HOW TO: Coachella on a student budget

HOW TO: Coachella on a student budget

This is the story of the most spontaneous, extraordinary, fulfilling decision I have made so far. Grab a snack, grab a drink, and get ready to learn how you too can catch a flight to the happiest place on earth.


The story begins when my partner Jesse and I were making our way up to the Mount a few days after New Years. Amidst the usual banter, he brought up that Coachella pre-sales were occurring that day, and how he was considering buying a couple of tickets to scalp later on. "Fuck that." said Anna. There was no room for half-assed commitment in this Nissan March. Compelled by my sudden interest, we pulled onto the side of this dirt road, in the middle of nowhere, to try and purchase tickets to one of the most anticipated festivals in the world.

But of course, we had already caked it. The tickets went on sale 9am US time, not NZ, which was roughly 2 hours ago at this point. Nice one team - Coachella was already sold out. Dreams were crushed. Relationships were broken. UNTIL, I started scouring the Coachella forums, and found a link to a special American Express member pre-sale that was starting in 30 minutes time. As we are clearly too broke to own one of those, it was time to get creative. Thankfully, an Amex card was sourced via asking every extended family member we knew about their christmas, how the kids were, and whether they were an American Express member. A lovely, lovely person helped us out, and that was it. We had tickets. We were going to 'Chella 2017. Cue Facebook status.


So, now we were $1500 in debt. Excellent. You may be asking what next? I shows you. 


The first step to success here is to budget. I created a spreadsheet that mapped out my expected income and expected expenses for every week from now until when we left (roughly 11 weeks). This way, you know how much disposable income you have, and you can then split this into a) living money (food, petrol, etc) and b) trip money.

On one side would be my expected income from working part time/any extra income I came across (I ended up selling a few pieces of clothing on the side). On the right side of the spreadsheet are any expenses I know are coming up, so there's no hefty surprises.

The second part is to map out your expected spending during the trip, so you can come up with a rough estimate of how much money you need to put away. We had already popped over to America the year before, so we could easily look back on how much we spent then. This is how much we budgeted for 12 days:

Tip: Car rentals are extremely expensive for drivers under 21 in America. Even though Jesse was literally turning 21 the following month when we were there, we still ended up paying 2-3x what the average person would, even after shopping around extensively. Curse America and their arbitrary restrictions.


Now, this was one of our pitfalls. There are two weekends of Coachella, with weekend two being an exact replica of weekend one. We chose to go weekend two, as that was at the start of our mid semester break, and meant we could stay in the states for about 12 days in total, arriving back on the Wednesday of the first week. Excellent! Except for the public law test that popped up on the first Friday back, that I didn't have time to study for due to jet lag and generally not caring too much after having the best week of my life. Luckily, my grades may have suffered, but I sure didn't - thanks plussage! Therefore, learn from my poor decisions, and only catch the flight if it's not going to ruin your entire academic career. 

I think that's all there is to getting there! Here are some of the most common questions I've been asked about my trip overall:

  • Weekend One or Weekend Two?

For the last 10 or so years, it was well-known knowledge that all of the instafamous bloggers, celebrities/anyone who is there just to be seen attends weekend one. The grass is greener (less dust in the air), the temperatures are usually a little more comfortable, and they have the most artist merch in stock. Weekend two is a dustfest (This is why everyone walks around with bandanas - hello Coachella cough!), the temperatures are hotter, but the special guests are phenomenal.

Except for 2017. Weekend one was treated to Drake, The Weeknd, Tyler the Creator, A$AP Rocky, Skrillex, Pharrell (singing my FAVOURITE song with Hans Zimmer fml) and Rae Sremmund. Weekend two had no special guests. So as we learned, Coachella is always full of surprises! Both weekends have pros and cons, but don't rely on past information to make or break your decision. 


  • Where did you stay?

So, we camped on-site. We were fresh out of Rhythm and Vines when making this decision and thought we would be sweet, but it was a special kind of hell waking up to 30 degree weather at 8am in a humid tent. Next time we go we would definitely stay off-site. It was an amazing experience getting to know the people around us as the campsites were filled with extremely friendly people from all over the globe, but to dance for 10 hours a day for three days, you need a really good nights rest. 

If you're a broke student: Toughen up and grab a tent space for $75 USD. 

If you have your parents credit card: Time to finesse yourself a spot at a 4 star Palm Springs hotel - you do you boo!


  • Who were your favourite acts?


The good:

  • Kendrick Lamar, Lorde + Gaga on day three - MASSIVE energy levels from the artists and the crowd, they all let out the festival with a bang
  • Mac DeMarco/Glass Animals - Picturesque scene as the sun went down.
  • Stormzy - Energy crew. Phenomenal. Amazing crowd.
  • SNBRN - This was the first act we saw, and there was just SO much happiness within the tent
  • Future - Bars went hard, and the crowd went off. Couldn't have been better!


The bad:

  • DJ Khaled - We weren't sure what we had just walked into. He played everyone else's songs but cut the music every 10 seconds, made that dumb DJ rewind sound, changed the song again, tried to make the crowd shout "DJ KHALED", rinse and repeat.
  • Skepta - I had big hopes for him and being honest, he fell short of my expectations as after seeing Stormzy, Skepta felt so low-energy and disinterested.
  • Kaytranada - Totally different vibe live. One of those sets where you have to really try to make a good time out of it, instead of the atmosphere already being there.


Of course, these are just my opinions, and everyone will have a different experience and will feel differently! :) 

Pretty sure that's all there is to it. If you have any questions about any aspect of Coachella then feel free to leave a comment below and I'll reply as best as I can.









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