Festivals don’t come cheap, with most weekend festivals costing a few hundred pounds for a ticket this summer – and Glastonbury costing £340.
With festival season in full swing, Which? has rounded up tips to save money on food and drink, transport and tickets.
1. Save money on transport
For those travelling to festivals by train, it is worth booking tickets in advance to save. Which? researchers saved 76 per cent on a journey from London Euston to Manchester when booked eight weeks in advance compared to on the day. You can often set alerts for when advance tickets go on sale – typically 12 weeks before the trip – to make sure you get a good price.
If you’re eligible for one of the nine railcards available, buying one could save you between a third and 50 per cent on the cost of a ticket – they cost around £30 a year, but this can be made back in savings.
Travelling by coach may be cheaper and often allows festival goers to take more luggage. The journey from Liverpool to Leeds can cost as little as £7.62 with Megabus. Students can also save an extra 10 per cent at Megabus with a Totum card costing £14.99 for the year. Alternatively, National Express’ Coachcard works in a similar way to a Railcard; saving you a third on fares. There are three options available: Young Persons Coachcard, Senior Coachcard, and Disabled Coachcard, all costing £12.50 for the year.
If you opt to drive to the festival, try and car share where possible. It is also worth shopping around for the cheapest fuel. Generally, the lowest prices are found in larger supermarket forecourts. Drivers can check which petrol stations are the cheapest locally before filling up. Websites such as PetrolPrices.com can help, and some sat nav apps such as Waze display live prices for stations nearby and on your route.
2. Check for discounted tickets
Many festivals offer early bird ticket options which are cheaper than the general ticket price, but you might need to secure your ticket up to a year in advance and potentially put down a non-refundable deposit.
Some sites offer group ticket deals where you can get six tickets for the price of five. For example, The Mighty Hoopla festival at Brockwell Park, in London, sold its 2024 early bird group weekend tickets for £550 – which is £91.69 per person, a saving of £46.50 per person.
NHS staff, medical students and charity sector workers can find discounted tickets via Tickets for Good, a company that partners with a number of festivals in the UK including the Cambridge Club Festival in Cambridge, KITE festival in Oxfordshire and The Secret Garden Party in Huntington.
Last-minute tickets are often available on resale platforms for a discounted price. Only buy from trusted retailers and only purchase tickets from well-known, reputable ticket-selling platforms.
3. Volunteer for free tickets
Volunteering to work at a festival is a great way to attend for free. For example, Oxfam UK runs a scheme for people to volunteer to steward at festivals including Glastonbury, Reading, Latitude, Wilderness and WOMAD. Volunteers are required to work three 8-hour shifts over the course of the weekend but also receive free camping and a meal voucher per shift.
Although many of these applications for 2023 have now closed, it is worth bookmarking the page for next year’s season well in advance.
4. Find free festivals
There are many free festivals and events set to take place around the UK over the summer, including Notting Hill Carnival in London (the Sunday is family-friendly), Stockton International Riverside Festival, Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, Aldeburgh Carnival in Suffolk and the Edinburgh Fringe festival.
5. Try renting camping equipment
Camping equipment can be expensive. Try renting camping equipment rather than buying new to save money. The website Fat Llama allows people to rent out a range of products, including tents. When Which? had a look it found a three-man tent for £5 per day available to collect from London, and camping chairs for £3 a day.
6. Take your own food and drink
Most outdoor camping festivals allow guests to bring in food and drinks, so it’s worth checking the terms and conditions before you arrive. For example, Glastonbury festival does not restrict how much alcohol attendees can bring in, although glass bottles are forbidden. With the bars charging ‘London prices’, according to its website, bringing in your own could save a lot of money.
For food, shop around for the best price – Aldi was recently awarded cheapest supermarket by Which? for the twelfth month in a row.
If you have a long journey, you could order food and essentials from a supermarket near the festival to be picked up when you arrive. This means the food will be fresher for longer.
7. Set a daily budget
To avoid overspending when you’re at the festival, try and set a daily budget. You can separate your money into food, drink, and activities. Take out all the cash you need beforehand, as the ATMs on-site may charge a fee. However, it’s important to remember to keep this money on you, rather than leave it in the tent.
8. Take a portable phone charger
Many festivals have phone charging stations with secure lockers, but you’ll have to pay a fee to use these. To save money, Which? tested the best portable chargers and the best cheap power banks – with some available for under £20. Although there’s an upfront cost of buying a new one, you’ll be able to recharge and re-use it for other festivals.
You may also be able to get free charging at the festival. For example, this year at Glastonbury festival Vodafone will provide free charging facilities – but expect queues.
9. Buy second-hand outfits
There are plenty of ways you can shop around for clothes without it costing the earth. For example, you could purchase on second-hand reselling platforms such as Vinted, Depop and eBay, as well as traditional ways like charity shops and car boot sales.
Those who have smaller feet may benefit from buying children’s wellies and trainers. You don’t pay VAT on children’s clothes or shoes, so there’s great savings to be made if you’re a size 5 and under.
10. Collect cups
Many festivals have a cup deposit scheme where you pay a small deposit on the cup when you purchase a drink at the bar. This means if any festival goers have ditched their cups, you can return them and collect their deposits.
For example, at Reading festival, every cup and bottle sold in the arena has a 10p deposit included in the price. Collect 10 and take them to the cup recycling stations for some ‘cold hard cash’, according to its website. There are also reverse vending machines in the campsite – return bottles in exchange for a voucher to spend at the Co-op store on site. The bottles collected at the festival will then go on to be recycled to create bottles for Co-op’s own brand bottled water.
11. Leave valuables at home
According to Go Compare, festival goers on average take three gadgets with them, and a quarter of those surveyed said they would leave them in their tent. A travel insurance policy can protect your valuables for trips in the UK and abroad against loss or theft, so it could cover you at the festivals you plan to attend. If you aren’t planning on taking out travel insurance, it’s worth leaving valuables at home to avoid them being lost, damaged or stolen.
While some might be essential, like a mobile phone, keep them on your person and don’t leave them unattended. Some festivals might also have a locker facility to rent, which can be handy if you need to bring a laptop or an iPad for whatever reason.
Ele Clark, Which? Retail Editor, said:
“With festival season in full swing, many of us will be getting ready to pack our wellies and suncream in preparation for a weekend of music in the great outdoors.
“Festivals can be pricey, though, with weekend ticket prices costing over £300 in some cases. Luckily there are ways to keep costs down. If you’re camping, you could try renting equipment rather than buying brand-new gear. Volunteering is a great way to attend a festival for free – and there are lots of free festivals to enjoy as well.”
Notes to editors:
- 11 ways to save money on festivals
- How to find cheap train tickets
- How to save fuel and other money-saving driving tips
- Best cheap power banks for 2023
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