Girls, Get Ready for SXSW: A Survival Guide.

Music Festival Illustration by Jazzia on Shutterstock
It’s been 4 years since I traded in my Fashion Week stilettos for Texas BBQ and I couldn’t be happier. Hanging with smart techies beats watching starving amazon women trample the runway any day! But there are a few things ladies should know before they head to Austin for the 10-day festival:

  1. Bring chargers with you everywhere. Trust me, you’ll need them. Because of the number of phones around, and the amount of texting you’ll do, all your gadgets will need recharging 2-3 times a day.
  2. Your twitter handle is your new business card (and personal assistant).  For those attending Interactive, clean up your feed and tweet what you find interesting. It’s a great way to build your influence and meet cool people. And most importantly, twitter should be your go-to to find out what’s trending and where the best unofficial parties are. Follow the tags #SXSWFree & #SXSWUnofficial to get all the latest info.
  3. Get Screened. This one has a double meaning. First, bring sunscreen. It’s hot in Austin and many of the best events take place outdoors. Second, go to the film screenings. I’ve seen some of the best movies at Sx, so grab some popcorn and recharge with some much needed down and dark time. The Vimeo theatre has a whole lineup of great films this year.
  4. Secret performances. Secret performances and parties will be popping up like crazy throughout the 10-day festival. Follow insider handles on twitter to get the latest updates. Also be on the lookout for password protected parties, like this year’s Wall Street Journal Pool Party.
  5. Get a badge. Even though off-site events are getting bigger and bigger each year, you still need a badge to get anywhere official. Many of the parties will require them for admission. Also, a word from the wise: pick up your badge the day before the conference begins. They’re open until 10pm. Otherwise you’ll wait in a 2+ hour wait – and there’s 0% chance they will let someone else pick up your badge for you. Trust me, I’ve tried.
  6. Leave the stilettos at home. Even at the best parties people will be wearing jeans. You should still dress to impress, but be comfortable. (Comfortable stilettos = win win.)

Festival Vector Icons by Jazzia

  1. Come hungry & make reservations. Texas has some amazing food as long as you’re not counting calories. A few of my favorite places to dine downtown are Guero’s for laid back tex mex, Stubbs for BBQ, Kenichi for sushi and Second Bar + Kitchen for new american. See #11 below for a full list of my faves. And don’t forget to check out the food trucks – Austin is the birthplace of this phenomenon.
  2. Keep your hand out. Sx is the place for swag. Promoters will be everywhere giving out t-shirts, pins, stickers, food – all kinds of good stuff – so be on the lookout. 
  3. R.S.V.P. & arrive early. If you think you can just pop on by an official Sx party, you’re mistaken my friend. Even RSVPs will be turned down if you don’t arrive early. The hottest parties have lines hundreds of people long before the venues are even open. Fashionably late = no admission. (Also, check Facebook invites closely, as many events don’t accept “attending” as an official RSVP).
  4. Bring a clipboard. Yes, you heard me right. Last year a friend of mine who’s a VIP host said the best way to skip lines and get VIP treatment is to have a clipboard with you (the more stickers the better). I have yet to try it but it sounds tempting… (As a backup, bring a group of girls and that should do the trick. Sx is pretty much the only place you’ll find 300 straight men dancing on a stage with barely a handful of women in sight. Security will be glad to let a group of girls skip the line.)
  5. Foursquare is your new BFF. It’s pretty much the only way to know which parties are actually hopping. Plus, if you’re a first-timer, you’ll get the much coveted SXSW Cherry badge for checking in during SXSW! If you’re looking for the best places to eat, shop and visit while you’re in Austin, check out my Foursquare list, here.
  6. If you don’t have a hotel yet, check airbnb. This will be an obvious one for anyone who’s attended Sx in the past, but hotels sell out nearly a year in advance. If you don’t have a place to stay, check Airbnb regularly as new places are added every day.
  7. There’s an App for that. Last, but not least: download the SXSW app. Spend some time picking out what events and sessions to go to and then use it to keep track of what you actually attend. (Hint: pick by location as SXSW takes over most of downtown, and it can take up to a half hour to walk from venue to venue.)

All images in this post are by the talented vector illustrator, Jazzia.

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