I am a huge fan of music festivals, and have been attending them since I was a teen with bad eyeliner and huge skater jeans. They were a rite of passage, a yearly pilgrimage to celebrate live music in all its raw, unadulterated glory. I’ve been lucky enough to attend some of the best festivals the UK has to offer including Glastonbury, Reading, Boardmasters, Download, Field Day and V Festival and I’ve lusted over many more (Kendall Calling & Bestival – I’m coming for you!). For the last 6 years I have attended Reading Festival without fail and its something I really look forward to every Summer.
For many of those 6 years, it was the only break I had. I have spent a good proportion of my twenties and thirties saving for something – a wedding, a house, house renovations – and so proper holidays were off the cards. However a festival was just about manageable and I would treat it like my summer holiday.
But can a music festival be a holiday too? Really?
Here are some things you might not have considered:
They are a weekend away doing something fun
Bottom line is that if you are into them, festivals are fun. If you hate camping, mud, dirt, crowds, sweat and raging hangovers then I’m afraid for you they probably won’t be. But for me, there is lots of fun to be had in a field with my best friends and favourite bands.
Like many holidays with friends, there is dancing (or moshing, depending on your musical tastes), good music, as much food choice as you could ever want in life and plenty of decent cider. In fact at Glastonbury it often felt like I was eating gourmet cuisine, and watching incredible theatre in the theatre and arts fields. There is nightlife, gossiping and if you head to a festival like Boardmasters, there are beaches too.
there are cultural opportunities
Aside from sweaty tents and jaegerbombs, festivals don’t always have to be what some might consider trashy (don’t get me wrong – tents, campfires and jaegerbombs constitute for me an absolutely banging weekend but it isn’t for everyone). There are huge cultural opportunites at many music festivals – in fact I’ve experienced some incredible things in between getting crushed at Biffy Clyro.
- At Glastonbury as well as amazing food and insane cocktails, I also got the opportunity to see some incredible circus and cabaret acts that I would never have sought out for myself. I whiled away a whole afternoon in the Cabaret fields soaking up the talented performances with a pint of Somerset’s finest.
- At Reading Festival this year, I actually had the opportunity to hear journalist Owen Jones speak about the Labour Party and politics as a whole. Sure it was a bit of a stark way to start a Sunday morning, but it proved to me that festivals are not anti-intellectual.
- At Boardmasters in Cornwall we ate in a proper restaurant on the festival site, and made our way to the beautiful Fistral Bay to watch the surfing competitions. Surfing isn’t necessarily a sport I’d watch at any other time so to get this opportunity (before we were interrupted by Hurricane Bertha) was brilliant.
And the list goes on and on…
You can book package deals
Festivals these days are big business – it isn’t always about pitching up in a crappy tent and hoping for the best. You can book package deals to many festivals which include tickets, travel and accomodation if sleeping under canvas is not for you. In fact many festivals now do superior camping options with bell tents, teepees and pre-erected campsites to make things as comfortable as possible and these are all bookable in advance.
Package deals for some of the top European festivals are also hugely common – Primavera and Benicassim in Spain, Roskilde in Denmark and Hideout in Croatia are all popular spots. Imaging jetting off for a music festival and extending your stay a couple of days to go and play at being a tourist in the nearest city?
But it’s bloody hard work
Have I sold you a festival holiday yet? I can tell you, it’s fantastic but it isn’t all sunshine and flowers. Festival weekends, if done in the traditional, no frills way are really really hard work. You have to carry all your stuff with you on your back including your alcohol, tent and wellies. And yes, wellies will absolutely 100% be required. Wading through sticky British mud is an experience like no other. At the other end of the weather spectrum hot sun creates clouds of dust which will stick to you and your nostrils like glue.
And then there are the “facilities”. Imagine a holiday and imagine a rainfall shower and a deep bath (maybe that is just me!). Imagine a festival, and you won’t have to imagine portaloos (or worse, the long drops which are exactly what they sound like), baby wipe washes to remove that dust and sweat from your person AND to top it all off you’ll be snuggling at night on the cold, hard ground.
5 ways to make your music festival a holiday
So whilst I concede festivals are difficult and not everyone’s cup of tea, there is much to enjoy at a music festival, and I believe they can be holidays too. Here are my five top tips to making a festival more than just a dirty weekend away:
1. You will be living in relative discomfort if camping, so don’t do this on the cheap. Buy a decent and spacious tent, a roll mat and cosy sleeping bag and don’t scrimp on the pillow. A good night’s sleep will do wonders for how you feel each morning, and believe me you’ll need all your energy for the dancing!
2. Stay offsite – if you want to experience a festival but you would rather walk across hot coals than camp, look into other options – staying offsite if booked well in advance is an option, so explore AirBnb or cheap hotels nearby.
3. Pace yourself! It can be tempting to go all in on the first afternoon – to drink your tent dry of alcohol and to try every single food stall but you’ll only make yourself feel rubbish. Pace yourself – it is a long slog and only the fittest will survive!
4. Try something new – if you usually can be found in the dance tent, why not try a band? Or if your festivals are packed with mosh pits and bass guitars, trying something more cultural can help you mix it up. If at Glastonbury why not try the Greenfields?
5. Plan something luxurious for afterwards. For the last three years I have headed to a spa for the day on the way home from Reading Festival. I don’t care how much of a princess that makes me sound – a hot tub and a deep massage after a weekend of damp floors and partying is the only way to end my festival holiday.
Would you consider a festival based holiday?
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