I have just returned to the real world, having had one of the BEST weeks of my life. Yes folks, I went to Glastonbury. The festival to end all festivals.
It was my first time and I can now say I’m no longer a Glastonbury virgin. My cherry has been well and truly popped.
It was unlike any festival I’ve been to – bigger, better, friendlier, crazier. I’ve never experienced anything like it before and the sense of community is amazing. I’m not much of a crier, but I cried every day at Glastonbury. It was emotional – in a good way.
So I thought I’d let you in on a few of the top tips I picked up on my first time at the festival, the things I wish I’d known before I went. I hope they help you get prepared and make the most of your Glasto experience!
Tips for Your First Glastonbury Festival
1. Go with Awesome People
Glastonbury is a crazy place. It’s busy, is hectic, it’s an absolute assault on the senses, it’s going to be one of the most amazing times of your life, so you’ll want to go with people who you know are up for a laugh, laid back, can cope with mud and being uncomfortable (no moaners, basically), easy to get along with and non-judgemental. Leave the mood hoovers at home.
You’ll also want people who you know will look out for you and have your back! Having a couple of veterans in your group is also helpful.
2. Go With an Open Mind
One minute you’re dressed as a disco mermaid, then you’re rocking out to the Foo Fighters at the Pyramid Stage, next you might be doing an Irish jig at the Avalon Inn, followed by a visit to an all women’s bar where most of the women are topless, then you might go salsa dancing at Glasto Latino before watching the sunrise and chanting with Hare Krishna monks in the Stone Circle. This was my Saturday night.
Your experience will be completely different than mine, but if you go with an open mind you are going to have the best time.
3. Pack Light – You’ll Thank Me Later
We arrived at the festival site at about 6.30am, thinking we’d just stroll right in. Nope. The walk from the car park is long, we queued for four hours and it was scorching hot. Our friends went later and strolled right in.
Going earlier or later… it’s going to vary from year to year. Going earlier you’re guaranteed the better camping spots, going later means less queuing (usually). It’s swings and roundabouts.
We had loads of stuff, but we decided we didn’t want to make 2 trips, so we took everything with us. And we had A LOT of stuff. Tents, chairs, our backpacks, food, alcohol…
By the time we got to the gates, the collective misery of the crowd was obvious, some people were even crying. I’d pretty much lost the will to live. My back was aching, my hands were hurting, I was burnt, tired and we’d run out of water. I was dragging one of my bags along the floor.
Saying that, none of us got grumpy, so I knew if we could get through that, we were gonna have a good festival together.
It will be different for everyone, but I found that I did take quite a bit of stuff that I didn’t use.
Things I took and actually used:
- Tent & groundsheet.
- Sleeping bag, pillow & roll mat.
- Waterproof jacket.
- Walking boots (if it’s raining more, consider wellies too).
- Wet wipes – millions of ’em (biodegradable if possible).
- Hand sanitizer.
- Toilet paper.
- Head torch.
- Clothes – t-shirts, leggings, shorts, warm jumper (very important), shawl, socks & underwear. It’s all about layers. The crazier your clothes are, the better. But pack light, you don’t need loads.
- Toiletries – face wipes, tooth brush, toothpaste, deodorant, moisturiser, razor, suncream & lip balm.
- Small mirror.
- Glitter – lots of (biodegradable if possible).
- Hairbrush & bobbles.
- Waterproof picnic mat – really light plastic one.
- Camelbak water bottle.
- Carabiner (to attached my water bottle to my bag).
- Spirits, mixers and bags of wine – although in future I’d just buy mixers there.
- Plastic bottles – use these to decant your spirits into as no glass is allowed.
- Bin bags.
- Camping chair – I did only sit in this a few times, but I’m glad I had it.
- Bum bag for smaller essentials (money, cards, phone, lip balm, wipes, hand sanitizer). Next time I’m going to take a small rucksack.
Things I took and didn’t use:
- Spare head torch and lantern.
- Small-ish keg of cider – ok, so we did drink this, but it was warm and so not worth carrying it all the way in.
- 3 extra pairs of sunglasses. I only wore 2 of the 5 I took.
- Food – we took quite a lot but just ended up eating out every day as the food there is really awesome.
- Shampoo & conditioner. Didn’t shower once, although if you do, just take a tiny bit like the ones you get in hotels. I love the Lush shampoo bars.
- Dry shampoo – although if you have greasy hair this would be useful.
- Towel – I’m going to take one this time though in case I want to shower.
- Gaffer tape & string – but they are handy to have.
- Wellies – but you should definitely take these, just in case.
- Tomato juice (for Bloody Marys) – too messy.
- Bowl and cutlery – my friends did use theirs but I didn’t.
Things I wish I’d taken/will take next time:
- A nail brush. Once a day, go give your hands and nails a good scrub.
- Mini rucksack for booze & clothing – me and Vicky just shared hers, but good to have your own.
- A comfier mattress and proper pillow.
- Picnic blanket – the plastic one I took was ok, but a proper one would have been better.
- Tupperware to put food in.
- Small washing up liquid and sponge.
- Pens & Sharpie – not sure what for, but you never know.
4. Bring a Trolley
You’re probably going to ignore what I just said about packing light, so let me give you the next best piece of advice.
Once you’ve been in that queue for a few hours, you’ll definitely regret it if you don’t. It was bad for us, but we were able to put our stuff down as the ground was bone dry, had it been muddy, all of our stuff would have been ruined.
5. Bring Alcohol
One of the best things about Glastonbury, is that you camp inside the festival and you can bring your own alcohol.
I saw a lot of people bringing in cases of beer and cider, however there’s nowhere to keep them cool, so I’d suggest bringing spirits and bags of wine instead. Then you can just get cold mixers and cups of ice if you need them. Beer and cider is easily available and reasonably priced.
Just remember, you are not allowed glass, so decant everything into plastic bottles before you arrive.
6. Pronounce it Right
Don’t call it ‘Glastonberry’ (Americans, I’m talking to you here). It’s said more like ‘Glastonbrie’ – like the cheese. This is like when people call Edinburgh, ‘Edinboro’ – just noooooo! It’s ‘Edinbruh’.
7. Plan, But Not Tooooo Much
Before you get there, read through all the ‘stuff’. Info on the website, the lineup, what’s on etc.
When you arrive, go through the line-up with your pals and get an idea of some of the bands you want to see, maybe give ’em a little circle in your programme (see, told you that pen would come in useful). It can take a while to get between stages, so be prepared for that. You won’t be able to see em’ all, so just pick a few things you want to see each day.
But, there’s a lot to be said for leaving your fate up to the Glastonbury Gods. On the first day, I said I wanted to go with the flow and see where the festival took me. And that was what I did. And it was fabulous.
There’s a lot to be said for serendipity and as long as you are having a great time, it’s all good.
8. Spend Some Time Just Exploring
The bands aren’t playing on Wednesday and Thursday, so use that time to explore the site and see all the ‘other’ stuff. Believe me, there’s loads of it! Despite being there for almost 5 full days, I still didn’t see everything.
Wednesday and Thursday were actually my favourite days, as we didn’t really have any plans. We just mooched about, got our bearings, I did the Dirty dancing lift at Ultimate Power, we sang the Circle of Life
to at some poor unsuspecting girl who just sat down next to us wearing a Lion King jumper, we started a massage circle (with random strangers) to ease our weary backs, we chilled in a birds nest… you get the picture.
9. Don’t Worry About Showering
Not gonna lie, I didn’t shower from Wednesday morning until I got home on Monday afternoon.
Glastonbury has so much to do, why waste time walking to the showers, then waiting for them and then having one? Bring a weeks worth of wet wipes and off you go.
I’m not a particularly sweaty person and my hair is dry, rather than greasy so this was fine for me.
I wet wiped in the morn and also had a pack of those wet toilet wipes with me at all times. Most people don’t shower, so you won’t be stinking alone!
10. Don’t Roll in the Mud – Listen to Mama
We’ve all seen it, people rolling around in the mud at Glastonbury. Oh, what fun!
Until afterwards when you’re like “What the hell have I done?”
At the risk of sounding like your mum, it may seem like a great idea at the time, but once you’re in, that’s it. You’re probably gonna stay like that until the end of the festival. And your tent and all your stuff will be covered in crap. Not nice.
11. Take your Ticket Everywhere You Go
Ok, this is an obvious one for when you arrive, but if you need to pop back to the car for any reason, take your ticket with you.
Your wristband is not enough to get back in. So to save you trudging all the way back to your tent and back again, keep your ticket with you!
12. Try and Look After Yourself
It’s important to look after yourself at Glastonbury as it is a 5-day festival, it’s a marathon, not a sprint – pace yourself. I only got my voice back almost a week later!
At the risk of sounding like a complete alcoholic, it’s quite tempting to just get up in the morning and start drinking again. I do recall at one point on the first day saying I was happy to live off “cider and good vibes” although that was a short-lived notion.
Glastonbury is 24/7, so there’s always a party happening somewhere, but if you really want to make the most of the experience and not feel like absolute crap by Sunday, you need to pace yourself and at least try and keep healthy.
There are plenty of ways to stay healthy at a festival – the most important being to keep clean, try and get some sleep, eat properly and drink lots of water. You also need to keep yourself covered in the sun, dry in the rain and warm at night.
13. Don’t Take Anything Valuable
You’re probably going to be drinking at Glastonbury and so it’s easy to lose things (your friends, your wallet, your dignity) or drop them down the toilet (and you really don’t want to retrieve anything from down there – don’t be the person that fell head first down the long drop).
Generally, people are great with lost property and so many people get their lost items back, but not always.
You can leave stuff in your tent, but whilst most people are honest, they can always be opportunists about. It’s also muddy and rainy, so breaking or ruining your stuff also is quite probable!
The only thing I took of value was my camera, but put it into storage after the first day and just took pics on my phone. I really would have loved to have taken some incredible pictures of the festival, but I was too busy having an amazing time and scared I’d leave it somewhere or drop it.
14. Use the Compost Toilets – They Smell Better
The toilets at Glasto are legendary – for all the wrong reasons. Oh, the things I’ve seen…
The metal long drop toilets are much worse than any I’ve come across in my travels around the world. Some are fine, don’t get me wrong, but some are splattered with God knows what, the doors are quite small so you can see everyone’s feet and they are quite low so you can see over the top and they stink, especially by day 4 and 5.
However, for a nicer loo experience, use the compost toilets. They don’t really smell, they’re more private and just a lot cleaner than the regular long drops.
15. Go See Beans on Toast
Jay McAllister is a Glastonbury legend. He’s there every year and his songs are poignant, down to earth and funny. They comment on society and are often politically motivated. He gives a voice to a lot of people who don’t have a voice or at least struggle to make it heard.
His song Jamie and Lily made me cry! Go see him.
16. Take a Good Tent
Plenty of people take those tiny one-man pop up tents and that’s fine. But for me, having a good tent is important.
One with a porch, ample sleeping space (for you and your bags) and room to stand up in, is my preference. If it’s light and easy to put up and down – even better.
Check it to make sure it’s waterproof and there are no bits missing before you go.
17. Choose Your Campsite Well
We were really lucky this year because it only rained a couple of times and that was towards the end of the festival. However, if it does rain, the ground can quickly become muddy and the tents on the lower ground are the ones that will suffer the worst, so camping on higher ground might be a good idea.
We camped at South Park which was pretty good and as it was a bit away from the main part of the festival it meant that we didn’t have anyone falling or peeing on our tent.
Wherever you camp, you stay away from the walkways as they’re noisy and the long-drop toilets! They smell, for a start. But they are also used all night and the doors are metal, so they are creaky and they bang, so they’ll keep you awake.
But not too far, as you don’t want to have to trek too far in the morning or middle of the night.
18. Take a Power Pack or Solar Charger (or two)
You’re probably going to be using your phone a lot, to take photos, to locate your friends and to check the app/social media and there are very few places to charge your phone.
The site is massive too, so peeling away from your friends to charge your phone is a right pain in the ass. When I was there they had a half hour limit on charging too, so I think I only managed to get up to around 30% charge.
You’re there for a full 5 days, so you’ll need enough charge to last you. So I suggest taking a portable charger with good battery life, and a back up too!
It might also be worth taking an old back up phone for emergencies too.
19. Go See Some Bands You’ve Never Heard Of
Definitely go and see the bands you love. For me Foo Fighters was the absolute best thing ever! However, it’s always good to expose yourself to some new stuff too as seeing a band live can be a game changer.
Before this years’ Glastonbury, I wasn’t a massive fan of The xx, I’d heard of them but that was about it. But watching them live, I was mesmerised and I’d now say ‘Angels’ is up there in my top 10 songs.
20. Look Out for the ‘Secret Gigs’
So my mate Paul told me about this one…
On the last day, The Killers, who probably wrote THE best festival song of all time (Mr Brightside) did a secret gig at the John Peel stage.
In the programme this appeared as a TBA. The announcement on the @secretglasto twitter account simply said “A lot of questions being asked about the John Peel TBA slot at 17:30 today. Somebody told me who it is, but we are trying to verify….”
Ha ha, amazing! As I’m sure you know, The Killers also sing the song ‘Somebody Told Me’. Elbow were another secret gig.
So follow @secretglasto on Twitter and look out for clues.
21. Eat All the Food
The food at Glastonbury is amazing and I probably wouldn’t bother trying to take much of my own food next time… just a few protein bars or something for desperate times.
You can literally get anything you want! I had a mezze plate, poutine, cheesy chips, curry, kebab, salad, pulled pork, halloumi wrap… and it was all good!
The trick is to hang around for a few minutes and see what everyone else’s food looks like and then order!
The only thing I was disappointed by was the bacon butties. I didn’t eat one good one whilst I was there. Sad times. The bacon was really fatty, greasy and covered in the blackened remnants of the griddle. Shame on you bacon butty sellers.
22. Look After Your Feet
We walked around 30,000 steps per day at Glasto, so you need to make sure you look after your feet.
We were really lucky with the weather, so I was able to leave my wellies in the car. I just wore trainers on the first day and walking boots for the other days.
Make sure you wear in new boots before you go, take good socks and make sure you have a clean pair for every day. It may also be a good idea to take some blister plasters (just in case) and foot powder to make sure they stay dry and fresh!
23. Join Glasto Chat on Facebook
This is by far the best group I am part of on Facebook. It’s a real community. This is your tribe and they will keep you entertained, I promise you.
These are the folks who will get you excited, tell you everything you need to know and they are the only ones who understand how you feel when it’s all over.
24. Leave No Trace
When you leave, take all your crap with you. Despite the pleas from the organisers, people leave tents, gazebos (they tell you not to take these) chairs, rubbish… all kinds. It’s not on! Don’t be those people.
You will get shamed on Glasto Chat.
25. Have Something Else to Look Forward to When You Get Home
The Glasto comedown is horrible. I think I spent most of Tuesday listening to the music I’d heard and crying. You may think I’m weird, but once you’ve been, you’ll get it!
Knowing you have to wait ANOTHER year (and there’s no guarantee you’ll get a ticket for the next one) is literally the worst thing ever. Ok, I’m being dramatic, but just think about how we all felt in 2017 with a 2-year wait. Waaaaahhhhhhhhh!
After the last one, I had a holiday to Devon and then a 6 month stint in Africa to look forward to, so my Glastonbury blues were pretty short-lived. Had I had nothing to look forward to, I’d probably still be sobbing into my pillow.
Hey, you could always book onto one of my Africa tours… that’s one way to get over the Glasto Blues. 😉
Peace out Glastonbury. Keep the magic alive, keep it real, be imperfect, stand up for what you believe in, leave no trace, be kind, love everyone and always be you!
I hope you have an AMAZING Glasto! See you down on the farm you gorgeous bunch of weirdos!
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