MoneySaving tips for festival-goers – save on everything from food & camping to clothes & sequins

Whether it's a biggie such as Glastonbury, a niche event such as Standon Calling, or even a one-day gathering at your local park, festivals can cost a lot of money – and that's not even including the ticket! Here's how I've learned to save cash (after the ticket price) so you can focus on the line-up, not your wallet, with MoneySaving tips on everything from camping and travel essentials to phone charging, food and fashion.

Do some 'festival ticket maths'

Festival tickets aren't always the cheapest – well, they don't seem that way. But if you add up the cost of a regular ticket to see some of the acts, you could find yourself 'in profit'.

If you don't want to pay for a ticket, you could consider working or volunteering, as MSE user Celeste Pettifer shared on Facebook: "My husband and I have been stewarding at a festival for 10 years now, even with kids in tow, as we run the kids' area. Eldest child now stewards too and the youngest is a 'steward in training'. We get free tickets and have made some amazing friends over the years."

Packing right means you'll avoid costly camping mistakes

Whether it's a first aid kit, or, like me one year, the all-important stopper for the airbed, forgetting one 'small' thing can be costly once you've arrived at a festival site. If you're camping at a festival, making sure you have the correct items – and that they're all in working order – means you'll avoid trips to camping supplies stalls, where prices are usually higher than they'd be on the high street. Here are some crucial pre-festival camp checks:

  • Tent. Ideally, you'll do a 'pre-pitch' of your tent in your garden (or a friend's, if you don't have a lawn) to ensure it's still useable, clean, and has all the right elements such as ropes and pegs. Ditto getting your sleeping bags out of their bags to make sure they're still the right ones for you to take.

  • Camping equipment. If you're the 'cooking at your tent' kind of festival-goer, then check that your camping stove lights, plus that you have a way of lighting it (such as a lighter or 'clicker' which you'd light an oven or candle with), and the right things to cook with. I once went pan-less to a festival, and spent a tenner on a frying pan. If you're taking lights for your tent, check batteries.

  • Prep some food. A food plan also works wonders for MoneySaving – see below for more on planning food and drink. But if you're savvy with preparing snacks in advance, you can save a heap of cash.

  • Be wary of overexcited pre-festival 'stuff' shopping. Shopping in advance for all things camping is important – but don't go overboard. Remember our Money Mantras, and ask if you really need something or will definitely use it. This applies in particular to items such as novelty plastic cups, or bunting. Ask yourself if you already have the item at home and also beware items which are super cheap but which might fall apart, too. I once bought a camping trolley which was a tenner – a bargain, I thought. But it didn't withstand the journey from car to tent once I got to the festival and I wished I'd bought a more expensive, sturdier one.

Transport and fuel can add up – and don't forget the return journey

Now, on to some key points to consider for actually getting yourself to the festival...

  • Choose your transport. Many festivals have coach packages, or you can get to the destination by train then catch a free shuttle. Some might even involve a boat, such as the Isle of Wight Festival. Book tickets as far in advance as you can – use our Cheap train tickets guide as a starting point. If travelling by car it's worth reading up on ways to drive more efficiently, including paying attention to fuel and the weight of the items you're taking.

    Taking a coach can seem cheaper but also factor in the cost of getting to the coach before it departs. For example, I've travelled to (now defunct) V Festival from Coventry, but needed to get from Surrey to Coventry first. And similarly, travelled into London to then get a coach from London to Glastonbury.

  • Don't forget post-festival transport costs. By this I mean things such as cleaning or servicing the car, or sharing out taxi costs if one of you has paid upfront. I find that keeping dog towels in the car is a good way to clean off items before they go in if it's muddy. Then you can put all the old towels in a bin bag to be washed when you get home.

Plan your food and drink in advance so you're not overspending when you're hungry

I've paid up to a tenner for a burger at a festival – the food and drink can really add up. Check what the restrictions are on bringing in your own food and drink, especially anything in glass bottles. There are Facebook groups for some of the major festivals such as Glastonbury which might be able to tell you the average price of a type of drink so you can budget. I'm in one called Glasto Fest Feed, for example. Here are some tips from my own experience plus some from MSE users:

  • Pack a picnic. For a one-day festival this is a no-brainer. You could run with a festival theme, for example making mini burgers, or wraps. If you think you'll be tempted by chips or ice-creams later, budget for that – it's worth having a chat with the group you're going with so everyone's expectations are met, too.

  • Plan for brekkie. Breakfast at festivals can be expensive and very disappointing. While some of the bigger festivals might offer amazing porridge or overnight oats, some bowls of, essentially, oats and fruit can be over a fiver. If you're camping and have a stove, some pots of individual porridge are a much cheaper winner and don't even require a bowl. MSE Laura shared that: "Making a big flapjack traybake ahead of time has seen me right at festivals – it's dense, tasty, works for breakfast too, and it doesn't matter too much if you can't keep it cool."

  • Bring your own water bottle. Some festivals – Glastonbury is a biggie on this – don't allow the sale of bottled water, but do offer free refills. It's tempting to bring a trendy bottle but one that you might be able to tie to your bag or belt is a better idea. Also one that will keep water cool. Here are some other ways you can make the most of your water bottle after the festival's over, too.

  • Could your cups earn you money? Read what happened when MSE Rhiannon put it to the test at Download Festival. Her blog also shows you how to save money making your own festival-friendly bag and has advice on reselling once you're home, with some people even buying used (uncut) wristbands.

  • Be snack savvy. Snacks are a huge part of fuelling on a budget at a festival. Think about things you can carry easily and that don't go off, or squash easily. Are tubes of crisps cheaper than packets?

  • Have a budget for food while you're there. It's great to try new things and there will be many tempting food stalls, but look at the size of the portions before you indulge. Some stalls might have enough for two people to share.

  • Don't go straight for the food! By that, I mean try not to just order from the first food stall you see. I've done this a lot of times and then, a little while later, seen something I'd have preferred – but I'm too full from the meal I've just had. I like to scan what's available (at some festivals, this will be on a large board or in the programme, such as at Alex James's Big Feastival), check out the food on offer then see what I might go back for. Remember to try to schedule time to eat, too, or you'll be ordering when hungry and that's when the overspending can spiral.

Clothing

It's VERY tempting to buy anything and everything that could be fun at a festival before you go. Once you've got that ticket, suddenly everything in the shops seems to be 'the' thing you need for that day in the sun listening to music. Before any purchases, remember those Money Mantras. 'Will I use it?' might be a 'yes' with the festival in mind, but try to think ahead, to whether you'll use it enough, and in the future, too.

Some festivals, such as Wilderness, have a theme, too. This is where preloved is your friend as you can put in specific search terms. Read our Vinted buying tips before you commit to anything. Also, look after it. If you're going to a festival earlier in the summer, you may be able to resell it when you're back.

  • Accessories can be a good way to get festival glam on a budget. Head to charity shops for amazing jewellery – some like my local Helen & Douglas House shop might even have a dedicated rail. A scarf or hat is a perfect item to give an everyday outfit a bit of a 'festival' vibe. My top tip is that if it feels 'over the top' in the shop, it will be perfect for a festival where things are a lot more glam and dramatic. MSE Rhiannon tells me there are great items to be found for just pounds at Home Bargains during festival season.

  • Make-up is another area where you may be tempted to buy lots of new items. Personally I love the eyeshadow palettes by Revolution such as this one which is a fiver. Keep your eyes peeled on our Deals page for beauty deals, too. Primark also does amazing big, colourful eyeshadow palettes. Nail varnish can be a great way to add some colour without having to 'dare' to put on a sequinned onesie. If you're going for glitter, make sure it's biodegradable if you can.

  • Invest in one 'dramatic' item. I have a glittery kaftan I bought from Primark (see photo above), which cost £25 about eight years ago. It's now my go-to item and has been to the Isle of Wight Festival, Big Feastival, Latitude and Glastonbury.

  • Don't forget high street and preloved. Preloved is of course a festival-friendly place to shop, and a tip here is to look in lots of different departments in the shops – I once got a Wham! 'top' in the pyjamas section and I've seen Offspring (playing at Download) T-shirts in H&M. If you search a band name in Vinted you can find tops, too. For example, there are, at the time of writing, Coldplay T-shirts there for as little as £3 (the band headline Glastonbury this year). Also search for keywords on Vinted and eBay, or colours you want to wear. Variations on words can bring up different items, for example, try 'sparkle', 'sequins' and 'glitter'.

  • Etsy can be great for personalised items – such as the 'Glasto' necklace in the pic above which I had made for £10.99.

  • Customising is a crafty way to spruce up 'everyday' clothes. If you're a dab hand with a sewing machine, great (you could add tassels to a shirt, or cape), or perhaps try an iron-on patch, or some stick-on diamante studs. You could even take inspo from MSE Laura and her friend, pictured above, who made pom-pom head-dresses for a festival.

'Souvenirs'

Aren't souvenirs for holidays? While this isn't a trip to the Med, for many a festival is their summer holiday, and it's so easy to want to buy something at a festival as a souvenir! Here are my lived and learned top three rules of festival souvenirs:

  1. Think like a Disney mum. Disney mums buy at high street stores such as Primark and on the internet before they go. This means they get Disney-themed clothes at a fraction of the price of the clothes at the resort or park. You can do the same – look for clothes with band names on, quirky patterns, sequins, headbands, hats and even cowboy boots.

  2. Think it over. If I had a quid for every time I've walked away from a 'must have' souvenir at a festival never to return to the potential scene of the money-wasting crime, I'd have enough for a ticket to Glasto 2025.

  3. If you must souvenir-shop, think practically. A poster looks great on a stand but carrying it around then potentially losing it is not so great (I have done this – you put it down when you stop to see something or get a drink then forget it was with you). It can also end up crushed in the car. Perhaps a small poster or postcard might be better – or see if you still want it when you get home from the website. A much cheaper way to get memories on the wall is to frame some photos when you're home. Items such as jewellery from stalls and snazzy clothes can seem like a souvenir item – follow the Money Mantras and you'll stay on the right track.

Charging your phone

Talking of souvenir photos, running out of phone battery has probably happened to every festival-goer and it can cost a lot to buy a charged battery pack from a festival stall or to stand in line then pay to use a charging point at a designated charging tent. Even if a festival offers free charging, there's still the time spent waiting in a queue to get your spot, then while your phone charges, which is precious time you could be watching a band or enjoying the sunshine.

Taking a charged battery pack you've bought in advance is the answer. I also take a second handset and change the Sim, so I have the charge on that handset, too. I generally use a phone for photos, video, and looking at festival line-ups. Some people download an app, too, so they can locate their tent and navigate their way around the site. However, most, if not all, festivals will have great signage, as well as a paper lanyard guide to the music and acts that are on, so you don't need to rely on the apps.