Personal finance management: Pro tips to survive festival season on budget

Do your plans involve soaking up the sights and sounds at music festivals around the country in cities big and small? What about expressing your artistic side at festivals that tout the arts? Or maybe you’ll be indulging your taste buds at the best food festivals the summer has to offer.

While many festivals have their own unique personalities, they also have one thing in common: Attendance doesn’t come cheap.

“Festival season can be a fantastic way to spend your vacation, but they can often become bottomless pits of spending on tickets, travel, gear—it begins to add up,” says Carson Yarbrough, a savings expert at, a coupon database and resource for savings advice.

For some festivals, you may see ticket prices soaring. Oh, and that’s just what you’ll pay to get through the gate. You also have to factor in expenses like food, travel and lodging. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the final price tag if you’re hoping to survive festival season on a budget.

Fortunately, there are ways to save money at festivals that don’t require you to sacrifice any of the fun. Check out these ways to enjoy festival season on a budget without turning up the heat on your wallet:

Skip the hotel

A hotel may be your travel go-to, but rates can skyrocket during the dates of a summer fest.

If you’re ditching your hotel plans, on-site camping may be a way to enjoy festival season on a budget. General admission camping is included in the ticket price for some festivals, and you can typically pay a fee if you’re bringing a vehicle along. While camping can bring serious cost savings by skipping a hotel rate, you also won’t have to dish out for daily transportation to get to and from the venue.

But what if camping isn’t an option because of venue restrictions? A home exchange is another way to survive festival season on a budget. For a membership fee, you can list your home on a home exchange website and connect with other homeowners who are interested in swapping homes temporarily.

“Travelers can benefit from completely free accommodations around the world without any money changing hands,” says Alexandra Origet du Cluzeau, global PR director for HomeExchange, one such home exchange service. “You’re free to choose additional services, like insurance, but the roof under which you’ll be staying won’t cost you a dime.”

If you’re not comfortable having a stranger stay in your home, booking a vacation home rental is another way to save money at festivals. Yarbrough says a way to enjoy festival season on a budget is to go in on a vacation rental with friends.

“Getting a large vacation rental and sharing with four to eight friends will be much more comfortable than a cheap hotel,” Yarbrough says, “and give you the best bang for your buck.”

Bypass pricey festival food

In addition to an extensive lineup of performers and events, summer festivals also tend to offer an impressive food menu. From gourmet food trucks to pop-up restaurants to fine dining, there’s something to satisfy virtually every taste. If your goal is to survive festival season on a budget, however, you may have to curb your appetite.

“Food at festivals is expensive and often overpriced, Yarbrough says, since “vendors know festivalgoers will be willing to pay higher prices for an easily accessible meal.”

Yarbrough suggests bringing plenty of nonperishable foods, snacks and water if you’re camping and looking for ways to save money at festivals, assuming the festival allows that. Some say no to outside food and beverage, while others may allow you to bring food, drinks and even portable camping grills. Before you try to survive festival season on a budget by packing your own cooler, check the festival rules.

If you’re staying off-site, eat before you go to cut back on overpriced grub from a festival vendor

Alex Juel, frequent festival attendee and marketing strategist at marketing company Inflow, recommends munching on freeze-dried foods to keep dining costs down if you’re allowed to bring your own snacks and want to travel on a budget.