Traveling to see music without losing your money (or your mind)

Favorite band not coming near you? Go to them.

Atlanta is an easy 8-hour drive, Athens a tedious 9, Asheville a scenic 11, New Orleans a long 12 to 13, but all four cities are road trip-worthy and are habitual stops for tours that don’t reach Florida. If the band you love isn’t playing in a theater anywhere near you, check their weekend dates and decide whether they occur in any cities that appeal to you. Then, check flights and keep a close eye on the cheap ones -- if the date is more than two months away, the cost could drop even more. If you happen to find seats priced so low they seem too good to be true, and you know for sure you want to go, get off your thumb and buy! And don’t disregard flights leaving St. Petersburg, Sarasota, and even Orlando. The extra driving may save you money in the end.

Never underestimate the power of preparation.

If you aren’t familiar with the city you’re visiting, do your research. Without it, you could end up at a hotel that’s in a nasty neighborhood or far away from everything, or you could rent a car and then leave it parked in a garage the entire time ‘cause you’re taking the train or walking everywhere, or you could pack for a balmy weekend only to find your destination in a late-season cold front. We have the internet, so for Pete’s sake, people, use it! Also, don’t scoff at checklists -- they are surprisingly helpful -- and always bring earplugs and/or headphones and a music listening device; you never know when you’re gonna need them.

Don’t do it alone.

As Phish likes to say, “It’s not an experience unless you bring someone along,” and it’s true. Music excursions are best when shared with friends.

But make sure to choose your travel companions wisely.

Don’t travel with anyone you don’t know very well, or someone you’re crushing on -- chances are, they’ll annoy you and/or disappoint you (see story above). If you invite friends and share expenses and possibly a room, make sure they are financially reliable, and that you can trust them alone with your stuff -- that’s a biggie.

If the show’s sold out, avoid scalpers at all costs.

[image-1]I know you may be desperate, that you HAVE to see Phish in Asheville because there are only 7,500 seats, and it’s the smallest venue they’ve played since 1996, and all your friends are going. But please, for the love of God, don’t stoop to the scalpers. A) You could buy a fake and then you’re out hundreds, or B) The ticket could be real, but then you’re out hundreds. Either way, you’re encouraging an ugly, illegal business. And FYI, if you’re trying to score tickets outside the venue, have scoured the parking lot and found no one with an extra, and then miraculously, 30 minutes before the show, a man materializes with two tickets for just the amount of money you have -- run for the hills. If your gut says “Don’t do it,” listen to that damn thing. It knows.

Beware of the lure of festivals.

Don’t hit a festival because one or two bands appeal to you -- you’ll likely be let down as fest sets tend to be shorter, less inspired, and far less intimate than a show pretty much anywhere else. But fests can be a blast if you know what you’re getting into. Just make sure to find out: how many bands are scheduled to play on how many stages over how many days? How many of those bands do you really want to see? How long are the sets? How many people will be between you and the stage at any given moment? How much are tickets and does the price include camping? If not, how much out-of-pocket will it you cost to stay nearby? What other friends are of yours are going?

Hotels aren’t always the answer.

Most cities have short-term vacation rentals, condos or houses that are rented out for spans ranging from a night to a month. Vacation rentals are convenient if you’re traveling with a party of more than four, since they’re often the same price or cheaper than a hotel room, provide more space, and allow you to cook up family-style meals so you don’t waste money eating out every night. I suggest checking or for listings. Hotwire is a great resource for cheap, quality hotels if you don’t mind not knowing where you’re staying. And don’t disregard the ultimate money-saver: a campground.

Just because you have plans to see music doesn’t mean you can’t make plans to do other things, too.

You are on vacation, after all.

For more Summer Guide stories about how to spend your summer vacation (or to read about the memorable summer-related experiences of other CL staffers, freelancers and interns), click here; picture below of me by Phil Bardi, taken at Langerado 2008.

My first time traveling to see music was February 2001, when A Perfect Circle’s Mer de Noms tour came to Florida and the easier access Orlando show sold out before I got tickets. At the time, I was barely three months into my 21st year, recently single, and so fiercely infatuated with APC that I went ahead and planned a road trip to see them in Ft. Lauderdale, convinced I could talk a few other adventurous friends into making the overnight jaunt with me.

Problem was, the three who joined me — two of my girlfriends and a hottie musician I was unsuccessfully courting — were unemployed, so the jaunt ended up being a 100-percent Leilani-sponsored affair. Worst of all, my crush turned out to be prudish, petulant and overall, a royal pain in the ass who, in less than 24 hours, had not only managed to alienate me, but made me lose interest in even continuing our friendship because I could no longer stand the sound of his voice.

Luckily, my feelings about music-motivated traveling weren’t affected since both the music and vacation parts were fabulous. But I learned much from the experience and the numerous experiences that followed. Here’s some wisdom I’ve gained over the years.

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