I can’t remember exactly where I was when I first learned about Coachella, but I’m 85% sure I was in a poorly lit room in front of an overlit computer screen scrolling my tumblr dashboard. No I will not tell you my tumblr name. I remember the severe feeling of FOMO when Tupac performed a set as a hologram with Snoop and Dre in 2012, and when Pharrell brought EVERYBODY in 2014, and when Madonna made out with Drake in 2015. So when I had the opportunity to go to indio in 2017, there was absolutely no way I was missing it. I have a coworker/Coachella vet to thank for giving me the extra push to buy the tickets. So one credit card charge, and one freak out later I had two weekend 1 tickets with a car camping pass. My boyfriend, Nick, wasn’t a crazy-obsessed music festival fan, but he agreed to go with me ( by the way, he’s now a crazy-obsessed music festival fan).
Before we set down the road to Indio, I really wanted to find some other blog posts that summed up the experience, guided you through the campground, what it’s like to plan out a day of shows, why you really should buy a fanny pack… but we couldn’t find anything. Nothing. The best advice came from the Coachella website, and welcome booklet. I found it a bit difficult to follow along with the website because I had no point of reference, and you don’t get the welcome box until March, just a few weeks before the festival – so I was on my own trying to explain this festival to Nick. I must have did a decent job because he went for it 🙂 So our failure at finding a write up on ”how to coachella” was the idea behind this blog post, and I hope you find it helpful.
I bought our tickets during pre-sale near the end of 2016. It’s a completely random process that starts in the middle of the day, and forces you to wait with the computer screen open until you’re let out of the waiting room and admitted into the ticket site. You’ll find pictures of people 4 laptops deep with holding screens on all of them… but honestly I don’t think it’s all that necessary unless you’re trying to buy a bunch of tickets. I had a holding screen up on my phone and used my ipad for a while.. I think I waited for around a 1/2 hour. Virtual lines beat real lines any day.
We decided to make a road trip out of it. That’s right we drove over 4,000 miles to and from Indio, California…from Mid-Michigan. Everyone called us crazy (both in California and Michigan). After driving those thousands of miles, I would totally do another long road trip. Driving cross country was gorgeous – but my only advice is to get your car thoroughly checked out before you set off on your trip, factor the fixes into your buget, and anticipate a mechanical problem along the way. We were on the home stretch of our trip, driving through the mountains in Arizona when the rear brakes started to wear out which annihilated one of our rotors. We ended up spending the night in Kingman, Arizona, and one day behind in our schedule… but here’s the silver lining: when we actually got there on Friday evening all of the entrance lines were way shorter and security kept commenting on how fast everything was moving. More positives: we were closer to the less used porta-potties,we were shuffled to a closer camp lot, and it’s quieter in the back of the lot so you can actually get sleep every night. Just a few complaints: I understand it’s hot, and there must be countless rude/drunk people, but every officer encounter we had around the festival was very hostile, always yelling and pushing us along, and we were mis-directed a majority of the time.
Familiarize yourself with the festival camping map and the google maps version of the surrounding area because NO ONE WILL KNOW ANYTHING, you can take the risk to stop to ask for directions but it will get you nowhere and you’ll have to wait forever for a break in both vehicle and pedestrian traffic to turn out of whatever parking lot you thought would hold the answer to your problem.
Bring your metal tent stakes, but hide them well. Don’t bring a mallet because that will get confiscated, and your neighbor who’s been 5 years in a row has one you can borrow anyway. The reason you need the stakes is because it gets SUPER WINDY at night, so windy that I thought we would wake up underneath a tangle of tent poles, or on top of the main stage. Talk to your neighbors. We had the loveliest neighbors on both sides, and both were Coachella vets. One lady was in her 50’s and had been 9 times, oh and was camping by herself. They made our camping experience wonderful, they were helpful, and pretty quiet. Even if you end up with some rude neighbors, it helps to talk and get on good terms. They may have enough eggs to share in the morning.
What You Neeed
I’ll keep this brief: Wet Wipes – Wet Ones, Good Cooler, Ice, WATER, Cash, Shade (like a shade tent or tarp to put over your sitting space or tent, Lights, Decorations, Propane Hot Plate w/ Breakfast Food, Battery Pack, Sun Hat, Air Freshener, Fanny Pack, Ear Plugs, Free Standing Mirror, Cards or Board Game (this will help you make friends too!). Pro Tip: fill up with gas before you go in, it’ll save you a stop and you won’t feel bad about idling to charge your phone and use the air conditioning.
Planning The Day
Once you arrive you’ll receive a little booklet with maps, set times and everything else you’ll need. Shows range from noon-11pm so get ready for very long days. I know now that we were so ambitious, trying to hit 3 or 4 shows in a row without returning to camp or stopping to breathe. If you wake up early and start at noon, you’ll want to take an early break – the earlier your break, the earlier you can return and get a better spot for the later/more popular shows. Don’t sweat it if you miss a show that really wanted to see, fact of the matter is you were probably getting some much needed rest/food/water, and you’re still at a music festival and you’ll still have a great time. It’s okay to leave your partner to get closer to the stage, to check something out or to go explore for a little while. Just make sure you secure a meeting spot at a certain time, and time stamp all of your texts (ex: “meet you at the palm tree near the ID CHECK at 4:45”)
The Third Day Will Be The Worst
We barely took any pictures on the third day and third day wake up was the roughest for me. Just drink lots of water, and you don’t have to leave the last set early to beat the crowd. Security won’t let anyone leave the campground until 2am, so there’s no reason to cut your fun short.
After hearing about the red ants in Lake Eldorado, and the price tag on the Safari tents we both felt like the car camping experience is the best and most economical way to have fit the most Coachella into your experience (click here for the different camping options) . Next year I’d like to try some parties around the festival, and take some more friends with us! Stay hydrated and have fun!