ACL Survival Guide: Packing list, what to wear, how to get there, and more


Festival-goers walk across the grounds during ACL Weekend One. Photo by Willa Smith.

Ally Wait and Willa Smith


It is vital for survival at Austin City Limits to bring the necessary items. Or else, by the end of the day you will be exhausted, dehydrated, starving, and the worst: your phone will be dead. This is a time to be alive! To take advantage of this time, bring:

  1. Essentials: Chapstick, tampons/pads, bobby pins/ ponytail holders, bandaids, money, and a hat. You never know when you will need these items, but when you do need them, you NEED them. Always have them just in case. Be prepared for anything.
  2. Empty water bottle- The worst situation at ACL is waiting for HOURS to get a good spot for a band/artist you love, and then you can barely enjoy the show, because you are dehydrated or have to go pee really badly. People do pass out from these things. It is important to bring a water bottle and stay hydrated in the long hours under the hot Texas sun. They have water bottle filling stations, so it is best to bring it empty.
  3. Portable phone charger- There are phone charging booths at the park, but they are a pain. If you have a portable charger for your phone, bring it. You will want to record artists and contact people throughout the day, and losing the ability to do so when a phone dies is a risky situation. A cheap portable charger can be found for around five dollars at Five Below (there is one in Mueller).
  4. Sunscreen- Another protocol of being under the Texas sun all day. No matter how cloudy it is, sunscreen must be worn, or else you will be suffering for the days to follow.
  5. Snacks- Food can get pricey and it takes forever to get, with crazy-long lines. Snacks are not allowed, but they are easy to hide with a sweater in your bag: Do this. You will thank yourself later. Some other hiding places include the pockets of lawn chair bags, hidden pockets, inside empty water bottles, et cetera.


Light and comfortable are key to a happy ACL experience. No matter how “nice” the weather is (for Austin) during ACL weekend, by the end of the day you WILL be sweating. Shorts and a tank top/short sleeved shirt or a jumper are the way to go. Bring a light sweater, which has many purposes: To sit on during small relaxed performances or while waiting hours ahead of time for a show, to wrap around food to hide inside your bag, and to protect against rare cold weather and rain (light waterproof jackets are also good). Closed toed shoes are suggested!


Everyone arrives later than they planned at shows they were looking forward to. Even though you may care a LOT about a certain band or artist, remember everyone in front of you probably cares just as much or more. Do not be annoying and pushy and act like you are the only one who likes that band. If you are meeting friends or it is really important to you to get up close, remember to be polite. Find a path and spaces that seem already open, and always say, “excuse me,” and, “sorry.” Watch out for people sitting on the ground. You might step or spill things on them. When travelling with friends or a group, be careful to stay together, periodically checking to make sure you still have everyone. Do not link arms or hold onto each other in any way. It is irritating for others at the show, and makes getting through smaller paths harder.


ALWAYS have a place you will meet up with your group if people get lost and phone service is not working (which happens frequently). Pick somewhere familiar and specific; Not the big white balloon that says “Austin City Limits.” That may be a good meeting spot for your group, but it is also a good meeting spot for everyone else attending the festival. Chances are, you won’t be able to find anyone there. Have a system such as: “If we do not see each other for a consecutive thirty minutes, meet outside of the VIP entrance fence of the Austin Ventures stage.”


This year ACL is encouraging festival goers to use UBER, the transportation service, by handing out UBER cards with a small amount of money on them. UBER is a great resource, though it does cost money. One method of transportation is to park a few miles away from Zilker park in a parking garage, and then to cycle to the festival. If you can navigate the Austin city buses, that is recommended. At the end of the day try to leave about half an hour or so before the headliner finishes, because once they are finished, it’s a nightmare to get out. This of course is depending on how tolerant you are to that kind of scene and how much you care about the headliner.


The most important thing is to have fun. Dance and sing as loud as you want. Try out some new artists! WALK THE MOON came to ACL before they were big, so you never know who’ll be the next big thing. Make sure you get enough sleep – the worst thing is being so tired you can barely make it through the day.

So go forth and listen to great music – and don’t forget to tweet your photos and videos with the hashtag #ARSACL and The Polaris Press will retweet them!