How to Do Music Festivals on a Budget

All the big festivals are pulling at our heart strings and announcing their lineups, enticing us all to forgo our budgets (that was everyone’s new year’s resolution, right?) and throw all of them on the credit card. Because if I don’t get it now, I’ll miss out on early bird pricing. RIGHT? This has caught me in a trap countless times, carelessly throwing early Bonnaroo tickets and even festivals in Australia on my credit card, before booking any flights. Have I regretted any of it? Absolutely not. But I have learned some tricks along the way, and have a few tips on attending music festivals in the thriftiest ways possible.

Go close to home

Ontario has gotten pretty lucky in the last couple of years, welcoming brand spanking new festivals like FieldTrip and WayHome, plus the UK’s well-known, Bestival, to entertain music lovers across Ontario. As such, we’re in a far better place to save some money on airfare and attend a festival close to home. Not only will you save money on travel expenses, you also won’t need to take as many days off work.

Plan your traveling

If you do plan on traveling outside of Ontario, find other ways to save. There’s plenty of carpool options (music festivals are all about making new friends, right?), and if you have the time, driving will save you tons. If flying is your only option (hello, Coachella and Pemberton Music Festival) keep airfare deals on your radar.


Bonnaroo, WayHome, Pemberton Music Festival and Shambhala are only a few (of many) music festivals that offer camping. For the most part, that means you can also bring your own food and alcohol, saving your festival budget immensely. Disclaimer: you will have limited access to showers, will be forced to camp in a tiny space and will wake up exceptionally early, but you will have the most fun and save the most money.

Buy tickets early

Many music festivalsespecially the big onesoffer tiered pricing or early bird pricing, which means they’ll offer a pretty decent discount before they announce their entire lineup. Don’t get caught in a trap of buying tickets before you consider the other expenses (see intro, yes I purchased tickets in Australia before considering flight costs), but do take advantage of discounted pricing if you have a particular festival on your radar.


Did you know you can volunteer your time for free tickets? You’ll have to volunteer a pretty big chunk of time (Bonnaroo and WayHome require 18 hours during the festival, or 25-30 hours pre or post festival), but you’ll get a free ticket, and likely a few more perks thrown in, depending on where you’re stationed. 

Bring a water bottle

It sounds obvious, but bring a reusable bottle (you’ll thank me later). Music festivals don’t always have a ton of shade, but they do have free water refilling stations. They’ll be your life-saver at that afternoon show while the sun is out in full force, and will also save your budget ”bottled water at festivals can run upwards of $8/bottle.

Tags: bonnarroo, Coachella, music festivals, wayhome

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