Attendees at this year’s Coachella music festival have posted viral videos adding up their weekend expenses – with costs reaching into the thousands for flights, hotels, food, drink, outfits and carpools. Plus the ticket, which can start at around $400 for a three-day pass to a popular festival like Lollapalooza or Coachella.
Summer music festivals can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but the costs can easily blow any budget. If you’ve decided to take the plunge this summer, here are some ways to control your festival spending.
DISCOVER CREDIT CARD REWARDS
One of the best ways to get the most bang for your buck at a music festival is to take advantage of credit card rewards for entertainment purchases. The right card can get you cash back on tickets, access to lower-cost pre-sale tickets, or free extras like food and lounge admission. Some may even give you access to artist performances and exclusive activities like a Ferris wheel ride.
Travel-specific credit cards can help you save on flights and hotels if you’re attending a festival out of town, and many also offer rewards for car rentals and Uber rides.
PLAN AHEAD FOR HIDDEN COSTS
If you’re not prepared for full days of walking and dancing – and strict rules about what’s allowed inside the festival gates – you could find yourself paying for unexpected necessities including food, water and transport.
Kaitlin Gomez is a nursing student and avid festival-goer based in Irvine, Calif., who attends a multi-day music event almost every month. With her dedication to these experiences, she learned to prepare ahead of time so as not to spend too much inside the festival. She recommends eating ahead (and drinking, if that’s your cup of tea) and carpooling if possible. Pro tip: Many festivals offer a limited number of free parking spaces if you arrive early enough to secure a spot.
His biggest cost saving, however, was buying “investment pieces that last for years and work by festival rules,” like a backpack with a built-in hydration pack, sturdy shoes, and a portable charger. Events can overcharge on-site food ($17 for an order of Chicken Tenders at Coachella), bottled water, and even access to phone charging, so coming prepared helps keep costs in check.
And a note on accommodation: while some festivals, like Coachella, offer a camping option for a fee, some don’t. So if you need a hotel, shop around and book early. Airbnbs often applies an additional fee of $100 or more on top of the booking price, so a shared hotel room may be the most cost-effective option.
CHOOSE PAYMENT PLAN OR PRESALE
Most festivals offer a few options for paying for your ticket. The first is to pay the full price of the ticket, which can vary depending on when you make your purchase.
Festivals typically have multiple “tiers,” starting at the lowest price for customers with pre-sale access, and going up to hundreds of dollars more for tickets purchased in the weeks following the event. Presale registration, especially with exclusive access from a participating credit card company, can guarantee you the lowest possible price.
But if you don’t have the funds to cover an entire ticket at once, an interest-free payment plan from the event company can make the cost more manageable. While paying in installments can cost a small convenience fee, “it doesn’t seem to have as much of a financial impact when you’re only paying a fraction each month,” Gomez says.
A Coachella ticket, for example, can be purchased for $99 down payment, with the remainder paid around $44 per month for the next eight months.
JOIN THE SOCIAL MEDIA COMMUNITY
Going to half a dozen festivals every year might seem unachievable, but in the age of social media, that kind of dedication can pay off. Gomez and thousands of others have grown and monetized their online followers to fund their music festival habits, earning free tickets and commissions in the process.
“Create valuable content and the partnerships will come,” says Adriana Ramos, Austin, Texas-based life coach, digital marketing consultant and creator of the festival blog VibeWithAde.com. Ramos has spent years sharing her festival experiences and tips, which has helped her build a solid platform with a loyal following on her website, YouTube and Instagram.
Because of his influence, event organizers and affiliated brands offered Ramos free tickets and the chance to earn a commission from his followers’ ticket purchases in exchange for creating promotional content on social media. With some events and brands, you can apply directly to become an Affiliate Partner.
Individual content creators are a valuable source of marketing for major festival brands, so if you’re willing to invest the time, engaging with the online festival community can help you attend more events for less.
WEIGH YOUR PRIORITIES
Even with credit card rewards, advance planning, and partnering with event brands, a ticket to a music festival can still be a serious investment.
“It’s okay not to go to a festival if it’s going to cost you financially – or if you can’t afford to fully enjoy it,” Ramos says. “There will always be another.”
This column was provided to The Associated Press by personal finance website NerdWallet. Dalia Ramirez is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: dramieznerdwallet.com.