17 Things I Wish I Knew For my First Coachella

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Article Summary

  • Plan to see between 6-8 bands a day, and don’t bounce around stages too much if you want a good spot for a show
  • Get a locker, it’s worth every penny
  •  If you want swag or to see some art do it early in the weekend, it flies by and it’s easy to miss out
  • Avoid driving
  • The lines to get in are ridiculous in the late afternoon, try to get there before that

Coachella can be a little overwhelming the first time you go – there’s a lot of stages, a lot of bands, a lot of food options, etc.  Plus, because Coachella is really expensive you want to get your money’s worth.  If it is your first time going to Coachella this is some friendly general advice.  These are the things I wish I knew for my first Coachella, sagely pieces of advice that can help improve your time at the polo fields come April.

#1 - You can really only see 6-8 bands a day

I know my first Coachella I was planning to see absolutely everyone I possibly could.  I was going to get there right when the festival opened, and optimize my schedule so I could see absolutely everyone I wanted.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen.  You can say you are going to get to Coachella really early everyday but this really doesn’t happen, especially so if you aren’t camping and right at the festival.  Coachella days are long and hot, you will get tired.  Getting there right as Coachella opens to see more artists is a nice idea but for me it just never happens.

#2 - Bouncing between stages isn’t worth it to catch part of a show

Conflictchella, which is the pejorative phrase given when you want to see multiple bands at the same time, is something that is very likely to happen.  It may be two bands that you want to see overlap.  It may be you want to see one band and your significant other wants to see the other.  Either way you are going to have to make some tough decisions about who you are going to see.

Often is the case that you could see part of one show, say 20 minutes, and run across Coachella to another stage to catch another act.  In my opinion, this simply isn’t worth it.  The stages can be pretty far apart, and it can take awhile with all the crowds.  Especially if you are going from Sahara to the Coachella main stage.  You also will end up with a poor spot for both shows rather than a good spot for one of them.  My first Coachella I tried to split the shows, and the second one I didn’t and I had a much better time.  I know it can bum you out to miss a show but I’d really recommend not trying to catch parts of shows, it’s not worth it.

#3 - If you really want to see a band get to that stage at least 40 minutes early

So here’s how Coachella works.  Let’s say you want to see Band B who plays on the stage after Band A.  You want to get to the stage at least halfway through Band A’s set.  When their show ends about 25-40% of the crowd is likely to leave so you can make a major move toward the front of the stage.  So if you are really excited about a particular band you want to get there early so you can take advantage of all these people leaving and get a good spot.  If you get there even earlier in advance there is a good chance you can get all the way to the front, especially if you aren’t at the Coachella Stage or Sahara Tent.

#4 - You can always get closer to the stage

Now I’m not saying be an asshole and shove your way to the front, although some people do this can they can go to hell.  For those of us that are more polite you can usually still always get a lot closer to the stage without pushing your way up.  The crowds are usually spaced out a bit, especially for non-headliners, and you can duck and weave your way closer to the stage, especially at stages like the Coachella or Outdoor stage where they are quite large.  At the Sahara tent, Coachella’s EDM epicenter, this can be more difficult.

#5 - You can easily sneak in alcohol

While last year they got a little better at finding alcohol (sunscreen bottle flasks are now fully detected), you can still get it in pretty easily, just be creative.

#6 - Lockers are worth it

Whether you want it for holding your sunglasses at night, storing your aforementioned smuggled in booze, a jacket for later in the evening, or a place to stash some other stuff the lockers are worth it.  They start at $45 for Coachella for a medium locker and go up to $65 for the large one.  I wrote a long article on the lockers and why I think they are worth it, which you can find here.

#7 - If you want to do or eat something do it early in the weekend

Every year I plan to do way more at Coachella than I end up doing.  The weekend just goes by so quickly, you’re always bouncing between shows or meeting up with friends, that in a blink of an eye it’s over.  So on Friday when Coachella is just getting going you go get that ice cream cookie sandwich or check out the Do Lab – Coachella will be over before you know it and you will miss out.

#8 - The Coachella shuttle is awesome

Personal opinion, but I think the shuttle is great.  It runs quickly, you can drink on it, and it’s efficient.  It’s a solid option if you are staying away from Coachella.

#9 - Do NOT forget the following

Sunglasses (only cheap ones), sunscreen, comfortable shoes, chapstick and a hat.  Most of these relate to the fact that its ungodly hot and always sunny at Coachella.  If you forget any of these items you are going to hate your life or be paying overpriced Coachella prices to get these back.

#10 - The lines to get into Coachella get really bad in the afternoon

If you plan to roll into Coachella around 3 or 4 p.m. just expect a line to get in.  At Coachella you go through multiple lines of security and the lines can get pretty backed up.  The security has to check every person who enters and 130,000 people are coming in so it can get pretty backed up.  You can avoid this by going early but if you end up coming in the late afternoon just be prepared to wait in a long line to enter Coachella.

#11 - If you drive to Coachella be patient & bring snacks

The traffic on the I-10 to get down to Indio is usually not that bad, but the last few miles to get into Coachella are a parking lot.  Be prepared for it to take over an hour to get to Coachella, or avoid driving altogether if you can.

#12 - Get the official Coachella app

It’s not perfect but it is pretty awesome.  It lets you see when and where all the artists are playing which is awesome when you are at Coachella.  It has some other nifty features but this is mainly why I like it.

#13 - The Coachella bathrooms are a warzone

They’re going to be gross, just go in expecting it and you will be better for it.  The lines can get really long, just be patient and wait your turn like a grown adult.

#14 - Pace your Coachella drinking

Don’t get wasted by 2 p.m. or you aren’t going to make it all day.  Pacing your Coachella drinking is key.  You can start picking it up in the late afternoon but it’s hard to last until 1 a.m. in the Coachella heat if you are hammered before lunch.

#15 - You can’t bring alcohol around with you at Coachella

This is lame but you can’t bring alcohol around the festival with you; it must be drank in a designated drinking area.  This sucks, but it’s just how Coachella is, unless you sneak in some of your own of course.

#16 - Free water isn’t worth it sometimes at Coachella

Coachella has free water stations setup through the festival, which is really awesome.  However, the lines for these can get really long and take up to 20-30 minutes.  For me, I’m at Coachella to see music so if I can pay $2 for water and save this time I go for it.  You can find $2 waters all over Coachella so it’s always an option to save yourself some time.

#17 - Don’t stress too much

If it’s your first Coachella don’t stress and just have fun.  Every year I go to Coachella I learn and improve for next year on how to have the best time for me.  Everyone is different and experiences Coachella in their own way.  So have fun and don’t worry too much about optimizing your trip to be perfect.

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