Let’s face it, once we hit our forties we’ve grown out of our willingness to be uncomfortable. We’re more fixed in our ways and often have higher standards than we did in our twenties. Coachella, an annual music festival held in the middle of the Coachella Valley is a bucket-list-worthy experience, yet with scorching afternoon temperatures and evenings that drastically cool down, huge crowds, and an inhumane amount of walking required to get around, the desert music mecca tends to attract younger crowds who don’t kvetch when removed from their comfort zones. Despite these obstacles, yes, even those in their forties still may want to dance the day away in outfits that allow them to artistically express themselves without facing the judgment of others. Perhaps Burning Man is too much of an undertaking – the elements are harsher, survival skills are crucial, and discomfort is taken to the next level. Coachella, on the other hand, is more manageable, requires less planning, and is exponentially more cost-effective, while delivering an almost equal amount of desert wonder on a much, much smaller scale. Below are my tips on how to enjoy this world-famous festival with ease and pure bliss.

Pack well.

Dress light during the day and pack a layer for the evening when the temperatures drop. Wear your most comfortable shoes.

Sunscreen and lip balm are essential packing items.

Take empty plastic water bottles (metal ones are not permitted) – there are filtered water stations throughout the venue, and staying hydrated is mandatory.

Bring your ID. Once you pass security, there is an “ID Check” station where those who plan to drink alcohol attain a required wristband.

You’ll want your phone for photos and to access the Coachella app which is full of useful information. Side note: I lost my phone on the first day and it was miraculously delivered to lost and found and returned to me in less than twenty-four hours. Most people are good, I’ve regained my faith in humanity.

Leave your cash at home, this is a cashless world.

Although a hat makes sense to ward off the sun and keep those wrinkles at bay, mine became a nuisance when the evening wind kicked in. I recommend not wearing one and lathering up with a great facial sunscreen instead.

This is all you really need. Everything else might become a burden.

Book a luxury hotel as a home base. You’ll love walking into a gorgeous property after spending a sweaty day in the sun. Showering with high-end products and slipping on a lush robe is the ultimate way to decompress after a full day of stimulation. We chose The Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage as our unwinding destination. The staff is well-equipped for the Coachella crowd welcoming guests with essential kits filled with sunglasses, a bandana, lip balm, sunscreen, face wipes, and candy. They even have food stations set up in the lobby until 2:00 am to greet hungry festival goers as soon as they hand their cars to valet. On night one I downed a portabello burger at 12:30 am, on night two I shoved mahi mahi tacos down my mouth faster than I could say “fish tacos” – you’ll burn more calories than you can count dancing and walking and you’ll find yourself hungrier than a teenage boy. Waking up to a delicious breakfast and recovering at the quiet adult pool with a skinny margarita will help rejuvenate you for the fun ahead. Now that I’m in my forties the last thing I want to do is recover from partying at a pool party. Seriously, this is money well spent. Splurge on a luxe hotel, because you’re in your forties and sleeping in a parking lot tent is probably as unappealing to you as eating frozen chicken nuggets for dinner.

Spend more on a VIP pass and preferred parking pass. I know, spend, spend, spend. Yes, these things add up but unless you’re the kind of forty-year-old who doesn’t mind relieving yourself in nasty porta potties that will make your sunglasses fog in under one second while you struggle to hold your breath, I say spend the extra money so that you can pee in a civilized manner- in an airconditioned facility with running water to wash your hands. You’ll hopefully be staying very hydrated in the heat and will be making an unusual amount of bathroom runs; At this stage in life, I’ll pay any amount of money for a clean bathroom. In addition, the VIP pass gives you access to my favorite part of Coachella: The Rose Garden. This small haven is the perfect escape from the heat and crowds, when you need a moment to regroup amongst rose gardens, hit bars with no lines, and grab a bite to eat in a calm environment. Oh- and this is where you’ll find the best bathrooms too. Regular passes sell between $499-$599 and VIP passes go for $1069-$1269. Clean bathrooms and a line-free entrance into the festival make this a no-brainer if you can afford the price tag.

Keep note of where you parked. Yes, the festival is extremely well organized, except when it comes to parking. There are general parking zones but they are so vast that simply knowing which zone you’re in will never lead you to your car. During our first visit to Coachella in 2022 it took us over an hour to find our car. This time, we took meticulous notes counting cones and lanes to get us back to our vehicle. You won’t see the twenty-year-olds using this method. Instead, they pin their car location on Google Maps. I silently smirk at their tech-savvy ways, because with age comes wisdom, and we learned the hard way that this is an insufficient method. Go old school and take notes or get a Tesla.

Wear comfortable shoes. My only major complaint about Coachella is how spread out the stages are from one another and how much walking is required to get around. Our friend logged twenty-four miles over nine hours. No wonder my feet hurt so much at the end of the day! Considering that most of the ground is filled with neatly trimmed grass, I was surprised not to find one single barefooted soul. The festival should add one more VIP area to the property to save VIP party-goers the time it takes to schlep to the Rose Garden every time they choose to pee with dignity (ok, I sound like a spoiled brat, but as you get older your bladder isn’t as reliable as it used to be). Regardless, wear your most comfortable shoes, take seated breaks often to hydrate, and bring bandaids for those inevitable blisters.

Eat more than you think you can digest. I made the mistake on day one of not refueling with food because I wanted to dance to the tune of as many artists as possible and didn’t want to miss any bands on my list performing. FOMO is never a good idea. When we got to the hotel after a long day burning thousands of calories, I crashed. I was a super hangry woman. I learned from my mistake and the next day ate the largest breakfast burrito created, then had a full lunch that included a grilled cheese sandwich, Greek salad, and french fries, followed by a gigantic order of loaded tater tots with lots of in-between snacks. Forget about healthy eating in Coachella. Your body needs calories – as many of them as possible. So EAT more than you think you can consume. You’ll fit back into your Lulus in no time.

Stop to admire the art throughout the day. Although Coachella is mostly known for its music, it is technically an arts festival too. While two iconic structures are staples of the landscape (the Ferris wheel and the cylindrical tower (in the bottom right photo), new spectacular buildings emerge each year. Make sure to pay attention to how they change throughout the day from mid-day to sunset to nightfall. They truly are breathtaking every step of the way.

Just know that you’re never too old. While the majority of attendees are in their twenties, you’ll find people of all ages getting into Coachella mode. Watching Gwen Stefani performing with No Doubt was on my list of “must-sees”. We were shocked that practically everyone at the festival joined us to cheer her on. I thought I’d be joining the “older crowd” for this performance but everyone, everyone was there too. Get dressed up, express yourself, and let loose. Coachella is a place where nothing matters but creativity, music, and fun. I had a blast dressing my body with tattoos and glitter. Dancing freely to a variety of performers from Sublime to Sofi Tukker, John Batiste to Charlotte de Witte, and Kaskade to Lil Uzi Vert in the backdrop of the desert with the wind in my hair, as the sun painted the sky illuminating the stunning surrounding, and a handful of good friends to enjoy the experience with made me like I was twenty-two and forty-two all over again. When you’re dancing all day under the desert sky time is a useless construct. Dance your heart out, who cares how old you are? You’re alive. This realization is the most rewarding gift Coachella can give anyone, at any age, willing to let go and express themselve. Mark your calendars for next year and join us!

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