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How to do festivals on the cheap

You can have more fun at festivals if you can afford to do everything you want to. Here's how to plan ahead and cut your costs.

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We recommend you read: How much do festivals cost and what should you take?

Be an early bird

Some festivals encourage people to buy their tickets early by offering a discounted rate on early bid tickets. This could be months before the event or sometimes straight after the previous year's festival.

Get in free

You can get free entry to plenty of festivals by volunteering with a charity:

  • Find a charity that works at the festival you want to go to

  • Sign up as a volunteer online

  • Work the hours they need

  • Enjoy the rest of the festival

You need to put in an agreed number of hours of work stewarding or spreading the word about what the charity does, but you will have plenty of free time too.

A good place to start is Oxfam's festival volunteer programme, which has a presence at plenty of the main music festivals.

You could also work for a business that operates at the festival, like the catering or stewarding companies.

Never use ticket touts

Ticket touts sell tickets at massively inflated prices, and their tickets can often fail to arrive or turn out to be fakes.

If you do decide to buy from unofficial channels, read our guide to using ticket resale sites first to avoid getting ripped off.

If tickets sell out before you can get one, consider going to another festival instead.

Try a cheaper festival

Smaller festivals are less crowded and often have great line-ups, plus they are a lot cheaper too. 2000 Trees, for example, costs under £115 for a three-day weekend ticket.

There are plenty of free festivals too: Godiva Festival in Coventry and the Bristol Harbour Festival are both family friendly, but try to find one near to where you live to cut the travel and accommodation costs.

Many European festivals have strong line-ups and more reliable weather, plus most of them are cheaper than the big British festivals. The Independent have looked at why an overseas festival can be a great alternative.

If you want to go to a particular festival because your favourite band are playing, get a day ticket instead of going for the whole weekend.

How much do festivals cost?

Shop in advance

  • Buy a decent tent that you can reuse for years. Look for one that can handle the rain, and is light enough to carry but big enough for you and your possessions.

  • Take food with you rather than paying over the odds for every meal at the festival. Bring snacks like fruit, cereal bars and nuts for the day and then save your money for main meals from the best food stalls.

  • Bring a water bottle to carry round and refill, rather than buying pricey bottles of mineral water.

What should you pack for a festival?

Yes, but most festivals keep their arena and campsites separate, meaning you can only buy alcohol from their bars in the arena.

However, Glastonbury and some others let you carry your own drink and food wherever you like, which can work out much cheaper.

Find the best way to travel

Look for the cheapest and most convenient way of getting to the festival. Make sure it gets you there at a suitable time and gives you room for your luggage:

  • Driving on your own can cost a lot in fuel and parking, but if you lift share it can be cheaper than public transport. It also makes transporting your luggage a lot easier, and you choose exactly what time you travel too.

  • Trains are often the most expensive option and it will rarely get you all the way to the festival site, but you can cut your costs by booking in advance or if you have a Railcard.

  • Coaches can be cheaper than the train and usually get you and your luggage all the way to the festival site without any changes.

  • Cycling or walking to a festival with everything you need is free but only possible if you live nearby.

If you want to get there by coach, some companies offer cheaper travel if you book it alongside your festival ticket.

Insure yourself

The best way to avoid theft or losing your valuables at a festival is to not bring expensive gadgets like music players and cameras.

Leave anything at home that you would not be able to afford to replace if you lose it and take a cheaper phone or camera with you if possible.

If you do decide to bring expensive possessions or lots of cash with you, the right insurance policy could give you peace of mind that they will be protected.

Check your home insurance

You may already be covered if you have a home insurance policy. Check if it includes cover for your valuables and cash when you are away from home. If not, find out how much it will cost to add this protection to your policy.

Adding cover for your personal possessions away from home usually costs around £25 to £50 extra each year.

Make sure it will pay out

Check the small print of your policy for exclusions to see what is covered and under what circumstances. Check your policy's terms or ask your insurer whether they will pay out if:

  • Your possessions are lost

  • Your possessions are stolen

  • Your possessions are damaged underfoot or water logged

  • Anything is stolen from your tent (most will only cover possessions left somewhere safer)

  • You lose cash or it is stolen

Check the limits for each of these too, such as the maximum amount of cash covered outside the home.

If something is lost or stolen, report it to the police at the festival site immediately because you will need the incident number when you claim. Photos of your gadgets or receipts could also help you prove how much they are worth to your insurer.

Consider gadget insurance

If you do not have a suitable home insurance policy, you could get a gadget insurance policy instead. These cost around £5 to £15 per month and could cover your phone, camera or other devices.

You can find the cheapest option that gives you the cover you need in our gadget insurance comparison.

Do you need travel insurance at a festival?

You will not need travel insurance for your medical expenses at a UK festival because you will be covered by the NHS. However, it can cover cancellation, lost possessions and theft if you do not have a suitable home insurance policy.

If you are going to a festival abroad you will need travel insurance. Use our travel insurance comparison table to find a policy.

Check the excess

If you need to claim there will be an excess, which is the amount you need to pay yourself. Check how much this is to make sure you would be able to afford it if you claim.

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