Everything you need to know about Coachella
Festival season is officially upon us. Whether you were lucky enough to snag tickets back in June or January or are taking your chances and waiting to snag tickets on a third party site like StubHub or Ticketmaster, if you've made the decision to attend Coachella this year and don't yet know what to expect, here are some tips and tricks that every newbie must know before going.
1. Get Tickets Early
Getting tickets early is the easiest and cheapest way to make sure you will have tickets in hand come festival time. Doing this requires planning ahead though--a lot ahead. The first set of tickets for the April festival go on sale in June the year before--yes, I said June--10 freaking months before the festival. The second set of tickets go on sale in January, and once those two sales are over, tickets will be officially sold out. Planning ahead does have its perks though: the June pre-sale is the only time that Coachella will allow you to purchase tickets on a payment plan. This is obviously super helpful if you don't have a thousand dollars plus to drop on a festival that you won't be attending for almost a year.
Last June I was lucky enough to get a reminder from my cousin that tickets were going on sale, so I put a reminder in my calendar for the date and time tickets were supposed to go on sale and made sure I was available and could be in front of a computer for about an hour after they went on sale. As soon as the clock struck 10:59 am on June 2, 2017 (a Friday), I went to the website and started refreshing it incessantly. Even though I didn't get through right away, once the clock hit 11 am I got a notification saying that I was placed in a virtual queue and needed to just sit tight. I think I waited there for about 15 minutes before it was my turn, but once I got in the process was easy. Since I was purchasing two GA tickets with shuttle passes, which totaled about $1008 (or $504 each), I opted to do the payment plan and have the cost split up between 7 monthly payments of $144.00. You get charged every month from June to January, so that you should be all paid up by the time the second set of tickets go on sale in January.
If you weren't able to get tickets during the pre-sale, don't fret--there are going to be thousands of tickets available on third party sites like StubHub, Vivid Seats, Ticketmaster and SeatGeek. Though the tickets range in price depending on when you buy them, there is always a flood in the market right after the second set of tickets go on sale and there will usually be plenty of tickets still available all the way up to the festival dates. The problem with purchasing tickets on sites like this is that you will pay a higher price because of the fees (for example, with fees the cheapest GA tickets on StubHub last time I checked were about $750) and there is no guarantee that the tickets are legit. Some of the reputable sites guarantee your money back, but they cannot guarantee you actual tickets if for some reason you get a fake wristband.
Don't get too scared though--the odds of getting fake wristbands on sites like StubHub or Ticketmaster are slim to none. Coachella knows that there are counterfeiters out there and intentionally do not send wristbands out until late February/early March and are pretty sophisticated and difficult to duplicate. They also require you to register your wristband prior to going, so this ensures that you and only you are the one who should be able to gain access with your wristband.
2. Plan Ahead
Procrastinators beware, the best way to make sure you have a bed to sleep in and an effortless festival weekend is to plan ahead. There's really no good way around it. Not only do the passes sell out within minutes of getting released, but most hotels and vacation rentals also book up well in advance. You don't want to be the person who is able to get a ticket but can't find a place to stay because you waited until the last minute. Just plan ahead--it will make your life a lot easier.
3. Where to Stay
Though there are a lot of different options for places to stay while attending Coachella, unless you are lucky enough to crash at a friend's place last minute, just about every option will require planning ahead (see above). There are, however, a lot of different options that should fit just about every budget. Below are a list of options, ranging in price from cheapest to most expensive:
Car/Tent Camping On-Site
Car or tent camping is the most budget friendly option. But with the benefits of a cheap price (it's only $113 to car camp or tent camp for the whole weekend) come the pitfalls as well: shared toilets and showers, noisy neighbors, dirt and dust, and well, you are basically stuck at the festival all weekend. Now, if you want to go all in and party 24/7 for all three days--this might be your best bet. You also have the easiest access in and out of the festival, as the walk to the car camping areas isn't far from the festival. You also will be surrounded by like-minded festival goers who will want to dance, party and have as much fun as you do.
The festival is hot and the desert is dry, so don't forget your refillable water bottle. Companies like Hip are making eco-friendly, styllish water bottles, straws and cups that encourage smart choices that reduce plastic consumption. Whatever you do, you definitely don't want to forget a refillable bottle!
However, though this might be something that sounds like a super fun weekend long party that can probably only be handled by young twenty-somethings, it's probably not the best option for someone my age (mid 30s) and for someone who doesn't want to deal with a bunch of "kids" partying until 5 or 6 am each night. Don't get me wrong--that was fun once upon a time, but I'm too damn old for that shit now... I at least need a clean bed and my own shower. If a clean, quiet place to sleep is important to you, then you should probably skip the tent or car camping option.
There are also several options to either car or tent camp off site (so you're not stuck at the festival grounds all weekend), or also go "glamping" in a pre-set-up and furnished tent so you don't have to be the one to set up your tent and furnish it all as well. One off-site location that offers glamping is Base Camp, which is a mini tent/RV/car camping community that offers six different accommodation options, starting at just $59 per person, per night.
Car camping and BYO tent camping are the cheapest, but you can also get a furnished Bell Tent with all the amenities for just $299 a night. Want so save money? You can still reserve a Bell Tent and opt to get an unfurnished one and set it up yourself (which could be totally fun) for just $199 a night, plus an additional $59 per person per night for a third or fourth person. Base Camp has its own pool, blow dry and beauty bar, restaurant and bar, a boutique, and even morning yoga sessions. For more information about Base Camp, click here.
You can even "Glamp" on-site at Camp El Dorado, which is a tented area inside the festival grounds that offers a two person tent with GA access for $2,458, a two person tent with VIP access for $3,600, a four person tent with GA access for $3,316, or a four person tent with VIP access for $5,600. These tents do sell out early though, so if you want to glamp on-site, book early (like in June). For more information, click here.
Rent an RV
Renting an RV is also a fun, yet economical option. You can rent an RV through third party online RV rental companies like Cruise America, RV Share and Bliss RV. You can get a small RV for around $300/night, or $900 for the weekend. Keep in mind, however, that you also need to find a place to park your RV, and the rates for RV parks during the festival weekends are higher than normal. If you want power and sewer hookups (which are important), you will need to also reserve a spot at a designated RV park. You can often find cheap spaces through sites like VRBO (like this one) or check out Shadow Hills Resort, which costs $900 for the space for the weekend, but has all the amenities you could want.
Do keep in mind that most RV rental companies charge for miles driven though, so be mindful of where you pick it up. Even though it might be cheaper to rent an RV in NorCal or San Diego, you will end up spending more money on gas and mileage getting the RV to the desert than you would have if you rented a more expensive one near Palm Springs, so just keep that in mind.
Stay at a Hotel
Hotels are the easiest option, but can get expensive for Coachella weekend and book up early. Rates for the weekend typically run between $500-$1500 a night. The JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort, for example (which is one of the shuttle stops), is just a shade over $700 a night and requires that you prepay for the whole reservation. Other good options that have shuttle stops are the Marriott Shadow Ridge and Desert Springs villas (which are about $600 a night) or La Quinta (A Waldorf Astoria Hotel), Omni Rancho Las Palmas, or any of the Westin hotels.
In 2018, I stayed at the Ritz Carlton Rancho Mirage--which is actually one of my favorite properties in the desert. It was nice because it was quiet and a much more civilized place to stay (and also where celebrities like Rachel Zoe and Lissa Rinna were staying), but was very far away and made getting to and from the festival rather difficult. See notes on Ubers below. Our Uber drive was about 45 minutes to an hour each way, and then because of the difficulty getting into the festival from the Uber drop off locations, we ended up walking another 30 mins to an hour. So it wasn't ideal. If you can stay at a hotel where the shuttle picks up, that would be your best bet.
Rent a House
Having a house to stay at is the most comfortable option--and can often times be the most fun, as you have your very own party pad for the whole weekend--but will cost you a pretty penny. Unless you are lucky enough to know a friend who can loan their vacation rental to you, a house rental for a halfway decent home will run anywhere from $2,000 to $15,000 a night. That's $6,000 to $45,000 for the weekend. Yes, that number gets cheaper the more people you can cram into a house to split it with, but renting a home during this time not only requires booking several months in advance, but also paying a hefty deposit and often times the entire rental fee up front.
4. Dress Appropriately
Dressing appropriately for Coachella might be one of the most important things a newbie should know. Yes, it is definitely a fashion scene, where you will see just about every type of dress, from raver gear to the super trendy boho chic and also casual, comfortable dress. But what that doesn't mean is that you should wear something that is uncomfortable or logistically doesn't make a lot of sense for a festival.
The absolute most important thing about what you choose to wear are your shoes. Do not--I repeat DO NOT--wear high heels or shoes that hurt your feet. Though I know you want to look cute, heels are the most impractical footwear choice you could make. Not only is there a lot of walking on uneven terrain and gravel paths, but there is so much walking involved that you will be wishing you had more comfortable shoes within just a few minutes of setting foot on the festival grounds. Not only will you be uncomfortable, but you don't want to be that girl that is having difficulty maneuvering through the grounds because you didn't pick appropriate footwear. Plus, you want to dance and have fun, right? Leave the heels at home. Sneakers and comfortable booties are your best bet. Don't wear sandals either because your feet will end up so gross and disgusting at the end that you will wish you had closed-toed shoes. Don't wear shoes you would mind ruining either. Again, it's just plain dirty.
Next, you should reconsider that super cute romper or bodysuit you just bought from Revolve. Yes, the look is probably very cute and festival-looking, but think about how that will fare when you are having to pee in a porta potty. Are you really going to want to strip down to nothing to go to the bathroom? If you plan to drink at the festival, you will inevitably have to pee a lot, and getting in and out of a romper or a bodysuit is not the most ideal option.
Though mini skirts are a cute option, they're not the best if you plan to chill on the grass. You will end up uncomfortable and showing off your vijayjay. Wear shorts or a longer skirt for a more comfortable option.
Wear sunscreen. This one is a given. You don't want to look like a lobster by day 3. Plus, a sunburn will further dehydrate you in an environment that already calls for having to drink a lot of water. Just wear sunscreen, please.
Guys--you've got it made. You can pretty much wear whatever you want at Coachella and be perfectly fine. One word of advice though: leave your Warriors jersey at home. We get it, you're a basketball fan. We get it, you're from the Bay Area (or you're not and you're really just a bandwagon fan). But please, don't be one of those d-bags that thinks it's original to wear a basketball jersey to Coachella. Last year there were probably a thousand of these very guys who must have woke up and thought to themselves, "Yeah, this looks dope." Nope. Please, just reserve the jerseys for sporting events.
With that said, Coachella is also a place where you can express yourself and wear just about anything your heart desires. Anything goes, so if you are into wearing sparkles, flower crowns, sequins or tutus, now's your chance. You will see people wearing just about everything, so feel free to get creative and deck yourself out. Yes, you may get the usual haters that roll their eyes at your flower crown or quintessential boho dress and glitter, but fuck em. Wear whatever you want. Coachella is the best venue to do it.
To view my Pinterest board of Coachella looks, click here.
To read about my Coachella Style Recap from 2019, click here.
5. Plan to Walk... A Lot
This is the primary reason I say you need to pick your footwear appropriately. You will end up walking A LOT. Last year we chose to go to the festival relatively last minute after a lot of the lodging options had booked up already, so I used my Marriott Rewards points to stay at the Ritz Carlton Rancho Mirage. What that meant was that we were a 45+ minute cab ride away, and the cab drop off point for all Ubers and other dropoffs were outside the festival gates. We ended up having to walk a mile (literally) just to get in and out of the festival gates, not at all including the walking you end up doing to get from stage to stage once you are in the festival. So I cannot stress enough--wear comfortable clothes and shoes in order to make life easier. Pack some bandaids in your purse just in case, as blisters are almost inevitable no matter how comfortable your shoes are. And don't be that girl that looks like a baby giraffe--please don't wear heels!
As I briefly alluded to above, transportation is also an important logistical issue that you should figure out ahead of time. If you are staying anywhere other than on-site, you should strongly consider getting a shuttle pass. The shuttles to and from Coachella run pretty much all day and drop you off inside the festival grounds, so it cuts out a lot of the walking that we had to do getting dropped off in an Uber. Shuttle passes are $75 and can be purchased with your GA/VIP pass or separately (last year we bought ours separately on StubHub--there were plenty available). Here is the complete list of shuttle stops for Weekend 1:
Indian Wells Tennis Garden
Westfield Palm Desert
Albertsons HWY 111 (Embassy Suites Palm Desert, Holiday Inn Express Palm Desert & Best Western Plus Palm Desert Resort)
Comfort Suites Palm Desert
Courtyard Palm Desert
Fairfield Inn and Suites Palm Desert
Hampton Inn & Suites Palm Desert
Hilton Palm Springs
Homewood Suites La Quinta
Homewood Suites by Hilton Palm Desert
Hyatt Regency Indian Wells
Renaissance Palm Springs
Residence Inn Palm Desert
Shadow Hills RV Resort
As you can see, there are a lot of options for shuttle pickup. But if you aren't down with loading onto a shuttle full of people, you do have other options. Ubers are also available, but do have some downfalls.
Know that Ubers are more expensive because of surge pricing and they are not allowed to drop you off anywhere other than the designated drop zones, which means you have to walk a mile to and from the dropoff point to get in and out of the festival grounds. We did this last year and found this to be the biggest hassle of all. We literally walked miles and miles getting in and out of the festival groudns becasue our Uber couldn't pick up or drop off outside of the designated zones. When we tried to cheat the system and get dropped off in different places (either to cheat the line or try to avoid using the designated drop off zone), it usually blew up in our face and meant we ended up having to walk even longer.
Some of the private tent camping or RV camping places also offer their own shuttles. Look into this ahead of time though because most do not honor the Coachella shuttles, instead insisting that you purchase a separate shuttle pass through them. Base Camp, for example, is one of the off-site camping locations that offers their own separate shuttle for $75 per person. For more information, click here.
7. Parties, Parties, Parties
Half the fun of Coachella are all the private parties that happen during the day. Though the only real way to get in is to know someone who has access, start asking around early because chances are, you will know at least one person who plans to attend a private party and can probably get you in if you ask early enough. Some larger companies offer access by simply signing up for the guest list online or sending them an email ahead of time. Last year, for example, Weedmaps threw a party where all you needed to do was shoot them an email and they put you on the guest list. We opted not to go last year, but heard they had French Montana make a surprise appearance.
8. Splurge for VIP
Don't want to brave the masses or walk a million miles to get in and out of the festival? Want to enjoy nicer bathrooms and easier access to the front of the stage? VIP passes are the answer. With a coveted VIP wristband, you are granted access to all of the best places at Coachella and will truly feel like a "very important person."
I know, dropping a G for a festival pass like 9 months before a festival is pretty goddamn ridiculous, but if you can afford it, the VIP pass is worth every penny. Not only do you have a separate entrance where you can get dropped off closer to the venue, but you get exclusive access to private bathrooms, private parking, shaded tents and picnic areas, and best of all--you get your very own designated area right up close to the main stage.
But if you have the money to splurge, VIP passes are wroth it. With a VIP wristband, you are allowed full access to the venue, day parking lot access, and access to three venue VIP areas. You can still visit GA camping areas (so you can hang with your friends) but will have special access to the main VIP area, which is adjacent to the main stage under white peaked tents, that has shaded areas, picnic tables, couches, extra restrooms, food and beverage vendors and a full cash bar. The second VIP area is in the Rose Garden and has extra seating, restrooms, specialty food and beverage concessions, and an incredible view of thousands of roses. Finally, the third VIP area, which is located next to the Sahara Tent, also has extra food and beverage vendors, full cash bars and additional restrooms.
9. Don't get caught...
... bringing prohibited items into the festival! This one might seem like a no-brainer but you'd be surprised by how many people you see get busted trying to skirt the rules or bring one of the many prohibited items into Coachella. The list of prohibited items is unbearably long and includes the more obvious things like drugs, alcohol, fireworks, aerosol cans and guns (even toy guns) and some less obvious things like hula hoops, stuffed animals, kites, glow sticks, sharpies, video cameras, flags and drones. You can, however, bring your hats, blankets, backpacks, unopened cigarettes and lighters, empty Bota Bags (Camelbaks or collapsible water bottles), hand sanitizer, GoPros and cameras, walkie-talkies, non-aerosol sunscreen and misters (again, only if they are empty). For a complete list of both the prohibited items and non-prohibited items, click here.
Security is tight and they take it pretty seriously--it's not your usual "let me just glance into your bag and then let you go" kind of security. You go through a metal detector, you have to get your bag painstakingly searched, and then you get a pretty invasive pat-down that includes you lifting your boobs/bra to make sure you don't have any goodies hidden in there. The security personnel will open a pack of cigarettes, go through your wallet, open any containers, make you remove your hat or your headband, and I even saw one security guard ask a young girl to open her mouth. They take it very seriously.
Though I'm certainly not advising that you try to smuggle in contraband, I will say that there are definitely ways to get things in. I have seen people get rather creative in their attempts to take drugs in (just don't get caught) and we even met some kids last year who had a Camelbak full of vodka. How did they do that, you ask? They apparently knew one of the vendors at the festival who brought it in for them. So there are ways.... just be careful.
Don't forget a durable, stylish backpack to carry all the items you'll need throughout the day. Since the desert is insanely hot during the day and can get cold at night, it's wise to bring a fan, a water bottle and sunglasses for the day and warm layers for the night. Shop for travel friendly, multi-use backpacks HERE.
10. Reserve a Locker
The lockers provided by the festival can be a lifesaver. You of course want to dance, drink and get your twirl on without having to deal with a cumbersome bag, a sweater for when it gets cold in the evening, or have to carry a mister or water bottle at night once it's not hot anymore, right? The locker is your answer. There are a ton of cute boutiques and pop-up shops at the festival, so if you plan to purchase anything, getting a locker is a good idea so you don't have to carry the stuff around. A 3-day pass for a medium-sized locker (15" x 16.5" x 28.5") will cost you $55. A 3-day pass for a large locker (22" x 16.5" x 28.5") will cost you $65. You can also get an extra large, keyless locker (22" x 1619" x 31.5") for $80.
But like most things, lockers need to be reserved early. You can reserve one here.
11. Do Bring:
Though not mandatory, there are several things to bring to Coachella that will just make your life a lot easier.
A Bandana. The festival grounds are dusty and dirty and because you're in the desert, the air is dry and throat-burningly gross. I suffer from sinus problems, so three days in the desert, breathing in dust all day means that every time I come back from Coachella, I end up blowing out dust boogies for weeks. It's foul. One thing that can help is a bandana to tie around your nose and mouth when you are walking from stage to stage and most importantly in and out of the festival grounds, where it's most dusty. The great thing about a bandana is they can be multi-purpose--whether you dance your ass off and want to wipe the sweat off your brow or simply want to tie your hair back because you are too hot, a bandana is a good thing to have.
Tissues. Have you ever been at a festival in one of those nasty-ass porta potties toward the end of the evening and had to drip-dry because there isn't any toilet paper left? Yeah, it's the worst. Avoid that situation entirely by bringing a small pack of Kleenex with you. It doesn't take up much space and will eliminate any disgusting bathroom issues entirely. Hand sanitizer is always a good option too, though all of the bathrooms do have hand washing stations.
Fanny pack/hands-free purse like a crossbody bag or backpack. It's really important to be hands-free. Not only will you be thankful for this when you are trying to carry some beer and some food, but when you are dancing near the stage, you really don't want to have to worry about a purse in your hand or over your arm. Fanny packs are back in style (yes!) so that or a small backpack are your best bet to feel unencumbered. A small cross-body bag is also a good option, though if you plan to really get down in the EDM tent, it can be annoying when it's flapping around. If you are going for a more chill experience, a crossbody bag will be just fine. I used my Louis Vuitton crossbody like this one last year and it worked out great.
Camelbak. A Camelbak or similar water-drinking device can really come in handy and help you stay hydrated. The air is so dry and the temperatures get so hot that you really need to make a conscious effort to stay hydrated. They have hundreds of cases of dehydration and sun stroke each year because people get too excited, dance too much in the heat, and don't drink enough water. You wouldn't want to spend all that money on a ticket to end up spending the day at the festival's urgent care tent. Just be smart and drink water. Though Camelbaks come in different sizes, I have found that this smaller size works great.
Remember though, you can't bring it in if it's got stuff in it. They don't allow outside liquids into the festival grounds. It has to be empty. So don't think you can get sneaky and fill the thing with Vodka--they'll either make you dump it out or confiscate it entirely. They have water-stations all over the place, so you can fill your Camelbak up once you get in there.
Sunscreen. Yes, it's the desert so you need to wear sunscreen. Not 8 SPF and not 15 SPF. Go out and get yourself a spray tan before you go and then lube up with 50 SPF or at least 30 SPF. There is not a lot of shade, so it's very easy to get sunburnt without some sunscreen on. If you have fair or sensitive skin, bring extra sunscreen (non-aerosol) with you so you can reapply. I was fine just putting some on in the early afternoon before we left the hotel, as it was able to last me until it started to get dark and the sun was no longer an issue. But please, don't let a stupid sunburn ruin your time at the festival.
Walkie-Talkies. If you are attending the festival with a large group or plan to split off from your friends to see different artists, sometimes walkie-talkies are useful. There are so many damn people at the festival at one time that getting the cell service to work is often pretty difficult. We got separated from one of our friends last year during Gaga (one of the nighttime headliners) and none of our phones worked. Texts wouldn't send and calls simply wouldn't go through. Walkie-talkies are the solution to this problem. You find inexpensive ones on Amazon like these that work great and are compact enough to where you won't be too encumbered carrying one around.
Misters and Water Bottles. It can get REALLY hot and you do need to make a conscious effort to stay cool and hydrated. For this reason, it's great to bring a miniature mister and a reusable/collapsible water bottle to stay hydrated. I use this cute little mister and have seen collapsible water bottles like this used there. I like to use a good eco-friendly water bottle like these from Hip. I know I sound like a broken record here but it's really important and getting heatstroke or too dehydrated is probably the easiest way to ruin your time at Coachella. There are water filling stations all over the grounds so you can bring even a small collapsible water bottle in and you will thank me later.
With all that said, I hope you have an awesome time!
Questions? Comments? Feel free to reach out to me any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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