In one short month, film buffs, tech geniuses, music fans, and panel lovers will all descend on Austin, Texas for 10 days of innovation and barbecue. Boasting an eclectic mix of speakers, shows, and performers, SXSW 2017 is poised to be the biggest year yet. Whether you’re a festival veteran or a SouthBy novice, here are the DOs and DON’Ts of surviving SXSW.
DO: make a schedule.
SXSW has over 9,000 events during the 10-day festival, and that isn’t including the hundreds of unofficial parties. Going in without a plan can leave you overwhelmed before the end of day one, and with a serious case of FOMO. Before you step foot in the city’s limits, make a list of who you want to see the most and mark it down. This way, you’ll have the who, where, and when of your must-sees and you won’t miss that show you’ve been dying to catch.
DON’T: force yourself to stick to said schedule.
Half the fun of a city-spanning festival is the sheer amount of interesting things to see in every nook and cranny of Austin. Passing a bar on the way to one of your scheduled events and hear a band that catches your attention? Step off the sidewalk and check it out, chances are you’re hearing an up-and-coming artist that you’ll brag about when they make it big in a few years. Embrace the chaos and don’t hold onto a schedule so tight that you forget to enjoy SXSW itself.
DO: check out a few legendary Austin eats.
It’s no secret that Austin loves food, and award-winning chefs have flocked to the capitol to get their share of the booming foodie scene. Fans of the Food Network know all about what the city has to offer, and while you may need to make a reservation or two, it’s well worth the wait for famed and delicious eats. If you haven’t spent enough time in lines during the actual festival, a few hours of waiting for Franklin’s Barbecue should do the trick—but no cutting! Not even the president can get away with that.
DON’T: be afraid of the cheaper (or free) option.
In Austin, accepting food from a truck isn’t the beginning of a bout of food poisoning, but rather a surefire sign that the fare won’t disappoint. Follow the locals’ advice and try out those tacos; you’ll thank them later. Looking for an even more budget friendly option? Many party hosts have figured out that free food attracts a crowd, so ask around and see where you can score that complimentary pizza you’ve been eyeing.
DO: get the SXSW app.
If your phone is flashing the “full storage” message on a daily basis, delete angry birds (it’s 2017!) and clear some space for the festival app. With updated lists of performers, scheduling capabilities, and recommendations tailored to the user, the SXSW app goes a long way in making a hectic week that much smoother.
DON’T: rely on the app only.
Yes, the app will keep you updated on all things SXSW, but half of the fun is a little harder to find. In the past, unofficial bashes and afterparties have given major performers an Austin stage and all you have to do to nab an invite is RSVP. Finding the party, however, is no easy task. Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms are used to blast out last minute party announcements, so keep your phone charged or risk missing the show of a lifetime.
DO: pack your comfortable shoes.
Between that panel in the conference center, the film screening downtown, and a concert on Rainey, you’ll be putting some serious mileage on your shoes. With that being said, choose wisely. Forgo fashion for comfort and stick to shoes that won’t give your blisters blisters by the end of day one. Save your festival trends for ACL in October—sneakers are the official footwear of SXSW.
DON’T: underestimate Texas weather.
Texas is hot, yes, but also unpredictable. Pack shorts for the legendary heat, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself in line for a ‘keep Austin weird’ sweatshirt when temps dip unexpectedly. Layers are key, so stock up on a few jackets before your trip. Most importantly, fortune favors the few who packed for rain. SXSW is a long festival, and the chances of at least one day of rain are more than likely. Pack rain boots, an umbrella, or at the very least a water-proof jacket.
DO: ask before getting in line.
Standing in line at SXSW is a right of passage, and it can often be your best opportunity to network. When you’re not making new friends, use time in line to check out what pop-up parties are on for the evening or update your followers with envy-inducing posts, but before logging on and zoning out, make sure the line you’re in is the right one. With the number of events happening at SXSW in the thousands, lines can become confusing, and overlaps or mix-ups are more common than you’d think. Don’t take your neighbor’s word for it; ask a SXSW volunteer if you’re in the line you’re looking for—they’ll point you in the right direction if not.
DON’T: drive. Ask any of the Austin locals what they hate about the city and you’ll find one answer at the top of everyone’s list: traffic. Gridlocks are par for the course and that’s on a regular day in Austin. Add in thousands of visitors and enough road closures to stretch a 10-minute commute into an hour and you have an idea of what SXSW does to the streets. Though the event spans the majority of the city, driving is often the lengthiest option, and with Uber and Lyft on exile from the greater Austin area, transportation options are slim. Bikes, public transit, and taxis are all available, but traveling by foot is your best—and cheapest!—bet. Luckily, Austin is an extremely walkable city, so lace up your comfortable shoes and hit the sidewalk.
DO: have a backup power source.
Your phone is vital for success at a festival, and between your schedule, party updates, and social media to share it all on, a dead battery can put the brakes on your SXSW plans. Finding a free outlet is akin to discovering the Holy Grail, and giving up the time it takes to charge your phone can be the difference between party attendance and “at capacity.” Consider investing in an external battery pack or a charging case to get you through the day. These options will give you double the power to text, tweet, find your favorite band, or take a photo with that actor you love.