I went to Coachella for the first time in March of 2018, and as a rookie, wound up discovering many do’s and don’ts. Even though I got lucky enough to score VIP Coachella passes, I couldn't help but continuously ask myself--are they worth the extra dough? This post will share with you everything you need to know about Coachella if you're going for the first time.
Pre-Coachella Do's and Don'ts
Buying you Coachella Passes:
2018 Coachella prices
- General Admission: $429
- VIP: $999
We bought our ticket on the Coachella site less than two months before Weekend 1. At this point, there were no General Admission or VIP tickets left on the site, and the only way to purchase a pass was to purchase a Coachella lodging package. If you can avoid buying a package, we recommend it: our total package (for two people) that included 3 nights at the Marriott Shadow Ridge I-Villages in Palm Springs and 2 VIP passes was $4,355. So, considering that VIP tickets are $999 each - that leaves $2,357 for the cost of 3 nights at the hotel – meaning $785 a night for a STANDARD ROOM. Do yourselves a favor, stick to purchasing a ticket on a 3rd party site (e.g., Stubhub), and use that money you would have spent on a package to join up with some friends and rent a baller pad in Palm Springs through Airbnb or VRBO. More direction on lodging further down the article –
If you do decide to stay at The Marriott Shadow Ridge with or without the Coachella package – here is our review of the property:
The rooms at Marriott Shadow Ridge: the rooms are a bit more spacious than your standard Marriott room. They come with a mini bar, fridge, and balcony:
The Marriott experience: this property is MASSIVE. It boasts almost 1,000 rooms and is working to build another 1k. Everything is spread out across acres of golf courses and not one but several swimming pools and dining areas. This can make it time-consuming to get around the property. Nonetheless, it is still a beautiful property and you'll come to realize that the Palm Desert/Springs area is a relatively popular destination for Californians to visit--and retire in. Even with Coachella underway, we ran into dozens of families staying at the property for vacation.
The property shuttle: This Marriott offers a shuttle to and from Coachella about once every 30 minutes. The last shuttle leaves BEFORE the last show is over and it was not apparent where or when exactly the shuttle arrives or picks you up. Unfortunately, we didn't even wind up using this service due to confusion around the timing. The shuttle is a nice-to-have but I would not go into the event relying on it completely. More to come on logistics to and from the event soon...
Marriott property services: There is no room service offered, which I found odd for a vacation property. I understand how logistically that can be a challenge with the size and layout of the property, but they should consider not branding the location as a vacation property to level set expectations there. Don’t fret though, you can walk to the pool and order food.
What to Pack for Coachella: Overpack. Just do it. You will want your options. You see a huge variation of outfits and styles at the festival. Do you and be loud. And don’t doubt your outfit. If you plan on being there for the evening shows- bring a jacket and a bandana. The dust situation is pretty bad in the evening leaving the festival site (amazingly, in some sense even worse than Burning Man in our experience, because the dust is super thick and persistent). Pretty much everyone I knew at the festival got sick afterward with the "Coachella Cough." Really not many ways to avoid this unless you get a private car/driver waiting for you right outside the festival gates or bring a heavy duty mask. Oh, and be ready to drop some serious cash if you’re considering a private car for the festival.
Ladies – I would advise a small fashionable backpack to keep your belongings in, and would not recommend wearing any heel or wedge greater than 2 inches.
Flasks – if you plan on drinking, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring one of those disguised flasks. The alcohol set up at the festival is real wacky. More to come here -
Organizing your Coachella line up: download the Coachella App and get your lineup going in it. Beware – the app does glitch, so check to make sure your lineup is reflecting properly. We almost missed French Montana because of this!
One of our favorite artists, Nigerian starboy WizKid, ended up being a no-show the first weekend and we found out via Twitter, and not the app. And we get it--like most humans, you probably don’t use Twitter. But maybe consider using it as a supplement to the app for navigating the festival.
Lodging during Coachella: as you’ve read above on the Coachella package experience, let me repeat - don't buy a hotel package unless you really DGAF. Get a crew to do Coachella with. And rent out a house. There are SO many options. Pretty much everyone I met was staying at some Airbnb/vacation rental. We went into Coachella thinking it was in the middle of nowhere and housing would be selective. That was an incorrect assumption. Housing is plentiful and there are beautiful homes everywhere in Palm Desert.
Where to stay in Palm Desert during Coachella?:
If you are interested in being as close to the festival grounds as possible, find lodging in La Quinta or Indio. Make sure to book in advance if you're looking for proximity.
Transportation in and outside of Coachella: We ubered into the festival night one--no problem. Cost about $25 from the Marriott. Ubering out? Absolute #shitshow. The way Uber organized the rideshare for the evening was a disaster. Everyone ended up waiting 2-3+ hours just to get into an Uber. The wait ended up leading to massive amounts of people jumping the fence, running past security, and getting into random 'Uber' cars--many of which were not Ubers at all. Yeah, imagine thousands of people just stampeding out of this fenced area and giving security the middle finger... Yikes.
Solutions to get out of Coachella and avoid Rideshare?:
- Pick a spot near the festival grounds as mentioned above in La Quinta/Indio and walk to and from the festival
- Drive to the festival and park yourself--being mindful that there will be cops everywhere and driving drunk is a sure recipe for trouble
- Hire a driver for pick up/drop off
- Pay ahead for shuttle transportation
We ended up driving to the festival the next two days. Worked out MUCH more favorably BUT there were still some cons. First off, the dust and dirt situation in the evening is horrendous. It will get you sick if you end up walking in it like most of us did for 30+ mins trying to get back to our cars. Second, the parking situation could use a bit more organization. We recommend staying alert and conscious to what post you park near because the parking lot, overall, is gigantic. It can be confusing as some numbers repeat and there aren’t maps laid out directing you. You can ask around but not everyone will be able to provide proper directions.
Alcohol at Coachella:
To consume alcohol at Coachella, you have to be inside a beer garden or within a branded, private area and you cannot bring alcohol outside the beer garden. The beer gardens are located in only a few designated areas meaning there isn’t one near every stage. I assume Coachella is set up this way because the event is 18+. Whatever the reason, it’s still BS and you should be able to drink and consume your alcohol wherever you please. If I want a drank while I watch the Migos perform, I should be able to have one. But the good ol' United States of Umerikah has something to say about that...
Pro-tip: Make sure to see a show inside the Mojave stage – definitely the best one.
Vendors at Coachella:
The event is hella commercialized and they work exclusively with certain vendors. You want a Bud Light? Too bad, Heineken is sponsoring. You want a rosé? Well, please enjoy the super sweet rosé offered only by Cupcake Winery.
It will take a day or two to learn your way around the land. My advice would be to check out places that don’t look poppin’ on the outside. We found this Absolut-branded tent (known simply as the "Absolut Tent") that looked deceiving on the outside and had an amazing party going on in the inside on the inside #shhh #coachellasecrets
Lost & Found at Coachella:
Inside Coachella you will find a holy tent that consists of an accumulation of good Samaritan acts. Coachella will ship your stuff back at your own cost. Hallelujah!
What is cell phone reception like at Coachella?:
Good luck with this one. My advice is to turn off your LTE so you roam on 4G or 3G as less people might be on those networks. Apparently it makes a difference...? I have also heard of people doing walkie talkies to stay connected. We experienced poor service on T-Mobile (what else is new!?) and decent signal on Verizon. Advise would be to stick with your crew and try not to lose one another.
What are the people like inside Coachella?:
Coachella is a celebrity show out. I don’t know if it’s the fan girl in me, but there is something super dope about seeing Kendall Jenner hanging out with Quavo and Shania Twain at the same time (see photo below). Outside of celebrities, we definitely engaged with fellow festival go-ers and found some to be receptive but I was surprised to see many were not. Maybe it's just the LA Instagram thots and snobbery, but there wasn't that typical happy-go-lucky-be-friends-with-everyone festival vibe. But then again, there aren't as many high-society festivals like this one in the U.S.
The music at Coachella:
The 2018 line up positively could not be beat. Artists we enjoyed (including one’s that surprised us)– The Weeknd, Kygo, Odesza, Cardi B, SZA, Miguel, Migos, French Montana, Beyonce, Eminem, Destiny’s Child, Lil Pump, Dr. Dre, Post Malone, Jay-Z, the list kept going…And at the end of the day, this was exactly the reason we went. Musically, sonically, 2018 was one hell of a first Coachella experience. We found all of the shows to be high quality. You can tell the artists are grateful to be performing at one of the most legendary festivals on earth, and have taken the time to put together a memorable performance.
What is the food like?
I got under the impression that Coachella food always gets SUPER hyped. I’ll be straight up and say food is good but it’s not anything extraordinary. Nonetheless, here are some Coachella must-trys when you’re there –
What to do after Coachella?:
Parties and meet-n-greets abound after the shows. Many of these are more exclusive. Holler at that friend that’s always in the know about these things to attend. And hope you know some LA thots around... ;)
What is 'No-Chella'?:
This is what the locals do. Meaning, they don’t go to Coachella fest itself, but hang out throughout the weekend and enjoy the parties. Also a solid way to enjoy the weekend.
Security at Coachella:
Security and walking into the festival will take you at least 30 minutes--better to plan on 45, even. We ended up going through two back-to-back security checkpoints on our way in one day. It’s NO joke. And if you’re thinking about bringing alcohol in. Security is smart – they do open certain lotions and sunscreens inspecting for alcohol. Maybe try the camera or tampon flasks. Definitely saw some people consuming their alcohol from those!
What is the VIP experience at Coachella like? Are VIP Coachella passes worth it?
VIP at Coachella is one designated area exclusive for those that have purchased premium passes. We went under the impression that VIP passes meant exclusive seating/areas for each stage. Note that Coachella, like other festivals, has many stages and the artists you're interested in seeing will more than likely be spread out across the grounds. Unfortunately, exclusive VIP seating is NOT part of the VIP experience. If you want to be closer to the artist, you will have to hustle to make your way to the front or figure out a way to get an Artist Pass.
There are bars and food available inside VIP, similar to the food/drinks available outside of VIP. We found that the wait times for some of the food ended up being longer inside the VIP than outside it.
Overall, Coachella VIP passes are not worth it unless all your friends are doing it OR if you’re celebrity-obsessed and trying super hard to get that photo with Bella Hadid or the likes. You will likely spend 90% of your time outside of VIP.
Which weekend should you go to Coachella? Weekend One or Weekend Two?
After discussing with a lot of the Coachella's annual partakers, the vote goes to Weekend 1 for a multitude of reasons. There is more excitement around weekend 1, usually more celebrities show up this weekend, and depending on your personal preference, some people prefer to see the artists show for the first time, not the second.
Feedback for the Coachella Committee:
We felt that the festival could do a better job staying organized as far as the parking, rideshare, and logistics directly outside the venue go. And that's one the one hand a shame because it can take away from the amazing experience one has inside the venue. Being aware this isn't an easy fix, we feel that communication, a plethora of signs/maps outside the grounds, and a a common understanding/training for all the people working the grounds could help alleviate some of those challenges.
Overall – despite some criticism, we had a FANTASTIC time seeing some of the best performances and one of the most iconic performances of 2018, #Beychella. This trip was in fact a bucket list check for us. Although I wouldn’t care to have the experience again, I would come back to Palm Desert for another Coachella and enjoy the no-chella vibe, not least because the area surrounding the festival is beautiful and the climate is generally right on point... You know, hit up the pool parties and after parties. An alternative experience to consider ;)
Enjoy my fellow music lovers!