Surviving SXSW: Eleven Tips For Austin’s Music Wonderland

Important things to keep in mind during the best musical week of the year.

Johnny Firecloudby Johnny Firecloud

SXSW is finally upon us! Austin’s annual music, film and interactive festival is a marathon of incredible multimedia experiences, with tens of thousands of revelers descending on the beautiful Texas town to attend an overwhelming array of live music, panels, special events and presentations. We're even jumping into the mix and putting on our own CraveOnline music showcase on March 13! (Details here)

The experience can be a mind-melter, and not only because there's such an overload of fun to be had (over 1900 bands have registered to play this year). The sun will be blazing and the resources will be pricy, so we've put together a SXSW Music Survival Guide to ensure your survival during this most awesome of musical adventures.

Surviving SXSW: Eleven Tips For Austin’s Music Wonderland

Carrying Bag – Whether it's a backpack or a bag you can strap across a shoulder, you're going to need something to carry your essentials around in. Make sure it's something that won't require you to hold it at all times, and can close securely. The last thing you want to do is put your most precious possessions for the week in the outer zipper of a bookbag that anyone can open and grab from.

I.D. – The importance of I.D. cannot be overstated. Just about every event will need valid identification, and even with a wristband you're going to get carded.

Comfortable Shoes – The last thing you want to do before SXSW is buy a new pair of shoes. Ladies, leave the heels at home. For all the walking you'll be doing (and there will be a lot of it), it's important to sport the kicks that give you the most amount of comfort. Because once those blisters set in, your focus for the rest of the week will be nursing your wounded feet. 

Cash – Most vendors only accept cash, and those ATM fees are outrageous. Besides, do you really want to be that guy holding up the line while you're waiting for authorization? Plan ahead! You'll need some paper currency around town, whether for food, band merch or cab money. Be careful where and how you keep it, however – you don't want to find yourself rummaging through a handful of crumpled bills when it's time to pay up, especially around thousands of strangers.

RSVP! – There are *tons* of freebies to be found if you know where to look and plan ahead. Many day parties will be offering free food and drink, and if you play your cards right you can save some real cash. Some savvy types have been known to plan their schedules entirely around all the free goods to be found at SXSW!

Smartphone – With the overload of SXSW apps and hashtag frenzies in full bloom, the interactive updates are essential when making the rounds in Austin on this most amazing of musical weeks. Even if you know the streets of Austin like the back of your fake Ray-Bans, you'll still need a way to get all the real-time updates, lineup changes and not-so-secret happenings around town as they come together. 

Chargers! – Your battery is going to deplete faster than you can say, "But I wasn't done Instagraming that pic of Karen O and Wayne Coyne making out!" Looking up maps, venue locations and directions will shorten your phone battery's lifespan in ridiculous ways, so keep your charger on you, with a backup in the hotel room. There will be charging stations for mobile devices set up in various locations. Use them as often as you can – you don't know when you'll get another chance.

Sunblock – You'll be spending a whole lot of time outside, and the last thing you need is a sunburn as you spend the week squashing up against thousands of other festival revelers. Clouds be damned – it's Texas, you're going to be hot all week, so save yourself the pain and unsightly lobster peel by lathering on some sunblock.

Vitamins – Notice how that doesn't say "Energy Drinks"? That's because no matter what they tell you in the ads, almost all energy drinks do more harm than good by way of excess sugar and minimal vitamin content. Bring along some multivitamins and Advil/Tylenol, as well as some Emergen-C packets to stock up on the vitamin C, to keep your body working right. 

Water! – There's no overstating the importance of staying hydrated, especially given that you'll be in the sweltering heat for several hours a day. With all the cheap/free alcohol flowing like a river through Austin during SXSW, it's important to keep a hydration balance with plenty of water. Buy a big bottle at the grocery store and refill it where you can – sure beats spending $4-$5 a bottle from the vendors in town.

Don't Overdo It – You're going to burn more calories than you're probably used to, and sweating more than you'll want to. Sure, you've been planning to see Reignwolf and Eagles of Death Metal since you first bought the plane tickets to Austin, but if you haven't had anything to eat since the 10am free tacos and the last drink you had was the round of tequila shooters up the street, cramming into a venue at triple capacity for the show could bring your adventure to a screeching halt. Know your limits, and be prepared to sit a couple events out for the sake of making it through the week.