Survival Guide for Coachella Music and Arts Festival

coachella music festival

From Ellie Goulding to Guns n’ Roses – the experience at Coachella Music and Arts Festival is one you won’t forget

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is like deja vu all over again, as the late, great Yogi Berra would have said.

This year, it begins with a 3-day festival at the Empire Polo Fields in Indio, California from the 15th to the 17th of April. Then, because it’s always so much fun, it repeats itself the following week on the 22nd, 23rd and 24th.

The acts stay the same, their order stays the same, only the people change. Coachella is such a concentrated mass of party that I felt this survival guide might be in order for newbies and veterans alike.

Survival Guide for Coachella Music and Arts Festival Click To Tweet

Getting To Coachella

While conducting some advance planning may be in complete discord with your desire to be unpredictable and live in the moment, now is the time to turn on that unused part of your brain because the last thing you want to say April 14th is, “So where is Indio anyway?”

Indio is in the Coachella Valley of California, the primary date growing region of the United States (the fruit, not the extra curricular), but that doesn’t bring any further clarity to where it is now does it?

The closest city of any size is Palm Springs, the utopia of aging executives and plaid short wearing golfers. Not exactly the indie music capital you’d expect. You and your crew could fly into the Springs, which has the nearest airport, but the connecting flights make it cost prohibitive.

It’s best to fly into San Diego, Los Angeles, Phoenix or Las Vegas, and then drive the rest of the way:

  • San Diego International Airport to Coachella = 2h 46min (165 miles)
  • Los Angeles International Airport to Coachella = 2h 34min (145 miles)
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to Coachella = 3h 44min (254 miles)
  • McCarran International Airport (Las Vegas) to Coachella = 4h 22min (250 miles)

Coachella’s vibe seamlessly meshes with road tripping, and you’ll see lots of folks who are also going your way. Don’t bother with an RV if you’re planning on staying on-site, they aren’t allowed. Better to rent a car and get a nearby hotel room in Palm Springs or an AirBnB accommodation…or check out the camping ideas below.

Heading to Coachella? Leave the RV behind, they aren't allowed Click To Tweet

Leave Early to Avoid the Traffic

Coachella traffic

All these people are driving to Indio, CA – there will be traffic, get ready to deal.

You spent money getting tickets and planning out this adventure, wouldn’t you hate to miss it while stuck in traffic?

This isn’t the fifth iteration of Journey playing at the local casino, this is Coachella, an assortment of the best indie and cutting edge bands of the moment, you aren’t the only crew on the road so there will be a log jam of traffic if you wait too long.

Try to arrive before the 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. rush, even the last mile can take an hour or longer, so leave early and be patient. Keep an eye on your gas tank too – imagine filling up in Los Angeles, being at a 1/4 of a tank by North Palm Springs and thinking you’ve got it made, only to be stuck in traffic for 2 hours moving in minuscule increments as your fuel gauge plummets.

Running out of gas will not make this an experience for the ages.

Check for reliable traffic reports as to avoid headaches. Then again, just assume route 10 will be packed and route 111 won’t be much, if any, better…but taking 111 will annoy the locals.

Understanding Carpoolchella

In what might be the greatest idea since solar power, the organizers of Coachella have partnered with Global Inheritance to start Carpoolchella,  an incentive plan to help reduce traffic and emissions from inbound party-goers. Carpool with four or more to a vehicle and you could win:

carpoolchella 2016

Carpool to Coachella and you can win some incredible prizes (Photo Courtesy:

  • VIP Tickets to Coachella for Life
  • All Access “Guest” passes
  • Photo Passes
  • VIP Wristband UPgrades
  • $50 Coachella Merchandise Vouchers
  • Ferris Wheel Ride Vouchers

Being eligible is easy, other than making sure you have at least four in your car, place a 8×11 piece of paper in your car with the words CarpoolChella on it and you are eligible to win. Now, that is the bare minimum, we think you should be more creative than a piece of paper, so get serious and decorate your car and stand out from the crowd.

The way you win is by secret spotters noticing your car and selecting winners at random that meet the qualifications – why not go all out and decorate like you mean it?!

Heading to Coachella? Consider Carpoolchella, meet new people and possibly win prizes Click To Tweet

Where to Get Some Sleep

Camping, or at least sleeping, can be tough at Coachella. The party never stops and the bands start early, so sleeping is more of a theoretical concept.

With that in mind, you can camp on grounds or at Lake Eldorado, which is private and comparatively serene. You can even rent tents and tee-pees, which really fit in with the tone and tenor of  music festival life. 

If you are against roughing it, there are safari tents that are air-conditioned, include a private parking lot, gear drop-off area, breakfast, late night snacks and other useful comforts of everyday life.

As for eating, and drinking, there are buffets and food merchants all over the site since you can’t bring food into the festival. Grab water often and stay hydrated! One can not live on beer alone, and booze is not permitted on site.

Who Are You Going To See?

The only thing left is to map out the bands and the stages you want to hit. With a lineup ranging from Ice Cube to LCD Soundsystem to Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, you have some crazy options.

Make a plan of your “must see” bands, and then let the rest fall as they may. Keep an open mind to new experiences, both in music and in the complete festival experience.

If you’re pumped for Coachella, but still need tickets check out VIP Award Show Tickets. They’ve got them, and you won’t forget the experience!

About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for &

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.