Just 120 miles east of Los Angeles is a place where real angels gather. Here, puffs of glitter and dust mingle in concert, rhinestones glint off of the desert sun, and face paint drips onto almost every surface. It’s beautiful to most, divine to others. For me, it was what I imagine heaven to be like.
Let’s get one thing straight though: going to Coachella means living in the desert for at least three days (not to mention the likelihood of facing death via passing out or vomiting from heat exhaustion). During my trip, I found some unsaid rules that I’d like to share. Please learn from my failures.
1. Camping at Coachella is grimy work. If you are unable to find an Airbnb or hotel to sleep in, know that you have options. “Tent-Camping” allows you to park your vehicle in one field, and then lug your bags half a mile to where you’ll actually be sleeping once you set up your tent (not ideal/exactly what I did). “Car-Camping,” on the other hand, means that you can drive your car to where you’ll be setting up your tent, park it, and sleep next to your vehicle. I thought this was what my group had purchased. It was not. From my sweaty and roasting tent-porch, I watched the car-campers charge their phones, relax in air-conditioning, and build shady forts while I sat in a pool of my own glitter-perspiration.
2. Stay hydrated, even if it means you have to use the bathroom. There are three main points that I’d like to highlight here: the first is that it is extremely easy to stay hydrated at Coachella Music Fest. The grounds are littered with water stations that allow free, unlimited (lukewarm) water to flow from the tap into any vessel–use them. The second is that although portapotties are despicable (and my biggest fear in life is to be trapped inside of one as it tips over), the Coachella team keeps their’s extremely clean and sanitary, against all odds, so don’t be afraid to side-step into one. The last and biggest thing to note is that many people (me) dehydrate themselves so that they can stand through concerts (Beyonce’s) without having to leave their spot (11th row) to use the restroom. This is a very unwise decision to make because the desert heat (mixed with vaped fumes) can often cause extreme heat exhaustion to even the best of us (me), causing dizziness, hyperventilation, or nausea (aka chucking my vegan nachos). (True story).
3. Bring lots of mone–credit cards. Silly me, growing up in the nineties when attending festivals in the middle of nowhere meant having to empty your local ATM so that you had small, changeable bills lining your fanny pack. Not anymore. Every single stall has Apple Pay, Square Cash, or some type of BitCoin exchange policy so that physical dollars are regarded more as extra toilet paper (to use in those super-clean portapotties) than verified currency. They’ll still take it, but don’t be surprised when you see the teenage cashier glare at you for making them actually count your change.
There are certainly many more, smaller tips that are important for any first-time Coachella goers–such as the food costing more than a tank of gas, the need to set up a meeting location in case you get separated from your group, the greater need to separate yourself from your group and explore Coachella solo-dolo, and why you should bring the entire grocery section of Walmart with you in a cooler. Alas, the best tips about Coachella are usually found in the desert, under 105 degree heat, when you look around your tent and realize what it truly means to leave your portable charger at home.