Doing festivals on a budget in 2013

How to festival in the age of austerity

Photographer:Shirlaine Forrest

Ali Ryland - 25 February 2013

Which Festival?

Smaller ones are not only cheaper, but generally provide a better, communal atmosphere; if strapped for cash, shop around for something a bit less crowded. However, if you can't rip yourself away from the allure of star-studded Brit Award winners, remember that some (such as Reading and Leeds and Download, or Glasto and nigh on every mainstream event) will share your faves. For example, nearly all the major festivals have started to charge an extra tenner if you want to stay for the Thursday or, if offered, the Wednesday. Yet Latitude and Glastonbury remain aloof from this profit-hungering, not to mention the wider range and selection of acts, events and activities the latter offers. In terms of value for money, you can't go wrong with a festival that provides more than a few good headliners and five beer tents.

However, if you are going to be forcedly persuaded by the feverish and relentless flow of mates to head to the same festival(s) you've been attending since your early teens, check out volunteering options for them. Oxfam is the obvious first choice, but smaller companies such as Better Festival Group and others would be another good place to start. For the lucky chance to get PAID to be there, check out Peppermint Bars' site, as well as Festaff.

Lewis Brimblecombe documented his Oxfam experiences at Glastonbury 2009 and Reading 2010 for VF, through being stationed in the campsite to stewarding the BBC Introducing stage, and though he cautioned that the role “combined long periods of boredom with moments of exhausting activity”, it was “well worth it.

Travel Costs

Sometimes you can't help but incur a few. Be aware that ferry companies for festivals taking place on the Isle of Wight more than double their prices for said weekend; if possible, grab a boat off Freecycle and start a competing business when you sail into port.

More realistically, coaches are a good bet. While National Express and Big Green Coach offer a fluid transition from reasonable locations around the country to the festival's front doorstep, you could get a cheaper deal booking the former (or a Megabus) to the nearest city/town possible. And if shuttle buses from said city to the site aren't an option, there's always hitchhiking; while some may be thoroughly shocked by the prospect, it is easier and safer than you think. Particularly if migrating to a 'hippier' event; after arriving on a cheap coach to Shepton Mallet well before buses started, Glasto punters have been picked up before even sticking their thumb out.

For something similar but more reliable, GoCarShare and Liftshare should be the first port of call for anyone without a car themselves. And if you do have one, offer your services up to the sites and on the festival forums yourself; you'll save petrol money and gain +5 environment points.

Don't forget train travel; checking three months in advance as tickets just go on sale is key, but so is split ticketing, see our mate Martin at Money Saving Expert for more.

Food and Drink

One of the main causes of empty pockets by the end of a weekend (if you resist the temptation to be the grinning idiot with a £40 festival branded tee) is nourishment. This is easily avoided by some careful planning on what to bring, rather than shelling out on £10 meals and watered down beer. Thinking you'll have enough time to cook up sausages on a disposable BBQ every day without being the band-ambivalent campsite moocher is often not viable- particularly when meat, cheese etc goes off. Peanut butter is chock-full of protein and a few sandwiches of it are filling and healthy. Apples too. Force them down so you don't return scurvied and sporting a month-long runny nose. Wanting pot noodles and instant soup doesn't mean you have to sneak in a gas canister; ask the food stalls for free hot water. And of course, crates of booze were made for festivals.

While its all well and good to come well equipped with the aforementioned and 30 cereal bars, if you're travelling without the luxury of a car, it can be heavy. This is why investing in a large, decent rucksack is another must; attach your sleeping bag and mat to its outside, strategically place 20 cans and spirit of choice within, then totter off with two bags-for-life of food. And clothes, if you're that way inclined I suppose.

Barring breakages due to such over-loading (though if this doesn't happen, BYOBaFing pays off) LOOK AFTER YOUR FESTIVAL EQUIPMENT. Leaving anything there may seem like a great idea   when bedraggled at 5am that Sunday night/Monday morning, but it certainly doesn't help you for next time.

For more bargainous tips and tricks for saving those pennies at festivals, click out our budget guide for festival in 2012.


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