How to Plan for the Essence Music Festival

So you saw the movie Girls Trip and you have decided to round up the crew and take on the city that birthed Jazz. For those of you that are still unaware of the awesomeness that is the Essence Festival, check out my article on exactly what everyone’s been talking about. There is so much to do and see at the Essence Festival it may seem overwhelming at first, but rest assured I am here to help. As a recent attendee of the 2017 Essence Festival, my experience is fresh in my mind. Hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes and plan the perfect getaway. This is specifically for people who do not wish to travel with a company or buy a vacation package. I love planning and executing my own vacations and find it to usually be cheaper.

Screen Shot 2017-07-31 at 1.35.41 PM
Photo courtesy of Essence

The first question I hear when it come to planning for the festival is: When should I book things?. That question is a very broad question that has many aspects to it. A rule of thumb to follow is the earlier the better. This is especially true when booking hotels and even flights. Hotel are booked a year in advance sometimes and tend to fill up quickly. (They are already moving extremely fast this year due to the recent movie Girls Trip). Depending on your travel style and budget, you can opt for a vacation rental like Airbnb, a hostel, or a hotel. I always compare prices and distance from the French Quarter, super dome, and convention center to decide which accommodation will suit me best. In 2017 I rented an Airbnb but I think for 2018 I will try a hotel. Stay tuned for the comparison :). Use this link to save $40 on your first Airbnb. For hotels, I prefer to use sites like Booking, Trivago, and Agoda.


Now that we’ve got the accommodations situation handled its time to find some entertainment. There is SO much to see and do not only for the Essence Festival but in New Orleans alone. This is the time to really analyze the desires of your heart versus the desires your pockets can afford. The essence Festival itself consists of a free daytime convention and a paid nighttime concert. The concert is held all 3 nights of the festival and features about 15-20 artist per night. The first tickets to go on sale are usually the 3-day package which starts around $150. Later in the year Essence will release the single day tickets. DO NOT and I repeat DO NOT wait until the last , minute to get your concert tickets. They will definitely increase in price. But do wait till the artists you wish to see are confirmed. Use this link to find tickets and get updates. No point in buying all three nights if you only want to see artists on one night. The VIP packages are currently available here. I personally would not splurge on any VIP packages simply because I am a budget traveler but if you are someone who values VIP access then go for it. There are super lounges in the Mercedes Benz Superdome which most of the smaller artist will preform on. They provide a very intimate setting that allows you to get an up close and personal experience. The only place you may feel a bit far from the artist with the basic tickets is at the main stage.


There are also tons of parties thrown outside of the festival itself. It is completely up to

Jackson Square, New Orleans

you as to whether you want to spend your days at the convention center, a rooftop party, or exploring the beautiful streets of New Orleans. I opted to do some major site seeing in the city but I also attended a party as well. A mixture of all three may be most ideal. Just keep in mind that the concerts run rather late and once they are over tons of people flock to Bourbon Street to continue the party. Do not go too hard the first night like I did. Pace yourself and go with the flow. Ladies please pack some comfortable flats, you will be doing a lot of walking…. and sweating. I managed to party all night in my heels the first night but I definitely regretted it the next couple of days.


The last, and easiest thing to plan for the festival is your flight to and from NOLA. There are tons of algorithms and tricks for finding the cheapest ticket. Check out some of my tips for traveling on a shoestring budget. I like to book my tickets 2-3 months in advance which is usually when I find flights to be the cheapest. Arriving on that Thursday and leaving Monday or Tuesday tends to be the best way to avoid the crowds and traffic.


I hope these tips have helped launch your planning. Comment below if you have any questions or things to add. I’d love to hear your suggestions and travel advice as well.

Mercedes Benz Superdome, New Orleans

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