I’m frequently asked how I can travel so quickly and affordably to music festivals around Europe. Below is a sampler of how I get from one large field to another large field without while trying to stay within my budget of about $75/week for travel expenses.
My Monday morning commute is different than most. I’ve been up since 7:00am packing my muddy tent and slightly damp clothes. I’m in The Netherlands at the Down the Rabbit Hole Festival and have just about 48 hours until my next festival stop on the northern coast of Poland. This early start is crucial as thousands of fans are groggily waking up and will eventually pack the shuttles heading back into town and hold up the wait for hours.
Travel Tip: I know it’s hard, maybe even impossible, but get out of festivals early.
Still on schedule. I sailed onto the free shuttle bus back to the Nijmegen city center. The amateur festies immediately fall asleep in their seats, or like the girl in front of me, still standing.
We’re flying down the German Authbahn at 200 km/hour (about 125mph). I arranged a BlaBlaCar ride to Dortmund and the driver Pablo picked me up right on time. BlaBlaCar is cheaper, easier, and more comfortable than most modes of transportation in Europe — try $8 for the car vs $55 for the train. The big drawback is that your driver can bail on the last minute so make sure you always have some sort of backup plan (in my case, that super expensive train). Pablo has just come back from a festival as well, and we spend the 90 minute ride chatting about our various weekends.
Travel Tip: Save money, time, and make new friends with the ride sharing service, BlaBlaCar.
Pablo and I had already discussed via BlaBlaCar’s private messenger system that he would drop me off on the outer circle of the Dortmund greater metro. After a couple missed turns, he left me here to finish up my trip into Dortmund via train.
Travel Tip: Unmanned train stations usually have an electronic pay station that take cash or credit cards.
I’m at my hostel in Dortmund, the uninspired AO Hostel, a hostel chain that is really more like an ultra-low budget hotel. It’s close to the hostel and close to the laundromat so really all I need. If I was staying longer in Dortmund, I would have scoped out something more comfortable for the same price via Airbnb.
After a rainy night of laundry and festival recovery, I’m feeling refreshed and ready to complete the journey. I head back over the the train station, and catch the Airport Express over to the Dortmund Airport. I spend most of the 22 minute trip marveling that this $8.50 ride cost nearly the same price as my entire car trip from The Netherlands. Airport transfers are a huge hidden cost of airfare travel that most backpackers frequently overlook. It’s not uncommon to spend anywhere from $10-$20 getting to and from airports. It’s not a large amount, but something to be aware of when comparing different travel options.
Travel Tip: Don’t forget to include airport transportation costs into your budget.
I have finally arrived at the miniature Dortmund airport. After weeks of crowded terminals, this feels like my own private jet strip. I’m flying on the infamous Wizz Air, one of the many budget airlines of Europe. Total cost of the 90 minute flight will set me back about $45.
Like the other European low cost carriers, Wizz Air has a byzantine set of rules regarding baggage. My backpack is almost comically too large to fit in the “small carry-on” container and I was too lazy/confident this morning to perform the wear-everything-I-have-in-the bag gambit. Instead I rely my tried and true method of smiling, speaking quickly in English, and asking so many questions that they just want to get rid of me as quickly as possible. It works and I save about $18 euro in baggage fees.
I’m in Gdansk! Even though camping opens today, I’m opting to go tomorrow morning and grab one more night sleep indoors. I grab a local bus for $.75 and sail on over to the excellent Mama and Papa’s Hostel.
Mama from the hostel lets me know that there’s a local train across the street every 30 minutes that can take me straight to Gydnia. A top-notch hostel staff like this one can save you from the frustration of trying suss out local travel online.
One final shuttle bus and I’m at the festival grounds. Here at last.
So there you have it! A typical travel session from 100 Nights of Summer. Along the way, I got to drive at top speed on the Autobahn, met a fellow festie, scoped out the city of Dortmund (won’t be back), ate some authentic schnitzel, discovered a stellar hostel, and spent a pleasant evening exploring the old city of Gdansk.