Friday, April 29, 2011

Festival of Books: Go In With A Plan

I remember the first time I attended the L.A. Times Festival of Books three years ago. It was overwhelming. UCLA is a big campus and there was something calling for my attention in every nook and cranky of it. I didn’t know where to begin and by the time I realized I wanted to attend a panel it had already taken place either earlier that day, or the day before.

Lesson learned. When attending a big event such as this, go in with a plan.

Here are some tips for navigating the festival (can be applied to other like events).

Look at the schedule ahead of time:

There are many different panels and such and their times overlap. You’ll have to make decision on what you’re interested in most. If you can only attend one day and can choose which, this is how you’ll make that choice

Procure tickets as soon as they become available:

The festival and the panels therein are free, but seats are limited so it would be wise to get tickets ahead of time. There's a dollar service fee for each ticket when you get them online, but say you attend three or four panels, that’s only $3-4 out of your pocket. Even my jobless self can afford that. And some panels do sell out so when the tickets become available a week before the even, swoop them up quickly if there’s one you really want to sit it on.

Write out your schedule for the day on one page:

Seriously. Not only to keep the events that you got tickets for in order, but more importantly to make allowances for the stuff you couldn’t get tickets for. You might not have gotten tickets for a particular panel, but you can line up to get in anyway. If there are open seats after the ticketed folks get in, you just might make it in there. But you’ll want to get there early so’s you can be in the front of the line. Also, if you want to stand in line for an author’s signing, that’s something else to configure into your day. I don’t know about you, but I cannot keep up with all of that without the aid of a pen and piece of paper.

Set a budget:

There will be all kinds vendors selling all kinds of stuff, most books and including of course, books at a discount (my weakness). Plus, you have to buy like four bags of kettle corn (my other weakness). Oh, and you might want to eat lunch while you’re there, if it’s gonna be an all day thing for you. Giving yourself a limit will force you to pace yourself and reign in your spending.

Wear comfortable shoes:

I’ve never been on USC's campus, where the festival has moved this years, and don’t know how it compares to UCLA but I think a lot of walking is still a given.

Grab a map as soon as you arrive:

Self-explanatory, right?

Check the weather:

It’s an outside event, and yes, it’s LA and the weather is usually fine this time of year, but nothing’s worse than being outside all day and wishing you’d worn pants instead of a skirt or needing a thicker jacket than the one you brought.

And most importantly, identity all locations where the kettle corn is being sold:

It’s another line you have to stand in and you might have to wait until you’re not rushing across campus for a panel to procure the warm, fresh, sweet and salty goodness.


  1. Dude! I should have read this before I went! I had a plan (sort of) but I didn't realize how spread out everything was and getting oriented on campus was tricky so I missed the very first thing I wanted to go to! And I never did find any kettle corn :( But it was still a lot of fun. I could do that every year :)

  2. There was no kettle corn this year! USC didn't want outside food vendors, I guess, and opted instead to only use the eateries that where already on campus? But I mean, how can they not have kettle corn!