Review: Parklife Festival
Parklife is known for being one of the most student-friendly music festivals out there – but is it actually good value for money? We went along to find out...
With a phenomenal lineup, a great location and affordable ticket prices, Parklife is up there as one of the most student-friendly music festivals.
But like with every festival, there are hidden costs. How much are drinks, food and merchandise? And what about accommodation?
To find out just how much the festival will cost you, we went along to try it out. We'll tell you exactly how much we spent on each aspect of the festival, and how much you should budget if you plan on heading there next year...
Is Parklife good value for money?
Parklife ticket prices
As festivals go, Parklife tickets might not set you back as much as some, but they still cost a fair whack.
In 2018 a weekend pass cost £131.45, while a day pass cost £71.50. Had Parklife gone ahead in 2020, you would have been looking at paying a little less (£125 for a weekend pass and £69.50 for a day pass).
Other festivals, like Latitude and Download, charge substantially more than this. However, they include camping facilities and are spread out over three days – as opposed to Parklife which is a non-camping festival lasting just two days (Saturday and Sunday).
There's no denying that the top-quality lineup and the huge array of stages help to sweeten the deal – but there are only so many acts you have time to see over a two-day period.
In 2018 there was also the opportunity to upgrade to a VIP ticket for £40 (but look out for deals to get this cheaper – we only paid £15), which is something we'd definitely recommend doing.
This seriously cut down our queuing time by giving us access to the VIP entrance, and we were able to make the most of the facilities in the exclusive VIP Colonnade – including shorter toilet queues, more bars and food outlets and the opportunity to snap photos with very minor celebs.
Parklife food prices
Frustratingly, you aren't allowed to take any food into the festival yourself, which means that you're forced into buying whatever is on offer on-site.
However, there was a huge amount of food at Parklife; over a two-day period, we only scratched the surface of what was available.
Like all festival food, expect to pay more than you would at most takeaway or fast food restaurants. A carton of chips cost £3.50, while good ol' cheesy chips set us back a fiver.
If you're looking for a more substantial meal, you'll be paying £6 – £10. We tried the gnocchi and the tropical pizza, both of which cost £8 but were pretty filling.
While the food wasn't exactly cheap, if you're tactical about it you can save yourself a bit of cash. Scout around to find the stands offering the largest quantities for the cheapest prices, and pick food like pasta and pizza which will fill you up.
Parklife drink prices
The biggest expense you'll face at music festivals will be on drinks, and you'll undoubtedly be paying more than you would at your local.
As far as drinks prices at Parklife go, they aren't cheap – but this is a festival after all. Here's a rough price guide:
- Bottles of Carlsberg and Strongbow (330ml) – £5.50
- Spirit and mixer – £5.50
- Glass of wine (red, white and rosé) – £5.50
- Soft drinks – £2.80
- Bottle of water – £2.50
- Prosecco (VIP only) – £6 for a 125ml flute or £35 for a 750ml jug.
There's no denying that drinks at festivals are pretty pricey, and of course, there's no way of taking any of your own alcohol in.
It's a case of just biting the bullet and perhaps reigning in the amount of drinking you plan to do – it just leads to more toilet queuing anyway.
Since Parklife isn't a camping festival, accommodation is another major expense you're going to have to take into consideration.
If you don't sort this early on you could end up paying a huge amount, so sort it as soon as you book your tickets.
If you know anyone who lives in Manchester, your first port of call should be to beg them for a place to crash.
Similarly, if you're travelling from somewhere nearby (Leeds, for example), you might want to consider just getting the last train back (using these cheap ticket tricks, of course). It'll work out way cheaper, although you might have to make your peace with waiting until 3am to get into bed.
If you are faced with finding accommodation in Manchester for a couple of nights, we'd recommend going down the Airbnb route. We found a four-bed property in the Salford area which only cost £30 each for two nights – not bad, all things considered.
Travel to Parklife
Travelling to and from Parklife is one of those sneaky expenses you might not think about much beforehand, but can actually end up costing you a fair bit.
Not only have you got to think about how you're going to travel to Manchester for the weekend, with the festival now taking place in Heaton Park (a 30-minute drive or hour-and-a-half walk from Piccadilly station), you'll likely need to factor in daily transport to and from the festival too.
Parklife does offer travel passes which will help you get from the city centre to Heaton Park, either via the designated shuttle bus or Metrolink services. A weekend travel pass cost £10, while a day pass was only a fiver, working out at £2.50 each way.
However, at peak times these services get super busy. What's more, you have to exchange your travel pass ticket for a wristband at certain designated locations, which can make the process a bit of a hassle.
We opted to grab an Uber instead, which set us back around £2.50 each on the way to the festival, and £4 each on the way home – it was definitely worth the extra £1.50 to cut out the midnight queues.
Price of Parklife merchandise
You'd think if you were paying over £100 for a ticket to a festival, you would at least be told what time all the acts are performing.
Unfortunately, if you wanted to find where and when all the acts were playing in 2018 you had to pay £7 for an official programme from the merchandise stand, which is a total rip off all things considered.
The best way of getting around this is to avidly search for 'Parklife set times' on Twitter until someone else buys a programme, takes a photo and uploads it for everyone to see. Although beware that 4G was pretty patchy across the site due to the number of people in one area.
The programme does at least come in a handy lanyard, so you don't have to carry it around all weekend...
Parklife overall value for money
Overall, Parklife provided average value for money in comparison to other festivals.
While the tickets themselves might not be as expensive as you would pay for other festivals, having to pay for accommodation and daily travel to and from the festival site bumps the price up.
However, there were some huge acts – Liam Gallagher, Lorde, Skepta, N.E.R.D and A$AP Rocky, to name a few – and to see them all perform individually would cost a whole lot more.
Food and drinks prices were pretty standard for festivals – you're never going to find £2 pints anywhere. But little things like having to pay £7 just to find out what time your favourite band was set to play was pretty frustrating and felt like unnecessary expenses.
So, how much did it all cost? We added up everything we spent on the festival (per person) to calculate just how much a weekend at Parklife set you back in 2018 – and, to be honest, it isn't pretty.
Tickets: £146.45 (Weekend VIP)
Travel: £46.50 (return tickets from London to Manchester with a 16–25 Railcard) + £13 on taxis
Drinks: £45 (approx.)
It's an eye-watering amount, but also to be expected for a big weekend festival like Parklife – and, let's face it, we had an amazing time regardless of cost.
And, of course, the bigger the festival, the more expensive it'll be. So, to save cash, look into smaller local festivals or festivals for niche music genres.
But if you do want to taste a bigger music festival and can't afford the likes of Glastonbury, we'd certainly recommend Parklife as a happy medium – just make sure you've had a look through our ways to save money at festivals first.
Not sure if Parklife's for you? Check out our student festival guide for info about the best (and cheapest!) festivals to attend.