If you're like us, you've been counting down the days to South By Southwest for months. You've gone over the line ups as they've been announced, watched twitter feeds spring back to life after 11 months of silence, and followed the rumors about all the big names heading to Austin.
You've probably made a ton of lists: Twitter feeds to follow, parties with free food and beer, buzz bands to check out. You have a place to stay, people to hang out with, and cash to tip your bartenders. You're ready to make this a SXSW to remember.
Or at least you think you are. The fun stuff is always easiest to organize because it's fun to think about. It takes more than just a few hours of Web surfing and a smartphone to have a successful road trip.
Rocks Off wants everyone to have a good time out there, so we've come up with a list of tips to help you make it through the next few days.
Be Prepared In Advance: This last week has been a good example of that old cliché about Texas weather. We haven't quite made it to Spring yet, and the weather can change at the drop of a hat. Be prepared for both hot and cold weather, and that includes packing sunscreen and an umbrella if you're going to a lot of outdoor shows.
Medicine, snacks, lighters, backup flip-flops -- if you think you'll need something for the trip, get it ahead of time. Sure, there are stores in Austin in case you need something, but do you really want to take time out of your day to go shopping because you forgot to pack socks? Taking a few minutes to go through your travel bag before you hit the road can save time and headaches later.
Take Care of Your Ride: The drive to and from Austin will put at least 300 miles on your ride. If it's been a while since your car has had a tuneup or if there have been any nagging issues with it, get it checked out before you hit the road.
There is always the chance that something will happen to your vehicle no matter how much preventative care you give it but you don't want it to break down in a different city because you've been putting off taking it to the shop. You can get around Austin without a car, but eventually you're going to need to get back home.
Know Where You're Going: Most likely you already know how to get to wherever you're staying. That's important, but just as important is knowing where you're going once you get to Austin. The city turns into something slightly different during the festival, and it can trip you up if you're not prepared.
If you're going to be driving around, make sure you know what's going on in the city. The City of Austin has provided a handy map of the road closures going on during SXSW. They also have a map that lists all the different places that provide parking downtown. Know where your party is, how to get there, and where to park. Don't waste your day sitting in traffic.
Cell Phone Signals And Battery Life: You can't always count on your cell phone to work the way it should. It might tell you it has a full signal, but anyone who has been to Toyota Center or the Rodeo with a cell phone knows what happens when you're around too many other people with cell phones. If you're out with friends, make sure everyone knows where to meet up if text messages stop going through.
It's also important to be mindful of the battery on your phone. If you can drop the brightness level on it a few notches do so. If you check your phone pretty often, go ahead and turn vibration notifications off. Invest in a battery pack if one exists for your brand of phone.
Once you leave your car, it might be a while before you can charge your phone again. Big parties mean big lines and most don't have charging stations.
Don't Push Your Body Too Hard:Since this isn't an after-school special, we're not going to lecture you on the dangers of overdrinking. If you're a grown-ass person who can afford to spend a few days in a big city watching bands perform, then you should be able to know how much you can drink without something bad happening.
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One thing we can tell you is to respect your bowels. Not every party is going to have a real bathroom, and some people are freaked out by portapotties. Free food is great, but if it's something that's going to wreck your stomach, don't be afraid to say no.
And if you find yourself on 6th Street and in need of a restroom, hit up the Driskill. The hotel is beautiful and the bathrooms on the first floor are top-notch.