The Ultimate Concert Travel Survival Guide
Whether you're basically a groupie or a first-time gig-tripper, here's what you need to know.
In 2022, I flew from New York to Miami with two friends to see the final concert of Bad Bunny's El Último Tour Del Mundo tour. He was performing three nights a row in the city, and even though he had dates at the much-nearer Barclays Center, we wanted the experience of seeing him perform live in Miami. We made a whole weekend of it; with a carefully crafted budget and a thorough itinerary crafted in an Excel sheet. We spent the weekend sipping mojitos on the beach and eating Peruvian ceviche. By Sunday night, we entered the concert perfectly sated with great tans.
It was a perfect weekend. One that wouldn't have been possible without some preparation beforehand. That Excel sheet was our guiding light as we encountered unexpected snags, like the Airbnb reservation we had lined up weeks before disappearing just days ahead of our arrival. Including a concert in your trip—or planning a trip around a concert entirely—means you don't have the flexibility of changing the weekend you're going to be traveling. Bad Bunny may have been performing for three nights in Miami, but he'd be gone by Monday.
If you've never done a concert trip before, the logistics can be overwhelming. Not only do you have to do the gymnastics of actually securing the concert tickets, which can be a challenge even when you aren't traveling, but you also have to secure the details on transit, hotels, activities beyond the concert, and have to figure out how to fit your concert outfit into your luggage. But these logistical challenges aren't slowing anyone down. According to TripIt data shared with Thrillist, more than 56% of Americans plan on taking a trip for a music event in the near future. Whether that's overseas to see the second leg of Taylor Swift's Eras tour, or across the country to see Bad Bunny or Olivia Rodrigo, there's an art to gig tripping.
So, what do you need to know about planning a trip around a concert that differs from planning a music-free trip? Let's get into it.
Book your concert tickets first.
Traditional travel wisdom typically suggests that in order to save money, you want to book your flights based on the cheapest ticket prices, and then build out the rest of your trip from there. But with a fixed date like a concert, there's limited flexibility. So you'll want to get started with securing your concert tickets.
After you book your concert tickets, you should also make sure you're booking your flights and hotels well in advance. A recent study from CheapAir.com found that the best time to book flights to save the most money is 42 days in advance. You can also book a bit earlier if you prefer—Going's expert advice is to book about three months in advance on average.
For hotel accommodations, booking as soon as possible is the way to go. This is especially true if you're going to a major stadium show. Data shared with Thrillist from the Mastercard Economics Institute showed that during Taylor Swift's Eras tour of the US last year, the accommodations spending growth average rose by 47% in the immediate vicinity and 32.1% for the 10-mile radius of the venue when Swift was passing through town. That means the supply for hotel rooms and vacation homes is going to dwindle as the concert date gets closer. While not every touring artist is whipping up the same level of fan fervor as Taylor Swift or Beyoncé, getting a fair price and decent accommodation will be easier if you book earlier.
Don't arrive on the day of the concert.
As you plan out your travel, try not to make your arrival day the day of the concerts, especially if you're traveling a longer distance. Frequent traveler and concert attendee and Delta Air Lines employee Paul Anderson advises to give yourself at least a day in the destination before the show. "You want to allow yourself time to adjust to the different time zones and be well rested for a full day of concert-going," Anderson said.
Arriving a day before the concert also allows cushion times if you encounter delays. Whether you're traveling via plane, train, or car, there are plenty of ways delays can fall into your path. Having that extra day means you won't be racing against time if something does go awry.
You can also plan on visiting the venue and the area the concert will be (or at least scope it out on Google Maps) in ahead of time, so you can get a feel for where you'll be arriving and exiting, and how you will be able to get back to your accommodation. One popular tip on Reddit is to book your hotel within walking distance of the venue. If that's not possible, make sure to think about and plan for how you'll get to the venue—can you call an Uber or taxi? What time does the public transportation stop running? Figure out a plan so you're not standing on tired legs stranded in a city you don't know at the end of the night.
Plan for your concert and your trip.
The most repeated advice in the r/Travel subreddit thread for “Is it worth it to travel to go to a concert?” is that when you're traveling for a concert, you should still plan the rest of your trip like a vacation.
"I have traveled from the US to Europe for several concerts. Think of it like planning a vacation to a city with a lot to do," one Redditor wrote. "And one night you just happen to go to a concert. Build the trip around that night and it can absolutely be worthwhile."
This means getting a bit of research done on your destination—what's there to do, where will you eat, etc. The concert may be the focal point, but don't neglect the rest of the details. You can also be realistic about how much energy you're going to have—if the concert is going to be a full night of dancing and screaming your throat raw, the itinerary surrounding the show can be more relaxed.
Pack for a concert and a vacation.
When you're preparing to attend a concert, you have a little checklist to run through that includes finding out what kind of bag the venue allows and determining if you should wear your stylish shoes or your comfortable shoes. None of that goes away when you are traveling to a concert—you'll just need to fit the contents of that list into your luggage.
Make sure you have a venue-appropriate bag (these are often limited by size or are required to be clear), go for the comfortable shoes, and make sure any portable battery you pick is also allowed in the venue, as some venues have size restrictions on these. Then, make sure you pack your battery in your carry-on, not your checked luggage, in accordance with TSA rules.
Packing and planning out your concert outfit first will also allow you to be smarter about how much luggage real estate you have for the rest of your stuff. Don't underestimate the amount of room a cowboy hat takes up, for example. "Have your outfit planned and packed ahead of time," Anderson advises. "If possible, plan pieces that can be repurposed on your trip, so you are not using a fully checked bag on your concert attire."
Pack your concert essentials first, then go about adding the rest of your packing list into your luggage.
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