By Nadia Ibanez
Our weekend at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival has gone and past and I can’t help but look back on the beautiful five days that we spent in the desert. It didn’t help that I was surrounded by some of my favorite people, or that I had a relaxing mini vacation in the midst of 106 degree weather and the innate chaos that comes with going to an infamous outdoor music festival.
Considering it was all four of our first times at Coachella, I’d have to say we did it right. From opting for shuttle passes, sharing a hotel villa, and taking some time to enjoy the scenery, we conquered and survived Coachella with minimal damage. Here are my tips on how to survive Coachella – the heat, the costs, the crazy people, and the bounty of amazing music and art.
Start early when it comes to booking a room. If you know me, you know I love to plan ahead. Whether it’s reserving a hotel room, or planning summer vacays during the winter, I absolutely love to think ahead when it comes to traveling. Once you lock down your posse of friends heading out to the desert, start looking for hotel rooms immediately. Of course, I have a few favorite hotels out in the desert, but at nearly $400 a night for a teensy Mountain View Queen Room, we opted to stay a bit further away from the Coachella action.
Luckily, I am a bit familiar with the area so booking a room in the heart of Palm Springs was perfect. The four of us got a room at the Marquis Villa Resort, which was just two blocks away from the main drag in Palm Springs. The “room” was about 2,500 sq. ft. which we knew would come in handy after spending upward of 10 hours at the festival with the sun beating down on us and dirt and grass paths to take us from stage to stage. Our room was affordable when compared to the other resorts around town. We had two bathrooms, a full kitchen, dining area, TV area, huge patio and even a fireplace.
Bring your own food, drinks and booze. My man and I checked into the hotel late Thursday afternoon and got situated in our room. The four of us hate paying for overpriced restaurant chain food so the full kitchen was perfect for storing our snacks, ice cream, beer and wine. The kitchen area was a god send and saved us from eating out ever meal before Coachella and pigging out on greasy festival food throughout the day and night.
Walk around and explore the city a day before the festival starts. Little did we know that our night time walk around the hotel (which was about 90 degrees at 8 p.m.) would lead us to the city’s Village Fest, a farmer’s market/street fair of sorts, filled with peculiar characters, local food vendors, drum circles and an interesting friend named Marston. Walking into Village Fest was a pleasant surprise and we wouldn’t have found it if we didn’t go out and explore.
Shuttle it in. The group and I were a bit hesitant about out how we’d get to the venue everyday. We would be arriving at the venue at different times, some of us felt like drinking, and we had no idea what the weather would be like so trekking half a mile from the parking lot did not sound appealing. We all spent some time reading posts on the Coachella forum and everyone seemed to be praising the event’s shuttle service. Paying to take the shuttle everyday to Coachella was a great idea. We didn’t have to worry about traffic or walking for 15 minutes from one end of the parking lot to the festival entrance. A shuttle stop was across the street from the resort, and despite the $80 price tag, was pretty convenient.
Stay cool, whatever means possible. Coachella weekend one goers complained of the dreary and cold weather. Weekend two felt like we were walking on the sun and I literally could not stop sweating. It’s hard to find a shady and cool spot at high noon in the desert at Coachella so we hung out in the Cool Down zones whenever we needed a moment to get out of the sun. There were a few different tents that offered fans, cushy seating and water and we frequented them often in between sets. The H&M tent offered free water, fans, waterbeds, photo booths, a beauty bar to freshen up, and more. These tents may have looked a little hokey from the outside but was an oasis inside. Don’t ever think you are too cool to take advantage of the corporate sponsored tents at music festivals. You’ll never know what you might find.
Take your time and enjoy your vacation. I think we learned on Day One that the heat wasn’t worth the sun stroke we’d get while watching some awesome musicians. Sure, we wanted to get there a little after noon to watch some great bands, but standing out in 107 degree weather with thousands of people just wasn’t worth it. Instead, we spent some time at the hotel’s pool cooling off and relaxing, as well as walking around town and taking advantage of the bar and restaurant scene. There’s something about getting wasted outside in the desert heat and long lines at the bathroom that just didn’t sound fun, so we waited until Sunday to start day drinking and headed to the venue at nearly 7 p.m. to avoid the hottest day at Coachella. We missed out on a couple bands, but took some time to enjoy the sights. And drinking a 40 of PBR on the shuttle ride over just made the afternoon that much sweeter.
All in all, Coachella was a pretty amazing experience. The trip was pricey but worth all of the performances and time we got to spend with each other and exploring the city. Outdoor music festivals can be exhausting and expensive, but if you plan ahead and just take some time to relax and enjoy the scenery, you’ll have some experiences that you’ll never forget.
Coachella 2013, I’m ready for you.