It’s that time of year again! Everyone is scrambling for last minute outfit details & freaking out about what to pack for the United States’ biggest music festival: Coachella. In just a few days, all of our Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram feeds will once again be flooded with flower crowns, live music sets, and the ever-so-popular ferris-wheel-at-sunset picture. And even though the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival has been around for nearly 2 decades, there are still some lingering questions for those who are preparing to head out to the 3-day trip to the desert.
I’ve only been to Coachella once, but boy did I learn a lot that weekend–from camping, to keeping clean, to making sure nobody in my group fainted or got lost, there was something new to take from the experience every single second I was there. So, whether you are a seasoned music festival veteran, or are attending Coachella for the first time, here are some tips to know, remember, and keep in mind in order to survive your time in Indio:
1. Bring a bandana
One thing that nobody ever seems to mention (although it’s pretty damn important!) is that you need to BEWARE OF SANDSTORMS. You’re in the desert, and lots of sand gets blown around at random times during the day, and even at night. And with large groups of people walking around everywhere, there is TONS of sand getting kicked up at any given time.
At first, when my boyfriend told me to wear a bandana to cover my nose and mouth, I was completely against it. I thought, “I don’t see any sand flying around, and I did not spend an hour on this makeup to have it hide behind a piece of cloth. I don’t need it.” L O L, consider that my first L at Coachella.. My eyes got so itchy throughout the day, and I just felt so dirty rubbing them because of how much dust was on my face. And when I showered that night, I blew my nose only to find BLACK DUST coming out!!! I kid you not, I was coughing up black dust even a week after Coachella was over. So do yourself a favor and cover up your nose and mouth before you catch the plague.
2. Don’t feel bad about leaving the festival early to shower
If you’re camping (like I was), keep in mind that e v e r y o n e is trying to shower once the day is over. So if you’re not completely gung ho about the last couple of acts that night, leave a little bit early to get in line for the showers because after about 9PM, those lines get long. There was one night we got back to our campsite late, and I waited 45 minutes to shower. And if you’re thinking, “I can just shower in the morning,” you better be ready to get up at the crack of dawn! Lines start getting long at 8AM, when it’s about 81° outside.
3. Buy two water bottles at once
Every survival guide you read is going to tell you to stay hydrated. Duuuuh, you’re out in the desert where it reaches 100° by 11AM. There are TONS of water stations throughout the festival grounds, but they move somewhat slow and you could find yourself waiting in line for at least ten minutes. Water bottles inside the festival cost $2, and you’re going to drink through them pretty fast, so buy two at a time! One to pour into your Camelbak, and one to just hold on to/use to refill your Camelbak.
4. Remember it takes time to get from stage to stage
This whole tip consists of a multitude of things: plan your schedule accordingly, keep track of time, and know how far in advance you want to leave one set in order to make it to another at a different stage. Keep in mind that it can take a good 30 minutes to walk between the Sahara tent and the main stage when it’s really crowded, and shoveling through people at Coachella isn’t the easiest. So give yourself a good amount of time to leave one stage, walk to another, and find a good spot at that stage before the performance starts.
5. Fans are your friends
If there’s one thing I learned at Coachella, it was how much I can really perspire. For someone who isn’t used to sweating a whole lot, I was drenched the whole weekend. Moving between crowds of people and standing in a full tent will have you dripping for sure, so make sure you bring a fan to keep you cool! (The best ones are the electric ones that can spray mist, in my opinion.) And if you see someone who could use a little spritz or some air, be a real one and hit them with that cool air and water one time. (Bonus: I almost fainted inside the Sahara tent because soooo many people are literally PACKED in there, so if you have someone who can carry you on their shoulders for a decent amount of time so you can get air, please tell them how much you appreciate them for literally helping you breathe.)
6. Pack an emergency kit
Load yourself up with some bandaids, TUMS (or some sort of indigestion relief), ibuprofen–anything that you would need for some unexpected discomfort. (Shoutout to my girl Chanel for this tip; she experienced acid reflux for the first time at Coachella and we weren’t well prepared for it, so take it from someone who experienced it first hand!)
7: Say yes to Do Lab and the Yuma tent
If you’re looking to escape from the heat and still hear some really dope music, Do Lab and the Yuma tent have the chillest vibes–literally. They are both air conditioned, and the Yuma tent has long couches and chairs inside for you to lounge in.
8: Buy your merch on the first day
If you see a shirt or sweater you like right when you get there, buy it right at that moment. I know, I know.. You don’t wanna be carrying it around the whole day. BUT! It will save you a lot of time and hassle as opposed to trying to buy merch on the last day of the festival, when lines are long and inventory is low.
9: Carry cash
Almost all of the vendors accept credit card, but there were a couple of times that their systems were down due to so many transactions trying to process. Instead of paying outrageous ATM fees, make sure you have a good amount of cash on you to get you through the day.
10: Buy your groceries ahead of time, including ice
If you’re camping, ice is expensive; like, $10-a-bag expensive. Thankfully, there is a shuttle that operates in the morning that can take you to the nearby plaza, where you can stop by the grocery store and grab enough bags to keep your cooler infinitely stocked (and where you can buy groceries/snacks to bring back to your campsite!), because nothing is worse than realizing you have to buy ice when everything on your campsite is already melting or getting warm.
11: Come prepared for the porta potties
Again, if you’re camping, having to use the porta potties (especially at night) can be quite the hassle. Bring your own toilet paper, a little bottle of hand sanitizer (sometimes they don’t have a bottle available, and the one at the campsite I was at didn’t have sinks), and a head flashlight. I know it’s not the cutest accessory, but would you rather be wearing a light on your head to help you navigate the porta potty, or try to use your phone and have that fall in the toilet?
12: Get to the Heineken House early… and pee first
The line for the Heineken House gets pretty long, especially if artists like Slander are playing. You could be waiting in line for at least an hour, so plan to get in line at least an hour and a half before the artist you wanna see goes on. But it’s totally worth it; it’s like a club scene, with a dance floor and tables around the edges of the room, and a bar. Plus, you’ll be really close to the DJs! Also, there are no in and outs at the Heineken House, so make sure you go to the bathroom before going inside (have someone hold your spot in line!) in order to avoid having to leave during the set you wanna see just to go pee (trust me, we tried to give every excuse in the book to be able to try to go back in after using the bathroom).
13: Keep some baby wipes on you
Like I said many times in this post, you’re going to sweat a lot and you’re gonna want to keep clean somehow. You’d be surprised at how much cleaner you feel after wiping yourself down with a baby wipe!! My friends and I used these during the day when we felt really hot & sweaty, and right before we got in our tent for any reason–you don’t want to be sitting on your air mattress or laying on your pillow with all the dust that’s accumulated on your body throughout the day.
14: Watch out for pickpocketers
Take my word for it when I say that people WILL try to steal whatever you have on you, even if you’re wearing a Camelbak. Someone tried to steal my friend’s phone out of his pocket, and luckily he caught them and swiped it right out of their hands! So it wouldn’t hurt to be a little extra and keep your things safe by taking everything out of your pockets and even purchasing a little lock for your Camelbak.
15: Soak it all in
I promise that there is going to be that one “moment” where a feeling just hits you. It might be while you’re watching the sunset and listening to that perfect set, or dancing your heart out at Do Lab with your closest friends, or even at the end of the weekend when you’re packing everything up and getting ready to go home. It’s that feeling that makes everything worth it–you’ll forget all about the stress that went into planning your outfits, or the fact that you spent $300 on a ticket alone, or that you’re slowly dying in the desert heat. And you’ll realize that all of it led up to this moment, the moment, where you realize that you’re enjoying some dope music, living it up, and having the time of your life with some of the best people in it.