In the wake of Awakenings Festival in Amsterdam, we have compiled our essential guide to the European summer festival season just for you. Whether you’re into techno, drum n’ bass, metal, grime, alt-rock, pop or some mashed up combination of it all, there’s a festival ticket with your name on it somewhere across the continent. However, just because you “totally smashed Stereo” or were there for the hay-day of Big Day Out doesn’t mean you’re a festival guru just yet. Going in unprepared can create all kinds of problems and risk you leaving your legacy as that girl or guy who peaked too early. Fear not adventurers, we’ve walked that road and have come up with some crucial tips to make sure you survive your first European festival experience in one piece.
1) Essential Packing
While you can survive a festival having brought along nothing but your ticket and a bit of cash in your wallet, your day will be significantly more enjoyable with a few little extras packed to make life easier.
- Print / screenshot your tickets – with so many people in the one place, sometimes phone or wifi reception drops out and you can’t get into your emails to print out your tickets, so make sure you do this beforehand.
- Sun protection – a no brainer really, unless you want a 1 way trip to the medical tent due to heatstroke then re-apply sunscreen regularly, wear a hat and / or sunglasses.
- Water – the other no brainer, get a bottle early on and refill every time you go past the bar or bathroom, festivals are endurance events so pace is ace!
- Babywipes/tissues – the state of festival toilets can be nightmare inducing, don’t get caught short by having your own supplies just in case. Hand sanitiser also highly recommended.
- Ear plugs – fun fact, wearing ear plugs does not make you a dork, it shows that you’re a pro at this! Your ears wont ring for 3 days afterwards and you can safely dance as close as you want to the front of the stage. Proper ear plugs will take the harshness out of the bass and the music will actually sound better. Try it and see!
2) Functional Festival Fashion
Let’s get one thing clear, festivals are NOT fashion shows! Yes, we’ve all seen those instagram-worthy shots of the ‘festies’ at Coachella with their totally impractical outfits or those at the other end of the spectrum in ridiculous animal onesies. Sadly, all this does is make you look unoriginal, clueless and basically a bit of a try-hard. You won’t be comfortable and it may dampen your festival experience. Don’t you worry, we’ve all been there…
That isn’t to say that you can’t dress practically and still have fun, you’ve just got to think smart. Footwear is absolutely your first priority. Those cute sandals might look pretty but unless you enjoy muddy feet, a rolled ankle or a gigantic bruise where some reveller trampled on your foot in the crowd, you’re going to want something with good support and a firm sole. Chucks are always a good option, as are runners. Take 5 minutes to research the festival site too. Are there hills/uneven ground? Will it get muddy if it rains? How long is the walk between stages? Figure all this out in advance to save yourself some pain later in the day.
Another golden rule is to be prepared for Mother Nature to do her best to put a dampener on things. Even the warmest days of the European summer can turn sour fast, never leave home without a poncho so you don’t get soaked. Also there’s a good chance it will get pretty cold later on once the sun goes down and the music stops playing. The booze blanket will wear off, the warmth of the crowd will have dispersed and all of sudden you’re standing in a field waiting for the shuttle bus back home freezing your ass off. Bring a light jumper to keep yourself toasty.
Thinking carefully about how you’ll carry everything is important – a one shoulder bag can hurt your shoulder after wearing it all day. Good news is bum bags are back in fashion and a great choice. Small back packs are also a good idea to store your jumper and balance the weight on both your shoulders. If you have a lot of stuff, some festivals do have lockers for rent.
3) Keeping the Squad Together
All jokes aside, losing your squad at a festival can be an impossible problem to resolve. It’s a whole different ball game in Europe, the crowds and festival sites are bigger and the headaches caused from lack of cellphone reception are also bigger. Establishing a few ground rules early on will help keep everyone connected. Get familiar with the site layout by actually looking at the map before you get there. If people are drifting off to different stages decide on a meeting point later in the day so you can easily regroup. Also, trying to stay near a certain area of the stage can work wonders, for example the front-left of the crowd or directly in front of the sound mixing tent. If you do find yourself lost, then don’t freak out. Wandering around aimlessly looking for people gets old really fast… you’re there for the music remember! Have a dance and enjoy the moment, you might even make some new festival friends!
This isn’t even an elephant in the room anymore, humans are by nature curious creatures and if this is your first time at a big festival or overseas chances are you’re going to come across drugs. Sadly this is where many festival newbies stumble at the first hurdle. Sure, some hot-shot might sound convincing offering you “the best shit straight from Amsterdam”, but unless you want to be ripped off at best or left unable to function at worst, learn a bit about what you’re taking before you dive in. Trust your gut and if something feels off don’t put yourself at risk. Some festivals like Secret Garden Party are now providing anonymous free drug testing tents and information. In certain shops in cities like Amsterdam or online you can buy drug testing kits and test the quality before you take it. If you do start feeling unwell don’t be afraid to head for the medical tent, partiers in Europe have been dropping all kinds crazy things for decades now and paramedics will always give you honest, caring assistance to get your groove back. They won’t rat you out to the police or security either. Remember drugs are supposed to enhance your party vibe, not control it. Same as you do when drinking, make sure you eat plenty to line your stomach beforehand, stay hydrated and take it a little at a time and hopefully you’ll be happily raving away right up until til that last banger.
5) Most importantly…
Have fun! Festivals are our favourite events and they can be yours too if you follow our advice!
Got an overseas festival planned with a friend? Post this on their Facebook wall to get your festival prep started!