How to survive your first big festival

How to survive your first big festival

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been home from the sweaty, dusty fields of Glastonbury for a few weeks now. The time since I’ve been home has had me in a crazy haze of exhaustion and confusion as I’ve been adjusting to the realities of life again back at work.

Glastonbury 2019 was my first big festival for years. My previous experiences of camping in the great outdoors and watching music from awesome bands happened through pretty innocent trips to V Festival or more localised events with parents and friends. It’s safe to say that exploring the crowds of Glastonbury bears no real comparison to anything I’ve experienced before. 

So let’s take it back a bit. Why did I go to Glastonbury? Well, my boyfriend and his friends have been a few times before and insisted that it was something that I should try at least once. ‘We guarantee you’ll want to go back again’, ‘you might love hot showers and your own bed, but it’s an awesome experience that you should try at least once’, ‘what’s the worst that could happen?'…and many other phrases came out of their mouths in the run-up to buying our tickets, so I knew that there was no real way of me getting out of it. After some persuasion from them all, I thought I’d just chuck myself in at the deep end and head to the fields of Worthy Farm. But how did I survive?

Pack sensibly 

If you’ve never been to the festival before then you won’t know what the queuing system is going to be like once you get out of your transport to when you eventually touch down at your campsite. If your festival is anything like Glastonbury then there will be loads of different campsites across a huge space of land, and you will be lugging your crap the whole way there. No one is there to help you as what you put on your back is for you to sort out! You might think that it is worthwhile bringing 3 extra pairs of shorts, or some extra crazy outfits as ‘you never know if you might need them’ - but I’m telling you, you’ll thank yourself for being more sensible with your packing when you’re stood in a queue for 2 and a bit hours with an insanely large travelling backpack weighing you down. PLUS, don’t forget that anything you bring with you, you have to take back home again, so you’ll be doing that trek twice over!

Bring all the medicine

As much as I am saying to not overpack because you’ll have to carry it, my second piece of advice is to bring all types of medicine that you think you might need. There is normally a pharmacy on site at every festival, so you can go and buy the basics like paracetamol or plasters etc., but anything that might be a little more out of the ordinary then you should bring it along. For example, some people suffer from way worse hangovers than others and have secret tricks that they know will help them to get through the day. Alternatively, you might find that you suddenly get sore eyes or hayfever-like symptoms from all of the dust being flown around. Or, I found that a LOT of people told me that because their routine was out of whack, they were having a few tummy/toilet issues, and were having to ask around for a tablet to help sort that issue out...So get yourself prepared with anything you think might make your trip a little more comfortable.

Listen to the pros when it comes to the toilets

Toilet talk will become a big topic of conversation whilst you’re at a festival. You might think you’re prepared for the delightful long drops or compost loos, but I’m telling you that you’re probably not. Try to go in with very low expectations and then you’ll be pleasantly surprised with anything you encounter whilst you’re away at a festival. The old-timers will have the knowledge on where the best ones are (especially if you can sneak into any VIP ones), what the queue times are like, when you should leave an act to nip off to the toilet…and many more key bits of information which will help you get through. It really is an eye-opener to people’s views on the standard to leave a cubicle in after they’ve used it (FYI normally not good), but if your bag is filled with toilet rolls, hand sanitiser and maybe even some wet wipes - then you’ll be good to go.

Bring your own breakfast snacks

It will be incredibly tempting to go and buy a greasy bacon bap after a boozy night out, however, your bank balance will thank you for bringing your own snacks. Sometimes rolling out of your sleeping bag and knowing that there is a selection of breakfast bars an arms reach away will fill you with joy as your stomach growls and moans with hunger. We brought a load of McVities breakfast biscuits for the morning and even took some around with us for snacks during the day to keep us tied over. Absolute life saver!

Try to keep to a budget

Once you’ve paid for your ticket, your travel and your essential camping kit, festivals can either be as expensive or as cheap as you’d like. Yes, there are food stalls wherever you look, enticing you to pay £9 for a small box of noodles, or doughnut stands charging what seems like a bargain for 2 sweet snacks at 2am…but you’ll run out of money very quickly if you don’t have your wits about you. My boyfriend and I went with £500 to share across the 5 and a half days at Glastonbury (as we wanted to bring more than we’d need for emergencies) and we were delighted when we came back with just shy of £100. Each of us spending £200 works out at £40 spending money a day on lunch and dinner (normally up to £10 for each), £5 on anything quirky from the numerous clothing or accessories stands, and £15 on any extra drinks you want to get. It is a lot of money, and more than I’d spend back home, but once you’re away from your tent, you won’t want to be going back over and over again to get things, so spending whilst you’re out will enhance your experience.

Bring a refillable water bottle (or two)

If it is hot, you will be drinking a lot of water throughout the day. With many festivals nowadays trying to reduce their plastic usage, it means they will more likely give you a can of water instead of a bottle, and I found that a lot of the food stalls were running out of cold cans pretty early on in the day. A refillable bottle can be chucked in your bag and filled up at any of the water stops throughout the grounds (where you will probably spend a lot of your time). We ended up bringing three refillable bottles between us and filled up any that were low on water whenever we could so we had backups if you were in the middle of a crowd.

Get yourself a good sized day bag

For a girl, the fashion at a festival is to have a cute multicoloured or glittery bum bag to wear round your waist. However as much as they look good, they are completely impractical (especially if you’re a nervous festival-goer). I get dehydrated very quickly, can go from hot to cold in the blink of an eye, want to bring extra toilet rolls in case of emergencies, get sunburnt quite quickly if I’m not updating my lotion regularly, and basically need to be prepared for anything that hits me whilst I’m away from the tent. So having a good sized bag to keep all my stuff in during the day was crucial for surviving. It might sound a bit excessive to some, but when your tent is a 30-40 minute walk from the stage you are at, and you’re beginning to get a bit chilly, you’ll be so grateful to yourself for packing that jumper.

Know when it is time to leave

Now I’ve done Glastonbury once, I know that 5 and a half days was maybe one day too many. Not because I wasn’t enjoying it, but more because I felt sticky, sweaty and smelly and wanted to go home to wash away my sins. When you’re organising your travel for the trip, you’ll be able to designate the day and time you want to head back (if you’re getting a coach), and I would 100% recommend you think long and hard about this decision. In the end, I’m glad we stayed out till the end, however, we managed to organise that we’d get a lift back with a friend at 6am in the morning, which meant we were back in London by lunchtime. If you can buddy up with people rather than using the coaches then I’d thoroughly recommend you do that - as it took about 3 hours off of our total time to get home. Next time we go I’ve offered to drive, and I know they’ll be jumping in with us to return the favour! 

I don’t mean to make festival life sound like total doom and gloom, but if you’re feeling nervous about attending a festival because of any of the above (like I was), then just know that it’s all completely manageable if you get yourself prepped. I am SO glad that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and went to a festival that I never thought I’d attend. Now I’ve got through the awkward first time, I know I'll be able to enjoy it even more than I did this time by listening to my own advice on how to survive it all!

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