There’s no experience quite like the Sundance Film Festival, which ended this past weekend. Once a year, thousands of people descend on the small ski resort town of Park City, Utah. It’s more casual than other film festivals, with filmmakers and celebrities alike showing up to parties and red carpet events in snowboots. Hundreds of movies, short films, and TV shows play across dozens of different theaters. Main Street is transformed into a bustling cultural hub full of pop-up restaurants, lounges, and even virtual reality theaters.
Some people might believe attending the festival as a “normal” non-famous person would be expensive and out of reach, but I’m here to tell you that it’s not hard to do Sundance on a budget.
Here are some tips you can use at Sundance next year!
1Skip the pass – waitlist instead!
This is BY FAR the best and easiest way to save money during Sundance. A Sundance credential will cost the average, non-Utah resident thousands, way more than the average film-lover can just shell out on any given day. But a little-known secret is that anyone can waitlist films individually using the Sundance eWaitlist App. Two hours before each screening, log in to get yourself on the waitlist. If you make it in, a waitlist ticket costs $20. Much, MUCH cheaper than buying a pass, don’t you think? (Pro tip: Set an alarm two minutes before the waitlist opens, and be there to press the button as soon as possible. Sometimes they fill up in a matter of minutes.)
2Plan in advance
This is the most obvious and boring bullet point — but also the most important — so I have to include it on this list. If you decide you want to Sundance it up, book your flight and accommodation ahead of time to avoid huge spikes in prices. If you want to set your sights on Sundance 2018, set a calendar reminder for August or September to start looking and booking.
3Stay in Salt Lake City
Hotels in Park City during the fest are ASTRONOMICALLY expensive. By choosing to stay in the larger, neighboring Salt Lake, you’ll be saving yourself hundreds of dollars per night. I’d recommend staying at an Airbnb instead of a hotel, preferably with a Utah local who knows where to go and what to do for an amazing winter experience in the mountains. By staying in Salt Lake, you’re adding 40+ minutes each way to drive to Park City, but there are plenty of reasons NOT to make that drive every day during the trip: There are screenings at less-crowded venues in Salt Lake all throughout the fest, which you can go to in between drinking and dining at world-class bars and restaurants.
4Utilize the lounges
All up and down Main Street, you’ll find lounges hosted by various companies and publications, offering free snacks, drinks, WiFi, and a place to charge your phone. You’ll save money, meet interesting people, and have a more authentic Sundance experience.
5Skip the Main Street restaurants
The swanky restaurants all up and down Main Street are always jam-packed with people during the festival, so why bother with those expensive menus anyway? You’ll find great food (and local, craft beer) at Squatters Roadhouse Grill, affordable and delicious Mexican fare at El Chubasco, and you’ll avoid the crowds (and high prices) completely if you head to Park City Chinese & Thai.
Sundance is an unforgettable experience that should be on any movie buff’s bucket list. With these budget-friendly tips, there’s no excuse not to go!