Madison Vanderberg
April 11, 2016 11:07 am
Jason Kempin/Getty

Last year I went to Coachella for the first time. It was hot! It was loud! There was music! Everything else was a damn shit show. To put it mildly, almost nothing can prepare you for your first time at Coachella and I wish there was an honest prep-guide that I had read before I popped my ‘chella cherry, because I showed up wildly unprepared. I read and re-read the FAQ page on Coachella’s website and various other Coachella survival guides, which was basically like, “Don’t forget water!” and “Wear SPF!” and while that’s all true, here’s what they should actually tell you before you head out to Coachella valley this weekend.

Disclaimer: There are a lot of GREAT things about Coachella, this is just the stuff you need to look out for. I don’t need to prepare you for NONSTOP FUNTOWN, I just need to let you know about the following things.

The Dust

People told me about the dust, but I Just. Didn’t. Understand. I bought a bandana once I arrived but damn, walking through the parking lot was a straight up hurricane of sand! What do they call those? Sand storms? Sure. Bring two bandanas. One for your mouth, one for your eyes.

You’ll Probably Get Sick

I got sick when I returned home. My friend got sick by the end of the second day and it was so bad she had to leave before the third day. Do whatever you do to prep for a cold. B-12 injections, emergen-C, zinc. Do what you gotta do, because err’body in this desert is getting sick. Why does one get sick at Coachella? Everyone’s bodies are always pressed against yours. The toilets are portable. If you are camping, it means you’re not showering. THE DUST. You get it. 

Everything Is Far

I can’t speak on camping at the festival as I stayed in Palm Springs, but if you are staying in Palm Springs, be aware that it’s a good 45-minute drive from the festival. Not only that, but there’s about a 20-minute line of cars waiting to enter the parking lot at peak hours. Then, the walk from the parking lot to the grounds is another 15-minutes. So, give yourself at least an hour and a half if you’re driving in from a hotel and want to catch a set at a certain time.

Don’t Uber

I wouldn’t dare take an Uber from the festival to my hotel, lest I want a $200 fare receipt. Plan on having someone sober in your crew to drive you to and from the festival to wherever you are staying. Or just camp and not have to deal with any driving logistics.

Your Phone Will Die and You Won’t Get Any Service

There are some places to charge your phone inside the festival, but if you’ve got a portable one that’s even better. However, even if you charge your phone you likely won’t get any service in the desert. There’s really nothing that can be done about this, I’m just giving you the heads up. Try not to lose yourself from your group because it’s nearly impossible to contact them again. Also, “meeting up” with people. Yeahhhh, that’s NOT going to happen. 

Don’t Bother Trying to Look Cute

I know that the whole “Coachella style” thing is a huge reason why people attend and yes, Katy Perry was wearing wedges at a Coachella party in those paparazzi photos you saw, but looking cute is just not worth it. It’s over a hundred degrees, your hair is going to be matted to your head and covered in dirt by the end of the day. The first day I tried to look all cute but by the end of the weekend I just tied my hair on top of my head, threw on some old sneakers and was just trying to enjoy the music.  

Do Not Leave Early

My crew was losing energy before The Weeknd’s nearly midnight arrival, so we figured, “Hey, it’s just the Weeknd. Let’s sleep so we’re well rested for Drake tomorrow.” Turns out KANYE WEST shows up unannounced during The Weeknd’s performance and we missed it. Don’t miss the headliners, is what I’m trying to say. Oh, but then brace yourself emotionally for the lines to exit if you stay till the end of the night.

Don’t Try to Give Someone Your Wristband

Last year I was supposed to slip off somebody else’s wristband onto my own wrist and walk in FO FREE. Turns out, those things don’t come off. They are like, magnetized or something, I don’t even know. I know people talk about the elusive wristband trade-offs, but I ended up having to make some game-time decisions because there was no way anyone was safely transferring that wristband from one wrist to another.

You Won’t See Everything You Want

Set times overlap. People in your group might wanna dance in an EDM tent and all you wanna do is hear rap. Prep yourself emotionally for the fact that you might miss part or all of your favorite sets. Nicki Minaj’s cameo during the David Guetta set was happening at the same time we were camping out for good seats to Drake. Be ready to compromise.

Other than that, have fun! Coachella is a rare opportunity to escape your normal life, hear a ton of different music, and flex on Instagram. And of course, bring water and SPF, duh.

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