Summer festivals have a magical quality to them. The gorgeous weather and killer bands will make for plenty of amazing photo opps for your Instagram feed. But if you live with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the crowds and greasy, mass-produced foods don’t exactly make it easy for you to have fun.
From worrying about what you can eat, to desperately trying to will the bathroom line to move faster, festivals can be a bit more of a challenge with IBS. But that doesn’t mean you should hole up at home while your friends take to the fields. These helpful tips will keep you comfortable from the opening band to the last act.
1. Pack it in
Bring a comfortable bag like a backpack or a cross-body bag that won’t leave you rubbing your shoulders all day. While it seems great to go with nothing but your wristband and your cellphone, having a place to store extra items is key to your comfort. This is a must if you need to bring in food. Some festivals have a clear bag policy, so check before you go.
Bring your own toilet paper or tissues for port-a-potties. It’s not uncommon for venues to run out of toilet paper early in the day. Pack hand sanitizer or wipes while you’re at it. Wipes can remove dust from your whole body, and they’re also helpful for cleaning sticky sunscreen from your hands.
3. Pregame the bathroom
Find a gas station or restaurant with a bathroom before you pull into the venue. It may be the last one with running water, and you probably won’t have to wait in line. Once inside the festival, plan your bathroom trips in advance so you don’t miss your favorite acts. Lines are usually the shortest in the middle of a set. Otherwise, be ready to wait in long lines.
4. Bring your own food
Many festivals, like Sasquatch and Outside Lands, allow you to bring in outside food. Just be sure to check the rules before packing your lunch or dinner. Opt for food that doesn’t have to be refrigerated. No food allowed? Contact the festival ahead of time to get an exception, or find out about the food vendors. Many festivals serve gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options, so you might be able to make a meal work for you. Spending the night? Stay somewhere with a kitchen or pack everything you need with lots of ice for camping.
5. Bring earplugs
Early-onset hearing loss is not cool, and the band will still be plenty loud, even with ear protection. Besides, all the rock stars are wearing them!
6. Don’t skimp on sleep
Multiday festivals can wear you down. Even if you’re only going for one day, be sure to get lots of sleep the night before and plan for extra rest the day after. You’ll not only recover faster, but you’ll also help support your immune system and reduce stress on your digestive system.
7. Skip the day drinking
You don’t have to swear off alcohol entirely, but it can be exhausting to be outside on your feet all day. Sip a drink or two in the evening, but stick to just water for the heat of the day. You’ll skip tomorrow’s massive hangover entirely. Avoid beer if gluten is a problem for you. You can always offer to drive so you don’t have to constantly explain why you aren’t drinking.
8. Bring your ID and insurance card
Not because you have IBS, but because it’s smart. You want to be able to dance the day (and night) away without worry.
Bring your own bottle. Many places let you in with an empty water bottle or an empty hydration bladder to fill up at their free filling stations around the venue. Others allow you to come in with sealed water bottles only. If you have to pack it in, be sure to bring way more than you think you will need. A single bottle of Smartwater isn’t going to cut it.
10. Look out for shade
Spend your downtime in the shade to reduce your chances of looking like a lobster when you leave and to help prevent overheating. You’ll also feel more refreshed and ready to get back up and dance.
11. Do not go hungry
I get it, festival food is challenging. There are limited options for people with IBS at a fully stocked kitchen, but it’s better to ask food trucks or festival stands what they can make for you that fits with your personal eating plan than to go hungry. You can always sneak in bars and other packable snacks if you have to.
12. Just say no to drugs
Don’t take anything you haven’t taken before, including your friend’s over-the-counter painkiller for your throbbing feet. You don’t know how your body will react.
13. Don’t overdo it
It’s easy to get caught up in the moment or to have serious FOMO, but it’s important to sit down and rest. Pace yourself throughout the day. If you start to not feel well or the festival is suddenly more annoying than fun, take a break.
14. Skip the sugar
A cold soda might sound refreshing, but sugar is taxing on your body. Sugar can give you headaches, energy crashes, and stomach irritation. Skip fruit juices and other snacks loaded in fructose to prevent triggering your IBS symptoms. Bring electrolyte tablets to add to plain water instead of drinking a sports drink.
15. Avoid (most) temptations
There’s something about the smell of churros at 4 p.m. that’s just heavenly. But it could mean being miserable through the last act — and all of the next morning. You can absolutely treat yourself, just be smart about it and don’t overdo it.
16. Carry emergency stomach soothers
Nothing can ruin your favorite band like a wallop of intestinal cramps and nausea. Bring your favorite stomach soothers like ginger candies and Tums.
Don’t let your IBS hold you back. Festivals can be the highlight of the summer. Just be smart while you’re out there and pack everything you need to comfortably enjoy it. Music festivals are a great way to relax and relieve stress, so they’re actually good for you! Follow the tips above and get ready to enjoy.
Mandy Ferreira is a writer and editor in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is passionate about health, fitness, and sustainable living. She’s currently obsessed with running, Olympic lifting, and yoga, but she also swims, cycles, and does just about everything else she can. You can keep up with her on her blog (treading-lightly.com) and on Twitter (@mandyfer1).