As far as music festivals go, Governors Ball provides a nearly perfect package: Aside from the killer lineup, delicious, locally plucked eats, and blissfully navigable festival grounds, it’s easy enough to get there, enjoy yourself, and head back to the five boroughs after the headliner wraps up for the night. You don’t have to borrow someone’s car, hoof it out to the middle of nowhere, pitch a tent, and deal without a proper shower for days on end — the three-day event takes place within New York city limits, and well within the reach of the MTA, which makes it an anomaly in the major-fest marketplace. In short, it’s accessible, hardly an intimidating foray for those who’ve shied away from Bonnaroo, Coachella, and other musical adventures that require beaucoup transportation or a serious financial commitment.
You do have to watch your wallet, however. Music festivals make for a budget-friendly experience in that you’re paying a lump sum to see tons and tons of music over the course of multiple days for the price of three standard show tickets. That said, festivals can be money traps, with lots of unforeseen expenses eating away at your merch allowance, and you can save tons just by planning ahead and thinking your weekend through. Here are our tried-and-true tips for enjoying Gov Ball on the cheap, complete with snack suggestions and the case for clunky water bottles.
Eat (a Healthy) Breakfast at Home, Ya Dummy: File this under “No-Brainers,” but the most important meal of the day will keep you from hitting the food trucks — and therefore prevent you from spending $9 on artisanal hot dogs or matcha ice cream sandwiches or whatever — if you get down with some nutrients before heading out for the day. A music festival is a marathon, not a sprint, so keep that in mind and think about what you’re fueling up with over the weekend. Yes, it’d be rad to meet up with friends for brunch before dancing the day away at Randalls Island, but you’ll be miserable — and broke — if you grab a bagel and cream cheese, a breakfast sandwich, or some lavish, sugary spread over the eggs, fruit, yogurt, or whatever you can easily (and cheaply) assemble in your own kitchen.
Pack Your Bag Before the Morning Of: We’re all guilty of assuming that a Duane Reade, bodega, or convenience store will have everything we need on the off-chance that we forgot something vital en route to Gov Ball, but it’s amazing how much random stuff you wind up collecting over the course of three days when you rely on those last-minute shopping sprees. Take five minutes to go through your apartment to make sure you’ve got the odds and ends you may need — sunscreen, gum, shades, an umbrella (just in case) (2013 #never4get), a reusable water bottle, a phone charger, etc. — and throw it into whatever bag you’re bringing to Gov Ball a day or two beforehand. No one needs a handful of half-empty bottles of Coppertone or yet another $3 umbrella, so that time spent throwing whatever basics you need into your backpack/tote/purse/etc. of choice will help you out and save you cash when Friday morning rolls around.
Use That MetroCard: Taking the ferry to Gov Ball is awesome in that, hey, easy — and BOAT (!!!) — but that extra $60 spent on feeling the wind from the East River in your hair to and from the festival doesn’t change the fact that you still have to GET to the ferry at 35th Street. If you’re taking the subway anyway, just keep going, budget in a few extra minutes, and walk across the RFK Bridge from 125th Street. You’re paying nothing extra for transportation if you’ve got a monthly MetroCard, and though the platforms at 125th post–headlining set will make rush hour look like a walk in the park, it’s the cheaper alternative to taking the ferry or Brooklyn shuttle. (Click here for additional transportation options and ferry and shuttle ticket info.)
On the next page: More tips on how to enjoy a cheaper Gov Ball
Buy Merch On-Site: Lugging vinyl around with you all day in the heat isn’t the greatest call, but if you’re interested in picking up some merch that can hold up to sunshine and high temps — like T-shirts or totes or what have you — you’ll save on shipping (and likely tax) by picking it up at Gov Ball.
Pay Cash: While it’s awesome that the majority of food and merch vendors these days accept credit cards (thanks to that fancy-schmancy Square that plugs into your smartphone of choice), paying for food, drinks, and merch with a credit card can lead to tons of excess spending while you’re at a music festival. If you hit the ATM before hopping on the train, ferry, or your bike to head to Gov Ball, you can set a budget without mindlessly swiping your card every time you get in line for grub, booze, or other goodies.
Bring a Water Bottle: Not only is this the green thing to do, it’ll save you tons of cash that you can put toward snacks, merch, and beverages that serve up a little more kick than H2O. Gov Ball will have water bottle filling stations on-site, which means that carting around a single bottle for the day will keep you from blowing through $20+ on bottled water at the festival. Hydration is key and will keep you from experiencing a wealth of ills at Randalls Island, so the benefits to bringing a water bottle go beyond budget-friendly planning. It’s the smart, eco-friendly, and healthy thing to do, and it’ll keep you hydrated and happy in between sets.
Curb Your Drinking: Another no-brainer: The easiest way to minimize costs at a music festival is to keep hitting the bottle refilling station instead of the pop-up bars. The markup on booze at any music fest is laughable — who the hell would pay $13 for a twenty-ounce Corona otherwise?! — so this isn’t a problem exclusive to Gov Ball, but it does mean that you’ll be paying double or more for basic beer and wine what you would at your dive of choice. Dancing to Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over” shamelessly is an easier thing to do without inhibitions, though, so if you’re gonna get silly, reconcile the cost of your partying beforehand and commit to it — or just hit the water station every other beer to keep from passing out near the Porta-Potties.
Take Advantage of Other Concerts Booked Around Gov Ball: More on this later, but the best thing about Gov Ball taking place in New York City is that all of these ferociously talented musicians are setting up shop in town all week and keeping themselves busy before and after their festival set. If you’re only itching to see one or two bands on the whole lineup, save on the day rate (if you haven’t bought your Gov Ball passes already) and scope out their stand-alone show instead. Missed out on Odesza or Conor Oberst’s sets? Don’t sweat it; you can likely catch them and a ton of other acts away from Randalls Island before they skip town.
Governors Ball takes place at Randalls Island June 5–7. For tickets, schedules, the full lineup, and additional information, click here.