how to reduce the cost of UK summer music festivals

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<p><figcaption class=Food and other costs at a festival can be pricey, so take advantage of every possible way to save.Illustration: Jamie Wignall/The Guardian

Volunteer to get free passes

You can get free entry to festivals by offering to work during the event. Websites like Festaff offer easy ways to volunteer for roles like stewarding.

Oxfam, which often campaigns at festivals, also sells goods in shops. As a volunteer you can camp with the crew, receive a meal voucher for each shift, hot showers, free tea and coffee and charge your phone.

At the time of writing, there were still festivals you could register for this year, including Glastonbury on June 26-30.

You will normally need to find funds in advance for a deposit, which will be refunded once the event is over, provided you have met your volunteer obligations.

Book trips in advance

Vix Leyton, a consumer expert and host of the False Economy podcast, recommends booking train or bus tickets in advance, which means “you can calculate the cheapest journey times and use train cards to save even more”.

Chat with friends about what you have as a group and share the cost of higher priced items such as tents

Vix Leyton, host of the False Economy podcast

She adds: “You also get a train discount if you book for three or more people, so if you book as a squad you can save money.”

If you want to travel like a VIP on a budget, she says, you can upgrade your trip with Seatfrog, an app that offers just £12 for same-day travel in first class and which, depending on the line, includes everything from snacks to a full catering service and bar.

Leyton also recommends car sharing, which is not only good for saving money but is also better for the environment than some other options. Website Liftshare connects passengers with motorists so you can find someone traveling from your area.

If you opt for a coach, Big Green Coach has good deals for many festivals, including Leeds and Reading on August 21-25. A return ticket to the Leeds festival from Chester – just over 80 miles – will cost you (at the time of writing) £68. You can split the payment into instalments.

The four-day Shambala Festival in Northamptonshire on August 22 and 25 encourages guests to travel in many ways, including cycling. It has partnered with Red Fox Cycling to offer guided cycle tours to the festival site from London, Bristol and Birmingham.

Cycle tickets are £30 cheaper than regular admission tickets, as the festival places sustainability at the heart of the festival. From Bristol to the festival is a distance of 150 miles spread over three days and costs £156, including camping fees and meals en route (the price for the return journey is £192). You can turn it into a holiday before you even get there.

Save on equipment and outfits

“Chat with friends about what you have as a group. Split the cost for higher priced items like tents… You will probably end up using them together again,” says Leyton.

Check out sites like Facebook Marketplace and keep an eye on Lidl and Aldi as they sometimes have special summer deals on camping and festival gear.

Natalie Hitchins, home products and services editor at consumer group Which?, says there’s no need to splash the cash.

“Research shows that expensive doesn’t always mean best – the Eurohike Snooze 200 sleeping bag (€10 to €12 at some retailers) was our budget choice for a sleeping bag,” she says. “You can also consider borrowing or renting camping equipment instead of buying new if you don’t think you’ll use it anymore.”

Rental marketplace Fat Llama lists camping equipment, including tents, and some prices are around £4 per day, which is reasonable and a good option if you don’t do much camping throughout the year.

You can buy a bell tent for yourself and your friends if you want something bigger, which, when we looked, cost £55 per day. Items on Fat Llama are offered by individuals across the country, so your choice is limited by where you live.

It can sometimes be expensive to buy accessories at festivals, so look for bargains before you go. You can also choose versatile clothes that suit different looks.

The Go Thrift website has a festival vintage range, where you can get blazers for around £30 and crop tops for £15. It’s also worth searching for bargains via reselling apps and sites like Depop and Vinted .

Another option is to rent the perfect outfit. Rental platform By Rotation, launched in 2019, includes platform boots from the American festival brand Jackalope Land. They cost £600, but when we looked there were some available to rent from £24.

Don’t forget to bring a raincoat. You can find second-hand ones on eBay for around €15. Asos, Marktplaats and Oxfam also have good offers.

Consumer rights expert Martyn James says: “Your big splurge should be a decent pair of comfortable walking shoes and lots of thick socks. You will be standing a lot, so that is the only item you should spend your money on.

“However, some online sports stores seem to be having a semi-permanent sale. My boots cost £40, down from £90, and are still on sale two years later.

Bring your own food

Food at festivals can be pricey, so it’s a good idea to bring snacks. Cereal bars are a good option for a simple and inexpensive breakfast.

Bring a simple gas stove and you can prepare hot drinks with tea and coffee bags, plus instant noodles and porridge pots. You can get one at Halfords for £18.

Make sure everything you bring camping is recyclable or compostable so you aren’t left with a pile of trash at the end of your trip. And check whether it is allowed on site: at most festivals you are not allowed to take glass containers.

This year, Camp Bestival, from July 25 to 28 in Dorset, has introduced a £39.99 pass aimed at families. It offers meal vouchers for six children’s meals, three sweet treats and unlimited fruit and filtered water. Organizers say it will save festival goers an average of more than 35% on the cost of purchasing meals and snacks separately.

Your big splurge should be a decent pair of comfortable walking shoes. That’s the only item you should spend your money on

Martyn James, consumer rights expert

James says: “If you can pack them in your luggage, toilet rolls and wet wipes will make friends and they are great for swapping. A decent solar phone charger is also invaluable.”

He adds: “It sounds a bit cheesy, but some protein powder can save you a fortune in long queues for overpriced lentil pastries. A medium pack with a mixer (basically a plastic mug) ensures that you can eat even when you don’t feel like it – and that you don’t become an early victim.”

James also recommends keeping emergency cash in a separate place from your main source of cash. He says: “Remember that you might forget where your tent is, or lose your bag. So think about where you can stash some emergency cash.”

Enjoy a festival at home

Camp Bestival DJ and co-founder Rob da Bank says one option is to “bring the festival atmosphere to your own home.”

He adds: “Festi-themed parties and music in the garden with lots of fancy dress, dancing and food and drink can make for some of the most memorable summer moments, especially with an extra camping spot.”

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