Top 5 Tips For Driving To Festivals

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The UK festival season starts in March and with it comes thousands of music-loving drivers. That’s right, not everyone wants to be jam-packed into a shuttle bus or coach with a load of hungover strangers.

With overnight/day car parking available at most major festivals, plus the option of camping if you’re in a campervan or motorhome, it’s important to know what you’re doing, should you choose to get there your own way.

Read our top 5 tips for driving to festivals to make it a memorable (and safe) 2020 season!

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1. Make the essential checks to your car

Unless the festival is on your doorstep in your nearest town, the journey there and back is likely to be long. And with every lengthy drive, you should perform the essential checks to your vehicle before you set off. Doing so can save you an unexpected repair bill (should the checks not be made) and ensure you get to the festival safely and on time.

Here are all the inspections we recommend you do. Each one only takes a few minutes, and some of them can even be done en route.

1. Tyre pressure

Close up of man crouching on the gas station and inflating tire.

Having the correct tyre pressure will mean that you can brake efficiently, grip the road safely and even save on fuel.

Some modern vehicles have tyre pressure monitoring systems which tell you if they need topping up with air. However, if your car is a little bit older or doesn’t have this feature as standard, you should be able to find what the right level of pressure (known as ‘PSI’, or ‘Pounds per Square inch’) is for your car on a sticker on the driver-side pillar. If you open the door from the outside, you should be able to see this information on the part of the vehicle where the door and pillar meet.

Remember: there will be recommendations for correct pressure levels when you’re carrying multiple passengers and luggage or driving alone. If you’re driving others to the festival and have tents, beverages and other luggage, make sure you choose the right pressure.

2. Windscreen wiper fluid

Filling the Windshield Washer Fluid

You don’t need us to tell you that driving with a dirty windscreen is dangerous, especially if it’s obscuring the driver’s view of the road ahead.

Making sure your windscreen washer reservoir is adequately filled will mean that you can handle them muddy festival fields.

You can get suitable washer fluid easily online or at shops such as Halfords. To locate the reservoir, open the bonnet and look for a cap with a thin dotted line running through a windscreen-shaped icon. There should be a min/max indicator on the side which you should aim to fill up to somewhere just between the two markers.

3. Oil level

Oil level check in a car engine

Engine oil is vital for keeping the engine running smoothly and efficiently by keeping it lubricated. Insufficient oil can lead to the unit overheating and potentially causing irreversible damage. Alternatively, too much oil can cause massive fluctuations in pressure levels of this part of the car and may even bend the rods or collapse the valve pipes. You definitely won’t be making the festival if this happens!

The good news is that it doesn’t take a great deal of effort or time to check and top up the oil, if needed.

Simply open the bonnet and you’ll find a brightly coloured dipstick protruding from the container entry. You can remove this dipstick by twisting it to loosen it up and remove it. There will be two markers on there which indicate the minimum and maximum points for where the oil should be. Using a rag or cloth, wipe the dipstick clean and place it back in the reservoir. Remove it and check where the oil comes up to. If it’s too low, slowly add more oil into the car, making sure that it’s the right one for your model. If there’s too much oil, you’ll need to drain some out from the plug underneath the car, before re-checking the level again to ensure you have the right amount.

4. Fuel

Pretty young woman refuel the car

This one goes without saying, but it can easily be underestimated in an eager attempt to find a good parking space at the festival.

We recommend that you work out the distance of your first leg of the journey using a smartphone device’s navigation. For example Google Maps, which now shows you any delays you may encounter on the way and factors this into your travelling time. It will also recommend the fastest route and allows you to add in stops for fuel/supplies.

Before setting off, ensure you have a good amount of fuel in relation to how far you have to drive. You should have an idea about how quickly your vehicle goes through fuel, so use this as an indication as to when you need to factor in a pit stop to fill up.

The last thing you want to happen is to run out of fuel mid-journey and come to a halt. Not only will you have to wait for breakdown recovery to come out to you and top up your car (which can be rather embarrassing) but you could also cause some damage to the vehicle by overheating the pump.

2. Pre-book parking

Southsea Common during the Victorious festival

Major UK festivals such as Glastonbury, Leeds and Reading festival will require you to book parking in advance in order to guarantee you get a space.

Depending on the event, a fee of around £25-£45 will usually be charged at the time of paying for the ticket. It’s very unlikely that you’ll get a space at all if you leave it until the day, so be sure to check what the process is for your chosen festival.

YourParkingSpace is a company which lets you book priority parking that can save you queuing hours for standard allocation. They published an article with useful information about prices and how to book a spot for most festivals in the UK.

3. Ensure you have access to directions

Even if you plan to use GPS navigation to get to your festival, we recommend that you have a physical copy of directions. This way if you hit a bad spot for connectivity, or your phone dies, you still have a backup to get there in ample time.

Official websites for festivals should have a section which lists detailed directions of how to get there by car. There may also be handy advice for drivers about what to do when you arrive, leave and other useful information. You can easily print these pages using your browser’s settings

Using Glastonbury as an example again, here’s what their ‘by car’ page looks like.

Remember: if you’re carrying passengers, let them navigate so you can focus on driving. Otherwise, invest in a phone mount (which don’t cost too much) that can be displayed somewhere where you can see it without diverting your attention.

4. Choose the right car for the job

Even if you’re not ‘glamping’ in a VW California camper on a designated campsite, you’ll still need to consider the practicality and functionality of your vehicle.

Carrying several passengers?

Tents, sleeping bags, roll mats/mattresses and pillows (ultimately yours and your companions’ entire accommodation) can take up a lot of room. On top of this, you’ll need toiletries, some food and drinks to get by on (festival food and drink can be expensive on its own) and everybody’s clothes for the weekend.

This soon adds up and can be a struggle if you’ve not got a decently-sized boot. By this, we mean at least 350-400 litres for four people and belongings.

The good news is that you won’t need a massive SUV to achieve these numbers, as most family-sized hatchbacks will offer a sizeable cargo. For example, the Renault Megane, Volkswagen Golf and Honda Civic offer over 380 litres in the new guises.

Of course, we wouldn’t recommend going out and buying one of these vehicles just to accommodate for you and your friends while you ferry them to a festival. There are much more affordable alternatives if your car doesn’t quite have the space in the boot, such as adding a roof box, should your model support roof rails.


Red and white colored modern Volkswagen Multivan California Ocean (Transporter T6). Parked on the camping field. Back side left view

Volkswagen is renowned for creating top-notch campers that are perfect for achieving comfort and a ‘home from home’ feeling at festivals. For example, the California and Caravelle are modelled on the original Transporter range. With seven seats in the former and four seats in the latter (more camper comforts are favoured over seating), you’ll still be able to fit a decent amount of people in these two. A further two spaces can be added in the Caravelle when you look at models higher than the entry-level Beach.

Both can be re-arranged to convert the seats in the back into a large double bed. On the fully-fledged California, there’s an additional bed in the roof which sleeps another two people.

If that wasn’t enough, a refrigerator and foldaway kitchen with sink and stove is standard on the stock model for the California. Alternatively, you can upgrade the Caravelle to include these.

If you want, there are hire options available for campervans and caravans, should you only need it for 1-3 days to get you to and from a festival.

Remember: if you are deciding to camp at a festival, you will need to purchase this as the same time as your ticket. Some events might include this in the cost, but be sure to check this well in advance to avoid disappointment.

5. Set off the night before

Thousands of people will likely be driving to each festival and the likelihood is that they’ll have the same idea of leaving early on the day it all starts.

However, it’s worthwhile making hay while the sun shines (or not in this case) and travelling there the night before. Of course, this is if the organisers have said that parking is available at this time. The chances are that they will open it up 9pm the night before, giving festival-goers the opportunity to travel when traffic is low and reduce the influx the morning of the first day.

It’s worth doing this if your work schedule and any of your passengers’ routine allows for it. Not only will driving be less stressful (and therefore less dangerous) but you increase your chances of getting a good parking space for easy access to and from the festival. Finally, you’ll also be able to make the most of your experience by being ‘on patch’ from the beginning. Winner!

Remember: facilities are usually limited if you arrive the night before, with access to toilets and little more. So, be sure to stock up with enough supplies to get you through the night!

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