May 19, 2024


Travel ideas

I went to Coachella for the first time with a general-admission wristband and quickly realized I made a mistake by not splurging on VIP tickets


Author standing in front of Coachella vista

The writer at Coachella.Jensen Rubinstein

  • I attended Coachella for the first time this year.

  • It wasn’t the easiest festival to get to, but guest appearances and production value were worth it.

  • I plan to go back but will splurge on VIP tickets next time to make the experience more enjoyable.

The author standing in front of the ferris wheel at Coachella

The author in front of the Coachella Ferris wheel.Jensen Rubinstein

I bought a travel package through Coachella, which included lodging and a shuttle to and from the venue.

The Coachella hotel shuttles drive into a shuttles-only parking lot near the entrance to the venue

Arriving at the shuttle drop-off at Coachella.Jensen Rubinstein

My sister and I bought a hotel package through Coachella that included a shuttle to and from the venue. The included transportation was a huge motivation for going, as how to get to the festival grounds can be one of the biggest pain points of the event.

Related video: How Billie Eilish incorporates ASMR into her music

The hotel was in Palm Desert, about a 30-minute drive to Indio, California, where the festival took place. Taking an official shuttle also meant we were able to avoid additional car traffic by being dropped off in a shuttles-only parking lot.

Entering the festival grounds was quick and easy.

Crowds walking into Coachella

Crowds walking from the shuttle drop-off area to the venue entrance.Jensen Rubinstein

Entering the festival after drop-off was surprisingly easy despite the crowds. We were quickly waved through metal detectors and scanned into the venue, without really having to stop and wait.

Each day, we entered the festival in the late afternoon, which probably helped us get in even easier. I found the crowds grew a lot toward the end of the day when more of the well-known musicians were about to perform.

Fences separated hotel shuttles in the drop-off area at Coachella, helping to organize the shuttle lines for pickup at the end of the night.

The fences separating hotel shuttles in the drop-off area at Coachella

Each shuttle line had its own holding area for drop-off and pickup.Jensen Rubinstein

Though the shuttles weren’t always perfect, they felt more dependable than the Uber line, whose wait could top 1 1/2 hours with surging prices.

The first night, I waited for the shuttle for about 20 minutes. The biggest problem I experienced with shuttles was at the end of the night. To be one of the first groups back to the hotels, I had to leave Billie Eilish’s and The Weeknd’s performances a few songs before they were over. While it wasn’t ideal to miss a headliner’s full set, it seemed necessary to ensure I could get back to the hotel by 2 a.m.

We went to Coachella each day on a full stomach because the food was expensive inside the venue.

The author and her sister riding on the shuttle with a Clif bar

The author and her sister on the shuttle to Coachella.Jensen Rubinstein

Inside the venue, food like burgers, wraps, and rice bowls was available and cost upward of $16. Our hotel offered a complimentary breakfast, so we filled up on that in the mornings and snacked on Clif bars during the 40-minute shuttle ride.

Because the weather was so hot, we drank a lot of water throughout the day and were able to keep it to buying only one meal inside the venue.

The surprise guest appearances were my favorite part of the weekend.

Shania Twain performing on stage during Harry Styles' Coachella set

Shania Twain performed during Harry Styles’ Friday-night set.Jensen Rubinstein

The guest appearances were easily the best and most exciting part of the weekend. I never knew who would pop up at a performance, and a lot of times guests performed songs of their own.

When I saw Harry Styles on Friday night, Shania Twain took the stage and together with him performed “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” and “You’re Still the One.” The feeling of the crowd was electric in those first few beats because none of us knew whether Styles was playing a cover or whether Twain would actually appear.

Other surprises included Billie Eilish bringing out Damon Albarn from Gorillaz, and Khalid and Flume bringing out singers including Tove Lo, Beck, Kai, and Caroline Polachek.

Getting a good view was surprisingly easy.

View of the Coachella Stage and surrounding area

A view of Harry Styles’ set.Jensen Rubinstein

We arrived at the Coachella Stage for Harry Styles’ Friday-night set about 30 minutes early. There was already a big crowd, but people weren’t too packed in, and it was easy to maneuver and find a spot we liked.

I was surprised by the production’s high quality.

Maggie Rogers performing on stage at Coachella

Maggie Rogers during her set on the Coachella Stage.Jensen Rubinstein

Most of the performers used the stage’s screens to show visuals of their performance. I thought this made it even less necessary to get to any show too early because, with the speakers and screens, I could still see what was going on.

It felt as if I were watching elaborate music videos, and everything looked top-quality: the stages, cameras, and effects.

We were in the fourth row for Karol G.

Karol G and dancers perform on the Coachella Stage on Sunday afternoon

Karol G on the Coachella Stage on Sunday afternoon.Jensen Rubinstein

Many people would arrive hours early for sets scheduled later in the day. This resulted in people standing in the front of the crowd who were not necessarily there to see the artist who was currently performing.

I noticed people got to the barricades for Harry Styles first thing in the morning, and I also saw this during the Karol G performance as people tried to push forward for the next performance, Doja Cat.

Billie Eilish used a crane to travel deeper into the crowd for a few songs during her performance.

Billie Eilish performing on a raised crane during her Saturday-night set over the crowd

Eilish performed on a raised crane during her Saturday-night set.Jensen Rubinstein

While I thought it was possible to have a good view from almost anywhere in the crowd, Billie Eilish made it even easier for people to see her. She used a crane to come out into the middle of the crowd toward the end of her set.

Bands typically played simultaneously on all seven stages, so I missed some sets I was interested in seeing.

Crowds of people walking around with a stage in the background at Coachella

People walking around during a performance at Coachella.Jensen Rubinstein

I was surprised by how much overlap there was between bands I wanted to see. It was disappointing to not be able to watch full sets scheduled at the same times, but, thankfully, the stages were located close together, so I never felt as if I was missing that much when walking from one to another.

The weather changes in Indio seemed extreme.

People sitting in the shade of a sign

People sat in the shade of a sign.Jensen Rubinstein

The weather in Indio went from one extreme to the next. The temperature Sunday topped 92 degrees Fahrenheit during the day but then dropped to 70 F at night.

During the hottest part of the day, I saw people seeking shade anywhere possible, whether by one of the art exhibits or under the small cover of a sign.

Some stages were covered, offering much-needed shade.

Caroline Polachek performing on stage in a covered venue at Coachella

Most of the stages had roofs over them.Jensen Rubinstein

I was happy to find most of the stages actually did have coverings. The only two that were in direct light were the Coachella Stage and the Outdoor Stage, which were beside each other.

At night, the temperatures dipped and it became gusty.

The author with a bandana tied around the lower half of her face an sunglasses in the crowd at the Coachella Stage

I used bandanas when it got windy at night to protect my face.Jensen Rubinstein

While the days were hot, the temperature dropped drastically at night and it got quite windy. Many people either carried jackets with them throughout the day or rented lockers to keep extra clothes.

I ended up buying a sweatshirt Saturday to use at night, and because it was so windy I wore a bandana and sunglasses to try to keep the dust out of my eyes.

The walk back to the shuttles at the end of the night was especially dusty, and I felt congested for days afterward.

While I had a fun weekend, next time I’m getting VIP tickets for the added perks.

Map of Coachella 2022 venue set up with arrows pointing to the two VIP sections

There are two VIP lounges at Coachella, with one overlooking the main Coachella StageCoachella

I bought general-admission tickets for the weekend, which cost $449 + fees for tier one.

I assumed VIP tickets, which cost $929 + fees, wouldn’t be worth the extra dollars, but in the future, I would shell out for VIP tickets.

The main reason is that there’s a VIP section overlooking the main Coachella Stage where the headliners perform. I was surprised by the toll the music festival took on my body. It was tiring to stand for hours on end in the crowds, and the VIP area included tables and chairs that weren’t common elsewhere. This would’ve offered some much-needed rest.

Weighing the pros and cons, I would go back again.

The author and her sister standing on a platform with the vista of Coachella in the background

Me and Jaidan in front of the Coachella vista.Jensen Rubinstein

As with any big event, there were a lot of moving parts to get to Coachella, especially since it takes place in a desert — not a populated city — but I would 100% go again.

Being able to see so many incredible shows in just one weekend, not to mention all the surprise performances, as well as an admission that included hotel and shuttle transportation, will keep me excited for future Coachella weekends — so long as I have a VIP seat.

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