- The Coachella Music & Arts Festival takes place over two weekends in April at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California.
- Coachella tickets cost $429 for general admission, but how much Coachella costs depends on what you want.
- I decided to go to Coachella for the first time this year.
- When I was given press passes to the festival, I thought it wouldn’t cost that much — but costs for airfare, a rental car, transportation, lodging, and food and drinks still add up to over $2,000.
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I’ll be honest: I never really thought I’d go to the Coachella Music & Arts Festival. Living in New York, I never thought it made much sense to ship out to Indio, California, for one of Coachella’s two weekends of music and fun, the first of which starts Friday.
This year, New York’s homegrown festival, Governors Ball, had a disappointing lineup, and Coachella’s East Coast edition, Panorama Music Festival, was not happening.
So when Business Insider asked me to cover the festival, I checked out the lineup. This year’s edition features Childish Gambino, Anderson Paak, Janelle Monae, and Tame Impala, some of my favorite artists.
After I scored some last-minute press passes, I was all in. Then I started calculating the budget.
Coachella is notorious for costing festivalgoers an arm and a leg. Tickets cost $429 for general admission for the weekend, and that’s just the beginning. Because Coachella is at the Empire Polo Club, two hours outside Los Angeles, you have to factor in transportation, parking, lodging, and more. Money’s Megan Leonhardt estimated the typical cost to be $2,347 in 2018.
I figured that was all hype. I’m a very frugal traveler and pride myself on saving as much as I can, but my budget for Coachella is already over $2,000, and I didn’t even pay for a ticket.
Here’s how that breaks down.
After scouring Kayak, Priceline, and every other travel aggregator for a week, I found an Alaska Airlines airfare sale that netted me a nonstop round-trip flight from New York to Los Angeles for $339.
The only catch: I would have to fly in on the Wednesday before the festival and out later, meaning I’d have to figure out extended lodging. Tickets flying in and out closer to the festival were double the cost.
Rental car: $464
With a couple of days in Los Angeles before and after the festival, I decided to book a rental car rather than pay $150 for the Coachella shuttle between Los Angeles International Airport and Indio.
I settled on a reputable budget option from Avis: a Ford Fiesta. I paid only for liability insurance, as my Chase Sapphire Reserve has rental-car insurance. It still came out to $464. Yeesh.
Lodging is the most expensive part of Coachella. As I was coming from New York, I didn’t want to deal with buying or bringing camping gear, so car camping was not an option — and because I was booking at the last minute, the pickings on Airbnb were expensive and very slim. I decided to look at hotels, but even budget ones like Holiday Inn Express or Motel 6 were charging $350 or more a night.
After searching Hotel Tonight and other last-minute-deals sites for a week, I found a room at a boutique hotel called the Hideaway Hotel in Palm Springs for $379 a night. I booked it for three nights. The hotel costs closer to $200 a night if you book a stay outside of Coachella weekend.
A friend in Burbank agreed to let me crash in her home office for the nights before and after Coachella, saving me more than a few bucks there.