Part two of my music festival ramblings is about where to sleep. Before I started going to music festivals I had just assumed that everyone brought their own tents and camped in the mud. I’ve seen all those images of people wading through churned up fields of ooze and that was one of the reasons I had never considered going.
Right about now is probably the best time to admit that I really, really, really appreciate my creature comforts.
But it turns out there are many ways to accomodate yourself at festivals…we have tried two.
Firstly there is the option to book a hotel and not stay on site. This opens up all manner of opportunities – you can save money by finding a cheap B&B near the site, or you can splash out and book the poshest hotel within a reasonable driving distance. (Worth bearing in mind here, you do pay extra for staying on site, so the price of the festival ticket does not normally cover your sleeping arrangements – although camping is the cheapest option).
The Pros to this option are: Unlimited hot water in a full sized shower. Full sized bed, made by someone else. You don’t have to worry about either some drunk person attempting to get into your tent by mistake or some thieving git trying to steal your valuables whilst you’re rocking out. You also don’t have to try to sleep through a distant 10 minute drum solo at 1am.
The Cons (for me) are: You don’t have anywhere to go during the day, if there’s no-one you want to see playing or if you get drenched in a downpour, but the main downside for me is having to drive back and forth from the site each morning and night. I don’t drink and I leave the recreational drugs to the teens in their tents but I still find it difficult to relax through a day of music and food and art, knowing that there is going to be a drive, in the dark, down country lanes, through unfamiliar territory to get back to my bed for the night. It tends to play on my mind all day, which makes really getting into the swing of things more difficult.
Second option is to hire a motorhome for the event. This is not cheap and adds significantly to the cost of the festival.
The Pros are many: You have your own private, lockable bolthole for changing out of soaking wet clothing to napping during gigs you have no interest in. You can cook your own food (saving money) and poop in your own toilet (although you do then have to empty it at the end of the event). With the minimal expense of a pair of earplugs you can cheerfully ignore the 1am drum solo and no-one needs to see you traipsing out of your tent at 4am in your pyjamas and wellies to visit the loo.
The Cons are: It’s NOT cheap. The motorhome campsite is usually a little further away from the action so you have a slightly longer walk back to your bed at night, but the biggest downside for me is picking the motorhome up and driving it there. For some reason I find this process incredibly stressful, which makes me a very bad Stoic and is probably something I should work on. We once hired a motorhome from a national company and it was a cold, clinical and anxiety producing experience (although I can see how others may find it perfectly acceptable). It turns out the insurance only covers motorhomes up to 6 foot, so if anything happens to the roof you are basically buggered. (So now we hire motorhomes from Hire a Hymer who are, seriously, the most chilled out business owners I have ever met). The roads you are going to have to drive down to get to most music festivals are narrow country lanes, not at all used to that much traffic, and the chances of meeting a tractor coming the other way (driven by a farmer who does not care what the highway code says about whose right of way it is) are very much higher than normal.
There is an option to pay someone else to drag a caravan to the site, set it up, then drag it back off again afterwards (meaning you just have to turn up in your car and the pros of the motorhome are yours) but I suspect (without having checked) that this would be the priciest option so far. You can also sleep in designer tents set up by the event, but that’s just a sneaky way to get people to camp and pretend they like it in my view.
We have decided to take this year off music festivals, but it won’t last. Once you have discovered that the atmosphere, closeness to your favourite musicians, food, art, comedy and new delights suit you, they become very difficult to stay away from. So this year we plan to find new and exciting art to marvel at then I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find myself back at a festival next year.
After all that I have concluded that the best way to visit a music festival is to be one of the headliners. You fly in via helicopter then stay on a tour bus…just don’t forget your earplugs for when Trevor goes off on his drum solo.