If you don’t live in a major city like New York or Miami, traveling to a concert is probably your best option to see your favorite artists live. Or maybe you’re like me and sometimes you just want to see a show live more than once. Either way, traveling for a concert (or music festival) can be fun, especially with friends! But the planning part can be a bit complicated. Here’s a guide to preparing for your next concert road trip!
Step One: Select Your Concert Crew
There’s no denying that concerts and festivals are more fun when you go with friends! Plus, traveling with friends to a show can help cut costs. So as you plan your next trip for a show, think about who you want to share the experience with.
The more is not always the merrier. I recommend traveling with a group of three or four friends. If you have more than that, you’ll probably need more than one hotel room or need to look for a bigger (and more expensive) AirBnB. Keep your concert crew small enough to enjoy the trip but big enough to save money on things like where to stay.
Once you have your concert crew selected, create a group message so 1) it’s easy to communicate with everyone about the trip and 2) everyone can get to know each other before the trip. Like the Virgo I am, I typically take over when it comes to planning any and all trips. Make sure you have someone who is decisive yet takes everyone’s opinions into consideration when making decisions in regards to the trip.
Step Two: Create a Budget
Whether you’re traveling alone or with friends, it’s important to decide on a budget! How much is everyone willing to spend overall on this trip? I recommend pricing out your trip before purchasing concert tickets! Understanding the spending range allows you to better plan housing and transportation. Don’t forget to factor in meals, concert merchandise and incidentals!
When planning a trip to Atlanta to see the Jonas Brothers last summer, I texted my “JoBros ATL” group message and straight up asked everyone what their budget for the trip was. This helped me to decide on options for where to stay, how to get from New Orleans to Atlanta, and even what sections we could all afford if we wanted to sit together at the show.
Step Three: Select a City
Let’s start narrowing down what city(s) you’re traveling to. If you’re from New Orleans and want to take a quick trip somewhere close to see someone live, the closest cities and states to catch a concert are Texas (Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio), Georgia (Atlanta), and Tennessee (Memphis and Nashville).
Sometimes distance isn’t everything. I’ve had friends travel to cities like New York and Los Angeles because artists typically bring out a bunch of special guests in those cities. Last year, a few Twenty One Pilots fans explained that they were planning on traveling to Columbus, OH, to catch another TOP show because it was the hometown of the band.
I spoke with Youtuber Katie Isabella about traveling to see a show and this is what she said: “If you’re debating on whether or not you should travel to see a show or even see another date on the same tour, do it! On my fifth (yes, fifth!) show on the Jonas Brothers 2019 Happiness Begins Tour, I almost decided against going thinking that I didn’t necessarily ‘need’ to see them again, but it ended up being my favorite show of the entire tour! They made it snow during their performance of “Like It’s Christmas” and for a NOLA born girl like myself, even seeing fake snow is a magical moment that makes the trip worth it.” Click here to check out her vlog from that trip!
Step Four: Figure Out How You’re Getting There
You’ve selected a show to attend and a city to travel to. You’ve picked your concert crew. You’ve got an idea of everyone’s budget. Next is deciding on how to get there. And don’t worry, you have multiple options that can work for everyone’s bank account.
- MegaBus: I recommend booking your trip early. That’s how you can snag their $1 tickets! When we traveled to Atlanta last summer, everyone’s roundtrip ticket (with reserved seats) totaled to about $25. Since I reserved the four of us seats at a table, we were able to play UNO, chat, listen to music, and comfortably nap during the 8-hour bus trip.
- Fly: If you want to get to your destination quickly, flying is definitely your best option! Airlines have sales all the time so keep an eye out to snag $49 one-way tickets to your show. I recommend getting tickets that are refundable (or at least allow you to cancel and get flight credits back). Plus, like the Megabus, you can reserve seats next to your friends.
- Carpool: Nothing like a good ole road trip. If one of your friends has a big enough vehicle, you can make it a road trip. If you want to take a road trip and no one has a car big enough, consider renting a car. That way, no one has to put tons of miles on their car anyways! And make sure that everyone riding in the car pitches in on gas.
- Train: I’ve only taken the train once but it’s kind of similar to taking the MegaBus. I recommend booking your trip early. If it’s a long ride, you’ll want a comfortable seat near a friend or maybe book a roomette.
Other modes of transportation to consider are the ones you’ll need while in the city. Price out Ubers, Lyfts, cab rides or see what the public transportation system is like there. Plus, make sure you leave lots of extra time for travel! Traffic and higher rideshare rates will only get worse the closer it gets to show time. So if you can get there on the earlier side, take advantage of it!
Step Five: Pick a Place to Stay
Getting a group of 4+ to decide on a place to stay can be difficult. Price out about three to four different options and let everyone vote on where they rather stay. Whether you crash with a friend, stay in a hotel room or book an AirBnb, you need to keep these things in mind:
- How far is it from the venue?
- Are there any restaurants/shops nearby? Since we’re discussing food, do they offer free breakfast?
- If you’re carpooling, is parking free?
- Is the location safe and practical? Pro-tip: you can put the address in Google Maps and see what’s around the area.
- Is there a shuttle? Save money and shuttle to and from the airport, local restaurants, and sometimes the concert venue.
- What time is check-in vs what time you arrive in town?
- Did you read the reviews? Pro-tip: Read reviews on the hotel’s website, Facebook and Google to make sure they’re all consistent.
- What types of/how many rooms do they have? You and your friends want to be comfortable and also have enough space during your stay.
Besides hotels or AirBnBs, another option is crashing with a friend! Have a friend who lives in that city? You can travel alone and invite them to the show with you! If they’re letting you stay for free, offer to pay for their concert ticket or treat them to dinner one night while there.
Step Six: Buy Your Concert Tickets
Going to use the Jonas Brothers as an example again. I saw them four times…yes, four times…in 2019. As I mentioned before, it’s important to identify how much everyone is willing to spend on a concert ticket. If you want to get even MORE specific, you can have everyone vote on which section(s) they hope to sit in.
- For the Atlanta show, my friends and I bought tickets the day before. We lucked out and scored pit tickets at face value but that doesn’t always happen. Waiting until the day of the show to purchase tickets can score you face value (and sometimes lower than face value) but other times shows can sell out or you’ll be forced to sit in the nosebleeds or separated from friends.
- For the San Antonio show, my friend and I actually won our way into the show! We went from the 300s section to 10 rows off the floor right next to the stage. Want to learn my secrets to scoring free tickets? Check out this blog post.
- For New Orleans, I bought tickets during one of their many presales.
- For Birmingham, we bought our tickets a month in advance using a trusted ticket reseller. I turned on price alerts so I’d be notified when the tickets in the section we wanted dropped into the price range we were willing to pay for them.
Pro-tip: You can also visit the box office, call the venue or contact Ticketmaster as the show gets closer to see if you can upgrade your seats!
Step Seven: Decide What to Bring
I already have a blog post up mapping out what I consider “concert essentials” which includes items such as a clear bag and a portable charger. Besides those fourteen items, I suggest: choosing an outfit ahead of time, making a list, and preparing for different types of weather. Having an outfit picked out before leaving home not only helps with packing but you also won’t be stressing out the day of the show deciding what to wear. Making a packing list helps to assure you don’t forget anything — going or coming. And I always recommend packing a rain jacket, an umbrella, a light sweater and comfortable shoes no matter where you’re going!
Step Eight: Research What to Do
If you’re visiting a city for more than one day, make sure to sightsee. You can turn your concert road trip into a full blown vacation. Take the time to research ahead of time to find things to do. By using location tags or popular local hashtags on Instagram, you can find touristy spots to visit like museums, murals and parks.
Don’t visit chain restaurants that you have at home, find popular food spots in that area to visit or order to-go from. Also take into consideration where you and your friends want to eat before or after the show.
Thinking about and pre-planning what you want to do while in the city can help with the decision-making process on where to stay. If you just plan on going to the show, find a place near the venue. If you want to explore a bit, look for a place that is a good in between so you’re not spending an arm and a leg on rideshares or gas.
Do you know people who have made the trip to a concert or music festival in the same city? Or maybe you have friends or family who’ve traveled there before? Ask them for recommendations!
Step Nine: Have Fun!
If this recent COVID-19 pandemic has taught me anything, it’s to not take life or any of the little moments for granted. This may be your first or last time getting to see this artist, tour or setlist live. And let’s not forget, you’ve invested time and money on this unforgettable night so please enjoy it! Dance with your friends like nobody’s watching. Scream along to your favorite lyrics. Jump in a mosh pit. Just take it all in and enjoy every moment.
What’s better than buying a concert ticket? Winning free tickets! Follow NOLA Concerts for ticket giveaways and more concert tips and tricks like how to get the best tickets and what to bring to a show!