Maximize your savings at music festivals

Attendees at this year’s Coachella music festival posted viral videos tallying up their weekend expenses — with costs reaching thousands on flights, hotels, food, drinks, outfits and rides. Plus the ticket, which can start at around $400 for a three-day pass to a popular festival like Lollapalooza or Coachella.

Summer music festivals can be a once in a lifetime experience, but the expense can easily blow a hole in any budget. If you’ve decided to take the plunge this summer, here are some ways you can keep your festival spend in check.


One of the best ways to get the most bang for your buck at a music festival is to take advantage of credit card rewards on entertainment purchases. With the right card, you can get cashback on tickets, access to cheaper pre-sale tickets, or free add-ons like food and lounge entry. Some even give you access to exclusive artist performances and activities like a ride on the Ferris wheel.

Travel-specific credit cards can help you save on flights and hotels if you’re attending an out-of-town festival, and many also offer rewards on car rentals and Uber rides.


Unless you’re prepared for full days of walking and dancing – and strict rules for what’s allowed inside the festival gates – you might find yourself paying for unexpected necessities like food, water and transport.

Kaitlin Gomez is a nursing student and festival-goer from Irvine, California who attends a multi-day music event nearly every month. With her dedication to these experiences, she’s learned to prepare ahead of time so she doesn’t overspend during the festival. She recommends eating (and drinking, if that’s your thing) beforehand and carpooling if possible.

However, her biggest cost saver was buying “investment pieces that will last for years and work with festival rules,” like a backpack with a built-in hydration pack, sturdy shoes, and a portable charger. Events can overcharge for on-site dining ($17 for an order of chicken tenders at Coachella), bottled water, and even access to charging phones, so good preparation keeps costs in check.

And a note on lodging: while some festivals, like Coachella, offer a camping option for a price, others don’t. So if you need a hotel, do your research and book early. Airbnbs often add additional fees of $100 or more to the booking price, so sharing a hotel room may be the most cost-effective option.


Most festivals offer some options to pay for your ticket. The first is immediate payment of the entire ticket price, which may vary depending on the time of purchase.

Festivals typically have several “tiers,” starting at the lowest price for customers with pre-purchase access and up to hundreds of dollars more for tickets purchased within weeks of the event. Registering for presale, especially with exclusive access from a participating credit card company, can guarantee you the lowest possible price.

However, if you don’t have the funds to cover an entire ticket at once, an interest-free payment plan from the event company can make costs more manageable. While paying in installments can cost a small fee, “it doesn’t feel as powerful financially if you’re only paying a fraction each month,” Gomez says.

For example, a Coachella ticket can be purchased for $99, with the rest going for about $44 a month for the next eight months.


Going to half a dozen festivals every year might seem impossible, but in the age of social media, that dedication can pay off. Gomez and thousands of others have grown and monetized their online following to fund their music festival habits, earning free tickets and commissions in the process.

“Create valuable content and the partnerships will ensue,” says Adriana Ramos, Austin, Texas-based life coach, digital marketing consultant and creator of festival blog Ramos has spent years sharing her festival experiences and advice which has helped her build a strong platform with a loyal audience on her website, YouTube and Instagram.

Because of her influence, event organizers and affiliated brands have offered Ramos free tickets and the opportunity to earn a commission from their followers’ ticket purchases in exchange for creating promotional social media content. Some events and brands allow you to apply directly to become an affiliate partner.

Individual content creators are a valuable marketing resource for major festival brands. So if you’re willing to put in the time, interacting with the festival community online can help you attend more events at a lower cost.


Even with credit card rewards, forward planning, and event brand partnerships, a music festival ticket can still be a serious investment.

“It’s okay not to go to a festival if it’s setting you back financially — or if you can’t afford to enjoy it to the fullest,” says Ramos. “There will always be another.”

This column was provided to The Associated Press by personal finance website NerdWallet. Dalia Ramirez is a writer at NerdWallet. Email:


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