I got a free, last-minute ticket to Coachella and it's still going to cost $2,000 to go. Here's exactly what I'm spending for a weekend at the notoriously expensive festival.

millennials selfie coachellaReuters / Mario Anzuoni

  • The Coachella Music & Arts Festival takes place over two weekends in April at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California.
  • Coachella tickets cost $429 for general admission, but how much Coachella costs depends on what you want.
  • I decided to go to Coachella for the first time this year.
  • I thought the festival wouldn't cost that much when I was given press passes to the festival, but costs for airfare, a rental car, transportation, lodging, and food and drink still added up to over $2,000.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

I'll be honest - I never really thought I'd go to the Coachella Music & Arts Festival. Living in New York, I never thought it made much sense to ship out to Indio, California for one of Coachella's two weekends of music and fun.

This year, New York's homegrown festival, Governor's Ball, had a disappointing lineup and Coachella's East Coast edition, Panorama Festival, was not happening.

So when Business Insider asked me to cover the festival, I checked out the lineup: this year's edition features Childish Gambino, Anderson .Paak, Janelle Monae, and Tame Impala, some of my favorite artists.

Read more: 15 unbelievable facts that show just how much people are willing to spend on Coachella, from $430 tickets to $9,500 campsites

After I scored some last minute press passes, I was all-in. Then I started calculating out the budget.

Coachella is notorious for costing festival-goers an arm and a leg. Tickets cost $429 for general admission for the weekend, and that's just the beginning of it. Because Coachella is located at the Empire Polo Club two hours outside of Los Angeles, you have factor in transportation, parking, lodging, and more into your budget. Money's Megan Leonhardt estimated the typical cost to be $2,347 in 2018.

I figured that was all hype. I'm a very frugal traveler and I pride myself on saving as much as I can, but my budget for Coachella 2019 is already over $2,000 and I didn't even pay for a ticket.

Here's how that breaks down.

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Airfare: $339

Airfare: $339

After scouring Kayak, Priceline, and every other travel aggregator for a week, I found an Alaska Airlines sale on airfare that netted me a nonstop round-trip flight from New York to Los Angeles for $339.

The only catch: I would have to fly in and out on the Wednesday before the festival, meaning I'd have to figure out extended lodging. Tickets flying in/out closer to the festival were double the cost.

Rental Car: $464

Rental Car: $464

With a couple of days in Los Angeles before and after the festival, I decided to book a rental car rather than pay $150 for the Coachella shuttle between Los Angeles International Airport and Indio.

I settled on a reputable budget option from Avis: a Ford Fiesta. I only paid for liability insurance, as my Chase Sapphire Reserve has rental car insurance on it. It still came out to $464. Yeesh.

Lodging: $1,139

Lodging: $1,139

Lodging is the most expensive part of Coachella. As I was coming from New York, I didn't want to deal with buying or bringing camping gear, so car camping was not an option — and because I was booking so last minute, the pickings on Airbnb were expensive and very slim. I decided to look at hotel options. Even budget hotels like Holiday Inn Express or Motel 6 were charging $350 or more a night.

After searching Hotel Tonight and other last-minute deals sites for a week, I found a room at a boutique hotel called the Hideaway Hotel in Palm Springs for $379 a night. I booked it for three nights. The hotel costs closer to $200 per night if you book a stay outside of Coachella weekend.

A friend in Burbank agreed to let me crash in her home office for the nights before and after Coachella, saving me more than a few bucks there.

Shuttle Pass: $80

Shuttle Pass: $80

As I was staying in Palm Springs, a 30-minute drive from the festival grounds, I needed a way to get back and forth from the concert each day.

Thankfully, I'm not the only one. As lodging in Indio is limited, lots of attendees stay in nearby towns like Palm Desert and Palm Springs. There tend to be cheaper lodging options, and more of them, in those places.

Coachella offers a shuttle for $80 that takes festival-goers back and forth between hotels in those areas and the concert.

Gas: $30-40

Gas: $30-40

The Ford Fiesta I rented gets pretty good gas mileage at 27 city/37 highway. As Palm Springs is about 120 miles from Burbank, where I am staying both before and after the festival, I figure that gas should cost around $30 to $40 at $3.85/gallon. Not too bad.

Food: $120

Food: $120

From everything I've read, it seems that food prices at Coachella mirror the cost of food in Los Angeles and New York. As such, I bought groceries for breakfast and am planning on spending about $30 each day on lunch and dinner.

As for alcohol, I try not to drink during festivals as alcohol gives me headaches and makes me lethargic. I'm probably in the minority here, so if you do plan on drinking, you'll have to factor those costs in. Beers and mixed drinks tend to cost $10-15.

Total: $2,182

Total: $2,182

In part, the high cost of the weekend for me is due to the fact that I booked everything at the last minute. If I had known a year ago that I would be going, I probably could have found a better deal on the lodging or had enough time to plan to camp.

That being said, most of my other costs — from airfare to a rental car to the shuttle — are unavoidable if you are visiting from out-of-state. Be prepared to empty your wallet.

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