October 26, 2015 | by Bryne Yancey

Fest Week is upon us! For punks of a certain age, disposition and (sorry) race and gender identity, this is basically our Comic-con. As such, you’re probably preparing yourself for yet another round of Fest-related editorial which, at this point, has been housed inside an echo chamber for nearly a decade with no hope of escaping. Here are some underground bands to watch at Fest! Here is the food you should eat at Fest! Here are some tips for first-time Fest attendees! And on and on and on. While these articles are perhaps useful for someone new to the event who doesn’t know how to practice common sense or use Google, you and I have collectively read these articles a billion times and we know the drill. At this point my grandma knows to not stress out over her Fest schedule and to drink water and not exclusively eat Five Star Pizza.

However, few seem to discuss the measures one can take before leaving to ensure Fest is as smooth and as fun as possible—I’m talking about preemptive things that, well, most adults should probably do anyway, Fest or no Fest, but they’re important to consider as we slowly begin our descent into Gainesville this week. This will be my ninth Fest (5-11, 13, 14) and over the years I’ve honed my pre-flight routine down to a science. Here’s “the good stuff:”

Get a flu shot. Seriously, you’re (presumably) an adult and you should do this anyway, but getting a flu shot before flying/driving to Florida should not only protect you from contracting influenza, it can also protect you from getting sick after Fest altogether. A combination of poor diet, heavy alcohol consumption, little to no sleep and being adrift in a sea of foreign sweat and germs, oh god the germs, for 72 straight hours can whittle down your immune system into sawdust. In previous years, I’d become deathly ill for at least a week, maybe longer, every year upon returning from Fest. Last year, I got a flu shot a couple weeks before heading to Florida, and you know what? Everyone else in my room got sick while Fest was still happening for crying out loud. I felt like a million bucks during and after. I’m no doctor, but the coincidence is difficult to ignore. Get a flu shot. Even if you don’t have health insurance (I don’t), they generally cost around 30 bucks at the chain pharmacy near you (Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, whichever team you’re on). It’s worth it.

Get screened for STDs. Again, this is something every adult should do anyway, especially single or non-monogamous adults. Love can happen at Fest, but what’s more likely is a consensual one-time hookup, a Fest-exclusive romance, what have you. (More on that later this week.) Casual sex can be a fun thing, of course, but be safe about it. Provided you can afford it, get screened for STDs before you go. The CDC has a resource on their website (a trans-friendly resource, at that!) for seeking out low-cost or free STD screenings near you if you don’t have health insurance that will cover these services. Use it. And use protection too.

Pack light and just do a load of laundry or something if you need. When it comes to packing clothes for any trip, many would have you believe it’s better to be overprepared than underprepared. BUT I DISAGREE. Pack less than you think you probably need, because chances are, it’ll be enough since we tend to pack more than we think we need anyway. It’s less to carry to Florida and especially less dirty, stinky clothes to carry back home. You’re probably going to buy and wear merch at Fest anyway. If you run out of clean clothes, see if your hotel has a washer and dryer and use them, or if a local laundromat offers dropoff service, patronize a local business while you’re there. Or just be crusty and wear dirty clothes all weekend. Whatever.

Coordinate with your hotelmates so that your room doesn’t have multiple hairdryers and hair straighteners in it when you all can probably just share one of each. Pack a pair of jeans, a pair of shorts, a bathing suit, a few tops, and plenty of clean underwear and comfortable socks. Generally speaking, this should all fit into a backpack or a small piece of carry-on luggage.

PACK COMFORTABLE SOCKS. This is so important. You’re gonna be on your feet all day for three, maybe four or five straight days if you’re pre-Festing. Go to a sporting goods store and drop a little extra money for a pair or two of socks with extra padding. (The one pair I own was about 12 bucks). They’re sort of ugly, but if you’re wearing jeans no one will see them. I wear these every day at my bar job where I’m constantly running around and the difference between wearing them and NOT wearing them is literally night and day. Take care of your feet.

Buy toiletries once you get to Florida. In all likelihood, Florida’s cost of living is generally lower than wherever you’re coming from, especially Gainesville. For example, the cost of groceries, on average, is 10% less in Gainesville than it is in Philadelphia, where I live. If you live in New York City, it’s 24-25% lower. The sales tax is likely lower, too. Instead of packing your already-hopefully-light bag with toothpaste and lotion and sunscreen and condoms and all that other stuff we have to pack on trips, just buy it all when you get there, provided it’s not something you’ll possibly need on the trip there such as contact lens solution or an inhaler. It’ll probably be cheaper and you won’t have to pack as much. Chances are you forgot something anyway—just forget all of it, on purpose.

Pay cash for everything, but if you don’t want to smash the system and use a card, let your bank or credit card company know that you’ll be traveling. Banks and credit cards are stupid, up the punx and everything, but most of us probably use them anyway because they’re a necessary evil and because we’re all poseurs. Let your bank and your credit card companies know you’re traveling so your assets aren’t immediately frozen when you pick up the tab at Jones or The Top. Chances are there’s an option in your online banking portal to set this up. Cash is king, though.

Have your emergency contacts in order. Fest is fun. I’m a privileged cis white male so everything is safe for me, but it seems safe compared to most music festivals? Accidents can still happen, though. If you have an emergency contact, let them know you’ll be there just in case. If you don’t have an emergency contact, get one! If an immediate family member can’t do it because of distance or because you don’t get along and you’re a teen and they don’t understand you or whatever, ask a close friend to be yours (and offer to be theirs should they need one).

Get contact info of people you’re staying with, and KIT (keep in touch). One of the best things about Fest is all the new friendships we forge through Facebook, message boards and other means, but if these friends—especially hotelmates—don’t give you their phone numbers, ask for them. Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp may not work well; maybe your phone gets a poor signal, or there’s no wifi and you can’t use data. Call them! I know it’s 2015, who calls people am I right, but be sure to have that information.

 

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