Ten Life Hacks for Tortuga Rookies

Tortuga 2015 hits Fort Lauderdale Beach April 11.
Tortuga 2015 hits Fort Lauderdale Beach April 11.
Photo by Alex Markow

Now in its third year, Tortuga Music Festival is bigger than ever. The two-day music festival is set to take over a chunk of Fort Lauderdale beach on Saturday, April 11, with some of the biggest acts in country like Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown Band, The Band Perry, Little Big Town, and more.

Seasoned vets of this fest know what to bring, where to park, what to drink, who to flash, etc. But for the newbies, the traffic alone can be extremely overwhelming. As a former newbie myself, I've learned what to bring, where not to park, and what to drink (still lost on who to flash). So rookies, take note. Here are ten life hacks for all you Tortuga virgins.

All these people have cars, and that's bad news for parking.
All these people have cars, and that's bad news for parking.
Photo by Alex Markow

10. Screw Parking

We’re not telling you to literally hump parked cars but rather to avoid taking your car to the concert. If you think traffic is a nightmare on Tortuga weekend, imagine how parking is going to be. Imagine if spring break and Ultra traffic had a baby.

There actually is no official Tortuga parking. The festival is encouraging attendees to take a water taxi or one of the festival shuttles. To ride one of the shuttles or water taxi, one must purchase a shuttle/water taxi pass, which cost $30 in advance or $40 the day of. Kids under 10 ride free. Once the pass is purchased, concertgoers can park at the Galleria Mall on Sunrise Boulevard and take the shuttle — which runs from 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. — to the festival. Or, those looking for a more scenic route can opt to take the water taxi by boarding at Riverfront in Las Olas. The water taxi pass includes free parking at the One River Plaza parking garage as well.

But all this can get a little pricey. Taxis are an option, but those can be expensive too. Uber will no doubt have a heavy presence around Tortuga, but they have been known to up-charge on busy weekends. As a Tortuga veteran, what I usually do is park at someone’s house nearby and pay a neighbor to drop me off. My guest and I did it last year, and if you know someone who lives close to the festival, it can save you a lot of trouble.

9. Pack Snacks

Listen, if you want to keep boozing, you need fuel. Of course, there is food onsite, but paying a trust fund for a hot dog only big enough to feed an infant is going to make you go broke. Save money for other important things, like more booze. Take a small backpack or, if you’re really feeling ballsy, rock a fanny pack. Fill up with small snacks — something nutritious, like baby carrots. Those delicious little guys make for great booze fuel.

8. Sunscreen Is the Hottest Accessory

It’s bad enough your boss probably knows you’re partying at Tortuga, but you don’t want to come into the office on Monday looking like Zoidberg. And being too sunburned to enjoy yourself the second day will just suck, so if you have a two-day pass, lather up. Plus, you can pull the whole, “I need help rubbing this on my back” pickup line on a hot cowboy or cowgirl.

7. Prioritize Performances

Take a glance at the schedule a couple of times online, or carry a free paper copy with you. With three stages and 26 performances, you have to make important, life-altering decisions about who you want to see. Leave a “so-so” performance early to get a prime spot for the artist who you really want to see. Last Tortuga, my husband, Luke Bryan, was playing, and my five-foot-one self was not able to see him over the scantily clad guy-girl totem pole in front of me. Fortunately, I was able to see his beautiful face on the large screens. But just be safe and grab a spot early for the headliners. Decisions about who to see at Tortuga are just as important as switching insurance or buying a house, so choose wisely.

6. Carry Cash

Those of you who are all about that plastic will need to hit the ATM before Tortuga weekend, because some vendors take only cold, hard cash. Even though there is a significant amount of ATMs at Tortuga, the lines can run twice as long as the women’s bathroom in America’s Backyard, and the service charge can be yet another expense in an already expensive weekend. Skip the stress and carry a couple of dead presidents on you.

5. You May Want to Pregame

Just as food is expensive, so are drinks. In fact, drinks may run a bit higher than food. With the bag check beforehand, smuggling alcohol may not be an option. My advice is to pound a few beforehand (as long as you have a sober driver). But — even though it ain't cheap — make sure to enjoy a brew or two on the beach. It’s the Tortuga thing to do.

4. Don’t Dress Up

Nicely, that is. This particular fest is all about dressing in beach attire, not South Beach attire. Ladies, leave the wedges for a different concert, and fellas, no shirts are definitely welcome. Now is one of the rare occasions it’s appropriate to be topless at a concert.

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3. Travel Light

Do not bring a chair, a towel, or an umbrella! This is not your typical beach day. Plus, do you really want to carry all that during the day and night? As mentioned before, bring a light backpack or fanny pack with the essentials: sunscreen, phone, wallet, and baby carrots.

2. Charge Your Phone

This is a big one. Of course it will come in handy if you lose your friends, but this is 2015, and a concert didn't happen unless you took at least four Snapchats of it. Millennials may not realize this, but there are no phone chargers in the sand, so come in with a full charge, and keep the Instagram to a minimum to save battery life. Who knows? With that prime spot near the stage we talked about earlier, maybe you'll snag a selfie with Kenny Chesney. 

1. Have a Friggin’ Blast

Work, laundry, groceries, your cat – leave it all behind. You went through a lot of transportation drama and cash to get to Tortuga, but once you're there, embrace the Tortuga state of mind and just enjoy yourself. But don’t forget to feed your cat when you get back. He's gonna be hungry. 

Tortuga Music Festival, April 11 and 12. Tickets cost $99 and up plus fees. The concert is located at 1100 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 877-­987­-6487, or visit tortugamusicfestival.com

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