Since I started writing about travel on my blog I’ve never really included any of my previous holidays before 2016 and there’s a big whopper of a holiday I’ve rarely even mentioned!
Back in 2014 I went to California and finished the holiday at Coachella music festival in Palm Springs. Now I’m not the type to trudge around festivals in muddy wellies trying to work out which portaloo looks the cleanest so I was initially quite sceptical when my friend Alexandra
suggested insisted that we add it to our itinerary.
These photos made me cringe a tad by the way… there were a lot of “why Natalie, why did you wear that” statements when going through my photos…
A quick Google and Instagram search was all it took to convince me that I was 100% most definitely IN. Alex, the jammy so-and-so is going again this year and having seen a few posts pop up on my feed this morning I remembered that I struggled to find any decent tips for UK people going over to what could potentially be the hottest desert music festival you’ll ever visit!
Smaller than Glastonbury (although I’m sure it’ll be even bigger this year) but big enough to get lost at (in a good way) if the heat, clear blue skies and palm trees don’t lure you in then the music, amazing food and people watching will.
Crowds of all ages from all over the world gather here and everyone really makes an effort. Boho vibes are key, but keeping cool is a must. If you’re not used to extreme heat, be prepared! The moment you arrive it hits you immediately and you’re going to find yourself sweating in places you never knew you could sweat before.
We actually spent 10 days in California before going to Coachella, flying from Gatwick to LAX. Getting from LA to Palm Springs is actually really easy. We pre-booked coach tickets with Grayline from their downtown bus stop all the way to our hotel. They make lots of different stops once you arrive and the bus ride there was so much fun! Everyone is excited and you’ll make friends before you even arrive.
It took around 2.5 hours and I think if I was to go again I’d also be tempted to hire a car and drive it. It was a really simple straight route and would be much quicker.
So, if you’re reading this now and going this year then you’ve most likely sorted your tickets, (don’t forget to activate them) and your accommodation is all booked (unless you’re camping). We stayed in Palm Springs at the La Quinta Resort which was amazing. It almost felt like we’d stepped into a new world. I made ‘friends’ with Kate Nash (yep, really) and she still follows me on Twitter now doncha know! So if rubbing shoulders with celebs is your thing, then this is the hotel to do it at.
La Quinta host pool parties too so if there’s still time, see if you can get tickets now. You don’t have to be staying at the hotel to attend the pool parties.
We booked the hotel through Coachella with one of their package deals. There’s usually a list of hotels to choose from for different budgets.
Find the 2019 package offers here.
Anyway, as I’m sure you’re all now on the big countdown here are my top tips for actually surviving the festival… and surviving is EXACTLY what I mean.
Being the techy girl that I am I rely on my phone for everything so download the Coachella app ASAP. It will help you stay on top of the line-up and who is on what stage and what time. As I mentioned previously it is extremely hot so if there’s a gap where there’s nobody you particularly want to watch then spend some time at the pool topping up that perfect California glow.
One of the advantages to having a VIP ticket is that you get to access an area in the grounds where the toilets are most definitely nicer, there are shaded areas, misting fans and an air-conditioned bar. The queues are shorter and again, there are more celebs.
I was personally more fussed about the food and having somewhere to sit than who was there, but I did spot Leonardo DiCaprio mooching about in a corner with a gazillion supermodels hanging off him and we did stand in line with David Guetta (who was very moody by the way).
If you don’t have VIP tickets and want to celeb spot, don’t worry. Lots of celebs do go out and wander about so keep your eyes peeled.
A sandstorm will happen at least once whilst you’re there. I ignored everything I read about this before I went and when the first one struck I had to sit in a ball with my arms around my head…which eventually led me to fall asleep in the field as 1) I’d drank a lot that afternoon and 2) I was absolutely exhausted from all the dancing and the heat. So it was no bad thing I slept through it for 20 minutes (with my friends I should add) but the next day I was prepared and had a scarf and a mask, which you can buy there so grab one ready if you spot them.
Buy your souvenirs early. We went at the very end of the weekend to buy some t-shirts etc and all the popular sizes were sold out. As expected they’re pretty pricey too.
I think this is an obvious one but take sun-cream and stay hydrated. I had my own water bottle so would refill when I spotted anywhere I could. If you don’t, you’ll be in trouble!
For the most part, people at Coachella are super happy, either drunk on alcohol or from the excitement for the music and you will make new friends. The security is also excellent but try to remember that as with most events on this scale you do get the occasional bad egg. Don’t go off on your own, choose a meeting point (but not the spaceman as he moves…or the snail) and never leave the festival without your group. We did witness some pretty sad individuals trying to ruin things and you can’t let your guard down when it comes to this kind of thing.
It’s highly likely you will be searched for drugs at some point too, but it’s fine and over quickly, plus it’s for your benefit so don’t feel insulted if one of the security team asks to check your bag.
On the flip side, the Coachella spirit is one of the best things about the festival, and you need to be a part of it. Embrace people around you, talk to them, welcome people into your group and be kind – share the love so to speak! If you spot someone on their own looking a little lost, or possibly too drunk – help them. Festival karma is, in fact, a very real thing.
I’m not a big fashion girl but even I was drawn in by the flower hair accessories, tassels and cool shorts (yes, really) but because I’m a sucker for choosing comfort over style, take a hoodie or something warm.
It is a desert after all and night times are much cooler. Also, I wore a lot of loose summer dresses and put a thin shirt in my bag to layer up. It folded up super small, was lightweight but also very handy when I needed to throw on later in the day.
Crowns, chains and bandanas… anything goes (I even saw one girl wearing knickers on her head, flip knows what that was all about). Let your hair dry in the sun, stick it in a plait and be natural. Natural and boho are key if you’re into that sort of thing. Oh, and there’s a lot of walking around so your footwear choices will really make or break your entire festival experience.
But also break the plan! Ha. No, seriously… have a general strategy where you all want to go but if you hear a band or some music and you like it…just move towards it!
If you’ve got a huge list of bands you want to see – half it! Also, planning to see the unknown band at 11am may not be such a clever idea if your favourite band is headlining at midnight and you won’t get out of the grounds until at least 2am. This festival is about adventure and discovering new things so just do what feels right.
Go with the flow.
Which kind of leads on to my next point…live in the moment.
I couldn’t resist posting to my social accounts but I didn’t stay glued to my phone and saved uploading snaps to when I needed a little time-out. Absorb yourself in everything that surrounds you. Your phone will wait. Don’t be one of those annoying narcissistic people who are too worried about looking flawless and snapping selfies to actually enjoy a festival properly.
The heat will win and your make-up will run! I didn’t bother with any after the first attempt sliding off my face!
Be considerate when in busy crowds. This is huge public event, not your own private concert. Giant hats, sitting on shoulders and huge inflatables are not cool. Give us short people a chance at least! 😉
If you can get a booked at Outstanding in the Field – do it, do it now! We went on our second day and I needed a good meal so bad. The food is outstanding and although the food stands around the festival are good, this is amazing.
Outstanding in the Field is hosted each night in the Coachella “Rose Garden” with three chefs whipping up a food storm using locally sourced ingredients from the farms in the Coachella Valley. A welcome cocktail and beer and wine are included with the meal. I honestly loved it.
Have an amazing time! You’ll never forget it. Have you ever been? How was your experience?