, so save the room for something critical and leave the bold shades at home. I recommend sticking with a plain or tinted lip balm that has SPF.
- Eyeshadow: For eyeshadow, it really comes down to personal taste. On one hand, I think it makes sense to just skip eyeshadow and only wear mascara/liner since most of the time your eyes will be hidden by sunglasses. On the other hand, eyeshadow can get as glittery and creative as you want in a festival, so why not play around? Your eye makeup is the one area that’s most likely to remain intact, so go with your personal preference on this one!
For the most recent music festival, I wore Fenty Beauty’s Trophy Wife as both a highlighter and an eyeshadow. It’s extremely pigmented and shines brightly in the sunlight, so I was basically a walking advertisement for the brand in a good way. I also received a lot of compliments on the makeup so it is definitely festival-approved.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to have fun with your eye makeup and highlighter selection, but keep the face and lips to a minimum.
HAIR | Tips for Styling your Hair for a Music Festival
When I posted my Instagram carousel sharing all of my outfits for the first 3 years at ACL, I realized that I unintentionally tried something different with my hair each year. For the fourth year, I ended up going with the style that had the lowest amount of maintenance.
To help you decide which is best, allow me to share my experience with straight hair, natural curls, and braided hair:
- Straight hair: Some of you may know that I used to wear my hair straight more often than not, and this did not work in my favor the first year of the festival. Depending on where you live and the time of year the festival is happening, putting heat on your hair may or may not be a dealbreaker. Personally, I don’t recommend it. Not only does overly styled hair (excluding braids, of course) clash with the bohemian vibe of music festivals, but the style may not hold up by the end of the night. Curls will fall, the humidity will create frizz, and sweat from dancing in a crowd will have your edges looking all kinds of crazy.
- Natural Hair: The second year of the festival was the only time I went for a single day as opposed to the full 3-day weekend. During that time, I was well into wearing my natural curls on a regular basis. For me, it was a no-brainer to stick with natural curls that year. It’s easy to style and maintain because unlike styled hair, your natural hair texture isn’t as manipulated by weather conditions. The worst case scenario is you’ll leave with more frizz than you started with, but as most curly girls grow to learn throughout their journey, there’s nothing wrong with a little frizz.
- Braided Hair: I decided to wear my hair in box braids the third year, which my sister so kindly styled for me a few days before the festival. I loved the ease of waking up and not having to style my hair! I also really enjoyed the switch up that braids gave my appearance. I very rarely wear extensions or any kind of added hair (because I’m a total beginner and lazy), so it was fun to try something new. The downside of braids is the number of hours spent having to put them in and take them out. Depending on how long you’ll be able to wear them after the festival, the cost in time spent may not be worth it. I was only able to keep my braids in for a week while on vacation, but I wished I could have kept them in for at least two weeks.
After trying something new 3 years in a row, what ultimately won my heart for the last festival? Natural hair! I opted for natural hair because not only did I not have the time for braids, but I wanted the freedom of switching my hairstyle each day. I wore a wash and go the first day, a messy bun the second day, and a style with the front pinned back on the last day. All in all, I particularly loved having my hair in a bun because it was out of my face the entire day.
Tip: Wear your hair in its natural state and always keep a hair tie on your wrist. By the end of the night, you’ll be thankful you brought one.
So now that we’ve covered the basic style essentials to surviving a music festival, I did want to spend a little time covering a few things on the actual festival experience: food, travel, and lodging.
LODGING | Travel and Lodging tips for the Music Festival Goer
Extend your stay! Hotels are my least favorite expense with any trip, so the fact that I’m encouraging you to stay two days longer than the festival is really saying something. Bookend the festival with an extra day in the hotel–it’s completely worth it. If the festival is 3 days long, check in one day before and check out the day after the festival.
Getting to town the day before the festival gives you the opportunity to check in and get settled, as well as have a good night’s sleep without having to worry about traveling the next day. Once the festival is over, the last thing you want to do is head back home late at night after spending several hours getting your entire life to that day’s lineup. With the exception of the first year, I’ve stayed in a hotel the day after the festival and have never regretted the decision. From a safety standpoint, you don’t know how tired you are until you’re already on the road. Be safe and get your sleep. The drive can wait until the next morning.
I know what you’re thinking: Extra hotel stay means extra hotel pay. Well, that’s why this next tip is important.
Find your core group of friends who you know will be able to go prior to booking your hotel stay. Things come up and people aren’t always able to confirm their availability, but traveling with friends is the one area where it’s best to plan a trip based on confirmed headcount only.
Traveling in groups helps cut the cost of a hotel down, but the last thing you want to do is assume you’ll have a group of 8, only to have 4 of them drop out. That scenario leaves you stuck with an 8-person sized bill for the hotel stay when it could have been avoided.
Do not book a hotel until you:
- Confirm the headcount of who is going and who is staying with you.
- Verify everyone’s individual hotel budget so you can agree on a daily rate.
Also, always opt for the ‘book now, pay later’ and free cancellation options. I know the non-refundable rates are tempting because they are significantly cheaper, but you never know what may come up that will have you swapping your room at the last minute.
You can also look into HomeAway and other Air BnB options if the hotels are looking less than stellar. When booking your stay, you can expect to pay more per night the closer the location is to the venue. People who aren’t familiar with the city will naturally gravitate towards a nearby venue, and hotels realize they can price gauge based on the traveler’s naïveté. Do the research and book a hotel that’s a little further away to save the most money. (If you plan on attending ACL, check out hotels in Round Rock.)
Of course, you also have the option of crashing with a friend if you happen to know someone in the city. If you go this route, the hospitable thing to do is bring a little thank you gift or take care of the rideshare or food fees if they’re also attending.
As for transportation to the festival, make sure you research all of your options. My festival friends happen to include someone who is able to get us really close parking so we can walk to/from the festival for free. When we do choose to call a local rideshare company because we’re too tired to walk, it ends up being around $10 for the ride thanks to the short distance. Trust me, it wasn’t always that easy! We learned through trial and error. Prior to nailing down this method, we tried it all:
- Rideshare (RideAustin, Uber, etc.)
- Festival Shuttle
- Parking Pass
We grabbed an Uber from the hotel our first year, which ranged in price from $30-80 per ride! We purchased a 1-day parking pass sold directly by the festival for $100 our second year. It was really convenient but extremely overpriced. It would’ve cost us $300 if we attended for the full weekend, which is more than the festival ticket itself. Our third year, we tried the free shuttle service offered by the festival. If you park in their designated pickup locations, the free shuttle is available all day. The downside is you still have to pay to park in the locations, which ranged in price from around $30-50.
I say all that to say, the transportation piece is the most trial and error thing you’ll deal with, but researching the options before you get there can save time. This is also something you should discuss with your festival friends ahead of time to figure out the transportation budget.
Tip: Whether you’re heading to a festival in a town you can drive to or fly to, always book your stay to begin at least one day before the festival, and end at least one day after the festival.
FOOD, BAGS, and OTHER RANDOM TIPS | A Few Tips I’ve Learned over the Years
When it comes to food, there are plenty of vendors at festivals. They change every year, but they usually will have at least 1-2 booths that cater to a specific dietary need. As someone who currently doesn’t eat meat and is generally health-conscious, I appreciate that festivals don’t limit their guests to consume only bad foods. I will say that the menus overall are very limited at each booth, so substitutions aren’t really a thing. Also, food can add up pretty quickly if you’re constantly stopping by the food vendors throughout the day to refuel. How can you cut down on the food cost and broaden your choices?
The Tip: Eat before you go! We spent the most on food and drinks the first year we attended a music festival. This past year, we barely spent a dime. Although we had the luxury of free snacks backstage with HomeAway, eating a hearty meal beforehand kept our appetites at bay. Food is cheaper outside of the festival and you have the freedom to eat exactly what you want, so take advantage and plan ahead.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve attended the Austin City Limits Music Festival for four consecutive years. Each year, security measures increase so the bag rules are more strict. It’s kind of a pain, but I don’t mind because it lets me know safety is made to be priority number one. Much like every other avenue in this guide, I’ve tried them all:
- Belt Bags
All three options are ones that I would recommend to a festival goer because they each result in hands-free fun. While I do have a top choice, the bag selection is truly driven by the festival rules.
Before you go, always check out the festival’s app or website to read their size restrictions.
Even if you’ve attended the same festival in previous years, rules change with the times. You don’t want to be turned away because a bag doesn’t fit their guidelines. I wore the backpack above for the first year, but the size is too large now due to tighter restrictions.
The Tip: When at all possible, skip the bag. Not only is the line faster for entry, but it’s one less thing you have to worry about leaving behind. If you need a bag, opt for a very small belt bag. I would recommend belt bags even when the trendy side of it dies down because they are the next best thing to going bagless. Besides, belt bags thrive in the festival scene. Belt bags are hands-free and secure so you know they won’t get lost or stolen.
For tips on how to style belt bags even outside of a festival, you can watch my styling video here.
Have you attended a music festival before? What are some tips you’d provide to a first-timer?
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in Oct 2018, but I revamped it a bit in April 2019 to add more details and advice!
If you want to see more festival-related content, definitely check out my posts below! I usually cover something new each year so you’re bound to find style inspiration throughout the posts!
- Festival/Fall Fashion Try-On Haul
- How to Dress for a Music Festival
- 2017 ACL Recap | Music Festival Outfit Ideas
- What to Pack for a Music Festival
FTC: This post is not sponsored by any brand; however, affiliate links are used on the site. Please support your local blogger by purchasing through my links, as a small commission is received!