SXSW is one of the most exciting events every year in Austin. However, it can also be quite a pain. Traffic is awful and the amount of events going on can be overwhelming. Here are some of our tips for surviving SXSW whether you have a badge or are just wanting to experience a free party or two.
SXSW 2018 will be taking place March 9th-18th. Interactive will be taking place from March 9th-13th. Film will run from March 9th-17th. Lastly. Music will take place from March 12th-18th.
1. Pack some comfortable shoes and rent a bike. Austin is a pretty walkable town, but you'll probably be walking a lot from venue to venue. You'll want something that is comfortable to wear. There will be a lot of road closures and traffic.You've probably heard that Austin didn't have Uber or Lyft for awhile, but as of May 2017, they're back. They're not the only rideshares available to you in Austin. You might also think about renting a bike. It will make navigating the streets much easier. We've listed some places for bike rentals and information on transportion in the city in this app. You can access them by simply scrolling to the bottom or viewing them at the top of this article. SXSW has also added a boat shuttle for badge holders, more info on that here along with Mazda shuttles. There are also public transportation options listed on their site, see those here.
2. No badge? No problem. You can still have fun at SXSW without forking over thousands of dollars for a badge or official wristband. Some of the official showcases won't fill up and will open to the public if you buy a ticket. Check venue websites or call ahead to see if they will be selling tickets. Websites like RSVPster.com will sign you up to all the unofficial parties for a fee. You'll save time signing up for a service like this, but you might want to create a new email address. There are also a variety of Twitter accounts that provide that information as well. Click here for a full listing of all the Twitter accounts you should follow.
3. Be prepared to stand in line. You may have RSVP'd for a bunch of unofficial parties, but that doesn't gain you access. You might have to stand in line for the venue's wristband to get in prior to the party. Even with a wristband you might find yourself outside of a venue because it is at capacity. Patience is a virtue, my friends. You might have to show up at the venue early and catch the opening acts to see the artist you desire. In general, keep in mind fanbase, venue capacity and lineup when trying to figure out how early to get to a show. If you are a badge holder, some unofficial parties offer priority access to you. If you see a line, it doesn't hurt to walk up to the doorman and ask if this is an option.
4. To build upon number 3, be open to discovering new things. You don't have to see the big name bands and frankly SXSW is all about discovery and learning. This goes onto our next point - be flexible. You probably won't get into all the parties on your Google Doc list that your friends compiled together. Yes, you should still plan ahead, but there are tons of other parties going on at the same time. Who knows? You might come across an event that is awesome and unexpected.
5. Pay attention to social media. That Twitter list mentioned above should be your guide. Don't have Twitter? Get one! There will be last minute changes and events that will only be announced via social media. You don't want to be out of the loop on which parties are already full, cancelled or if your favorite artist is a no-show. The best way to manage this is to create a list on your Twitter specific to SXSW. You can view that list and any SXSW related hashtags side by side via Tweetdeck.
6. Have a survival kit. Make sure to pack the following items when jumping from venue to venue: backpack, sunscreen, water, snacks, sunglasses, phone charger (this includes your cord and a pocket charger), cash, credit/debit cards, watch, photo ID and an umbrella/poncho. If you are bringing a laptop along for panels, bring a power strip. It might sound silly, but you'll thank us later. You'll probably even make a few friends.
7. Be safe. There are so many things going on at SXSW and it can get crazy. Be aware of your surroundings. Don't drink and drive. Pace yourself at parties. Take care of yourself and eat meals. Make sure to have contact information on your phone and wallet in case it gets lost. Drink lots of water and stay hydrated. Have a backup plan if your phone service becomes unreliable. These are all common sense, but it doesn't hurt to mention them.
8. Have that hotel room already booked. Hotels will fill up fast and prices will surge. People tend to book months in advance for the festival. Hopefully, you've already booked your room. If not, the official SXSW website has tons of information that can help you find availability. They often block off rooms for badgeholders and even those with official wristbands. There is also AirBNB and some campgrounds.
9. Pick up your badge early. If you are one of the lucky ones to have a badge, try and go prior to conference starting. Lines when Interactive and Music start can be long. Those who pick up their badges a day early don't have to worry about missing any panels.
10. Go see a film or comedy show. Up 'till now, it's possible that we were coming off a little biased towards the music side of SXSW. However, keep in mind that there are a ton of films or comedy shows going on too. Jimmy Kimmel anyone? Make time in your schedule to be a part of these. The music portion of SXSW is not what it is all about.