Advice for first time festival-goers

I absolutely love festivals, though I must admit that these days we usually buy a camper-van ticket and stay in the relative comfort of Tom's VW van rather than under canvas.  In my old age I find there's just something about lighting up the camping stove and making a cup of green tea and a bacon sarnie before heading into the hubbub of the festival site.  My first festival was Sziget Festival in Budapest in 2007 which was absolutely amazing - there was so much to see and do, the tickets aren't a complete ripoff, the food is amazing, the price of beer is capped at about 2 euros (or was when I went) and the parties and music go on late into the night.  I then went to Reading Festival in 2008, which frankly, apart from the music (four words, Rage Against The Machine) - I hated.  Some of our stuff got nicked, the last night was like a war zone (people set a block of toilets on fire and were throwing gas bottles into it) and the price of food and drink I think is extortionate (I really sound like I should be on Grumpy Old Women now).

Sziget festival
// sziget festival, 2007

Reading festival
// reading festival, 2008

Despite this experience, I'm still a massive lover of festivals, and with so many more festivals coming up over the next month or so, I thought I'd share my tips for first time festival go-ers.

  • Always opt for a tent slightly bigger than you think you need. If there are two of you sharing a tent, don’t assume that a 2-man tent will cut the mustard because chances are, it won’t. Sure, it will occupy two people sleeping next to each other, but if you want to store all of your things in there with you and you like a bit of space to stretch out, you’ll need a bigger one.   Get a pop-up tent if you don't fancy the idea of trying to put up a tent when all you really want is to crack open a cider.
  • Choose your festival wisely.  I didn't like Reading Festival but I absolutely love End of The Road, which is much more friendly and fun, with a great atmosphere and lots to see and do (there's a fairy light forest walk, peacocks wandering around, a comedy tent in the woods and usually a Pie Minister van!) Don't limit yourself to the big ticket, popular festivals - I hear great things about Secret Garden Party, Wilderness, Beacons and Somersault Festival.  Find a festival that matches your interests - if you're into skateboarding and surfing check out Boardmasters in Newquay.  (Check out this guide to the Ten Best Boutique Festivals in the UK).
End of the Road festival
// end of the road festival, 2012
  • Don't take anything you'd be deeply upset if it was nicked or lost.  I know a lot of people who transfer their sims into cheap old phones rather than taking your iPhone, consider disposable cameras or a cheap compact digital rather than an SLR and stash cash and anything else valuable in the bottom of your sleeping bag or a hidden pocket.
  • Take enough clothes with you, but be ready for any kind of weather. Even if you are spending a summer weekend in the middle of a field, that doesn’t mean it won’t rain, so pack an anorak just in case. Make sure you have plenty of warm layers with you, too. You can find plenty of shorts, tops, jumpers and stylish casual dresses from George at ASDA so you won’t have to spend a fortune on your festival wardrobe.
  • Take some sensible footwear. Whether that’s wellies, boots or a pair of Dr. Martens, you will need something that is both comfortable, and waterproof, just in case the heavens open.
  • If you’re camping as a group, pitch your tents close to each other, with the doors opening inwards in a circle. This will stop people from camping in the middle of your ground and will also prevent people from walking through your camp.   Don't camp next to a path, or a toilet block (no matter how convenient it might seem, a few hours in, it will smell. bad.)
  • Take gaffa tape. You will need it if your tent poles break (which is easily done if a drunk person falls on your tent or someone comes along who hasn't read the torch tip) It's also helpful to have with you just in case anything else needs fixing temporarily.
  • Take toilet roll and plenty of baby wipes. Take some sheets with you when you head into the arena, just in case the loos don’t have any paper in them (i.e. after the first day).
  • Don’t forget a torch. You will see people wearing headlamps and all sorts, but a simple torch will do the trick and will mean that you can see all of the guy ropes when you nip to the toilet in the middle of the night.
  • Pack a waterproof jacket. You will need it when it starts to rain! The last thing you will want is to feel sorry for yourself, soaked through to the bone. A simple parka jacket or anorak will suffice and you don't have to spend a lot to get one.
  • Pack snacks and cereal bars.  Festival eating can get expensive if you're buying every meal from food vans, so try and pack some cheap snacks that will tide you over and save you spending £6 on a bacon roll every day.
  • If you're driving and then parking your car and leaving it for a few days, pack a pair of clean socks, pants and warm clothes in your car so you've got something comfy and clean to come back to!
  • Festival toilets are the stuff nightmares are made of, so no matter how cool you might feel in your playsuit/jumpsuit/kigu onesie, that is not going to be fun come 1am when it's dark and you have to get completely undressed to go to the loo.
But most of all, make the most of the experience! Be careful, stay safe and enjoy yourself.   Let me know your festival tips - what's your favourite festival? What's the one thing you wouldn't be without?

// me, at end of the road festival
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  1. So many good tips, I've never been to a festival but I'm starting to get the urge.

    Jemma // Jemma In Words

  2. I've eyed up Wilderness before and Secret Garden Party. After my Latitude experience this year, I definitely want to go to more. Reading sounds like my worst nightmare!

    Jenny | sunny sweet pea xx

  3. I love festivals, been to quite a few and I agree wth all of these! My main advice is get a double skinned tent. Doesn't have to be expensive! Just single layers = very wet you, clothes and sleeping bag haha!

    India / Touchscreens & Beautyqueens

  4. This is a really great festival post :) tons of bloggers do festival posts, but none are close to this! :D my first festival was Reading 2012 and I'd just turned 17 and I'm so glad you've said this all about Reading! At the time, cos it was my first festival, I was like "oh this is what they're all like" but I went to Isle of Wight festival this year and oh wow! The difference! At Reading there were a few times when guys wouldn't leave me alone and grabbed me and actually separated me from my friends (luckily then they came back and saved me!) but at Isle of Wight everyone is so nice! xo

    amber love

  5. Just got back from a weekend at wonderful WOMAD - gaffa tape came in very helpful!! As did spray on savlon, and blankets to sit on outside the tents.

  6. I loved these tips. I will be heading to my 13th festival this weekend and I feel like I know quite a lot about festivals but these tips would have seriously helped me several years ago! :)

  7. Latitude is my go-to festival, I love it. This year I tried my first festival abroad and went to Primavera (write up here - http://alifelessphysical.wordpress.com/2014/06/10/escape-to-primavera-sound-2014/) but I really hope to try End of the Road soon and Bestival some time.

  8. GREAT post! I've never been to a festival before and I've never heard anyone mention these types of tips before. Thanks for sharing with us. :)


  9. Wise words, Rosie!

    I did Reading from 2005-2009, then it all got a bit too much. Luckily we never had anything nicked but our tent did get wee'd on! :(

    End of the Road does sound amazing, and we're going this year! YAY

    I wouldn't shy away from the big ones, though, especially if you haven't done a big festival before. It was my first time at Glastonbury this year and despite being just shy of 120,000 people, it was absolutely amazing, and I'd recommend it to anyone.

    1. I love End of the Road, you will absolutely love it! I didn't hugely like Reading but I did love Sziget which is another huge festival - I think I just prefer the atmosphere at smaller festivals, I don't like large groups of people, haha! I do like the sound of Glastonbury though xx

  10. Agree with all of these! Had my first festival at TitP this year and it was absolutely amazing, but we definitely learnt a few things. Mainly, a two-man tent will not occupy two people and their things comfortably, especially when you need somewhere to put muddy wellies! The thing that came in most handy for me was hand sanitiser. :) I'm intrigued about Reading though, was considering it for next year but might give it a miss!

    Hannah x

  11. Thanks for the great tips! Never been to a festival but I hope to one day!
    Lauren | OhHay Blogs!

  12. All great tips - I've also been to Reading a couple of times and it has had a very different (negative) experience to the other festivals I've been to. I've heard that it's sister festival Leeds is lovely though - shame it's so far away. I'd love to rent a camper van for the festival circuit - it must be so nice to come back to a proper bed each night!


Thank you in advance for your lovely comments, they mean the world to me! If you have a question or want to get in touch, tweet me at @rosieoutlook.