It seems like there’s a festival for everything these days, from beer and poutine to yoga and traditional music.
Whether your thing is wine and cheese, books, bendy poses or live music, there’s a good chance you’ve got at least one summer festival on your wishlist this year.
Not to mention, on your budget – because festival attendance isn’t an inherently frugal endeavour.
But with a bit of planning, you can easily save money while attending festivals all year round.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to show you how to indulge in that dream festival without paying the full – and expensive! – price.
1. Pick your festivals strategically
There are always going to be more festivals than you can reasonably attend, since being in two places at once isn’t something science has figured out yet.
The first step in making a plan to save money on festival attendance is to prioritize the absolute best summer festivals for you and your wallet.
So when you look at your wishlist this year, ask yourself:
- Is it close to home?
- What’s the ticket price?
- What are the travel costs to and from this event?
- How important is this festival to me?
- What additional costs do I need to consider? (Food, camping gear, etc.)
When you’ve figured out all this information, you’ll start to see certain festivals in a new light.
For example, maybe your top summer music festival has really high travel costs, so you decide to attend this one and only event. Or if the most expensive festival isn’t your number one priority, maybe you decide to attend several local festivals instead.
Plus a travel bonus worth another $150.
Quantities are limited.
2. Get the most out of your ticket
A ticket is a ticket is a ticket, right?
As long as you can still get into the festival (and hopefully score a few privileges!), saving money on the ticket price is a no-brainer way to reduce festival spending.
Depending on the length of the festival, there are a few ways to do this to help keep more money in your pocket.
Plan ahead and make sure to keep an eye out for early-bird discounts in order to get the most out of your ticket.
If it’s a multiple-day event, you can simply buy tickets for the days you really want to attend. And if a multiple-day pass is cheaper, and gives you access to the events and acts you want to see, then it’s a great way to reduce the cost.
3. Bring your own food and drink
Once you’ve got your tickets, the next thing you’ll want to check is the fine print on food and drinks. (And if you’re attending a food-and-wine or beer festival, take all of this with a grain of salt!)
Ask yourself these questions to help save money on festival expenses you don’t really care about:
- Are you allowed to bring food to the event?
- Can you bring in beverages?
- Is there water available if you want to bring a reusable water bottle?
- Are you able to bring your own grill?
If you’d be perfectly happy snacking on almonds and granola bars throughout the day instead of splurging on overpriced festival snacks, this can greatly cut costs. This means you’ll have more money to spend on other, more beloved parts of the festival.
4. Rough it with accommodations
If you’re travelling to a festival, it’s no surprise that accommodations and travel costs will represent a big part of your festival budget.
If it’s a multi-day event, look into your options. Many festivals will offer discounted accommodations, from blocks of rooms at hotels to local camping nearby. If you’re willing to compromise, rough it or share a room with multiple people – it’ll bring your costs down significantly.
And as a special note to my fellow inexperienced campers: one festival a year is not a good reason to go out and buy all-new camping gear. You’re much better off reaching out to your network of friends and family to borrow some gear.
Depending on the festival, volunteering can score you a number of different perks:
- free attendance,
- free food, and
- exclusive access to events, swag, lounge areas and more.
All you need to do is secure a spot and volunteer on a task that aligns with your skills and availability.
More popular and smaller festivals might be fairly competitive when it comes to securing those volunteer opportunities. So if you’re interested in this money-saving strategy, your best bet is to get on the festival’s mailing list sooner rather than later. When the call for volunteers goes out, you want to be the first in the digital line-up in order to secure your spot.
And if you don’t see an option for volunteers, but think you could add a ton of value to the event, reach out directly to the organizers to see if you can pitch them on a special set up. You never know what could happen!
6. Figure out what you love most about summer festivals
Now that you know which festivals you’ll be attending, it’s time to think about your most loved aspects of each festival.
Think back on festivals you’ve attended in the past and what it was you liked most about the experience. These are the things you’ll need to budget into your festival-attendance plan, because I’m not here to tell you to give those things up.
If you absolutely love something, but it happens to cost you, you can still go for it! Just be ready to compromise on other, less-important aspects to save some dough.
7. Make a souvenir or swag plan
A lot of festivals – from music to beer – will incorporate souvenirs and swag into their business plan to help with funding. That’s where you’ll see things like custom hats, T-shirts, sweatshirts and more sold with the festival’s logo all over them.
They’re hugely popular – and hugely pricey.
I’m not saying never buy the swag, because I own a few key pieces from festivals that I still use and love. You just need to go into the festival with a plan.
If you know you’re going to see your favourite artist and you want to get a T-shirt to commemorate the experience, that’s fine.
But if you buy a T-shirt from every artist at the festival and end up with 30 shirts at the end of the event ‒ not-so fine.
Having a plan going into any festival will make sure that you’re spending money intentionally, and will save you a bundle when you avoid impulse purchases you didn’t really want in the first place.