You’re headed to Austin in a few days for SXSW. You’ve got you various climate wardrobes ready. You’ve got good walking shoes packed. You’ve RSVPed to all the parties you could possibly attend. And you’re all stocked up on energy drinks (or coffee). What do you need to do in the last few days before the chaos arrives?
Sleep. A ton.
The fact of the matter is that you’re not going to get nearly as much rest as you might hope. The party scene, the lines for uber/lyft/cabs/train and the sheer elasticity of time that occurs during SXSW will have you as confused about what hour it is as a Las Vegas casino. And, although SXSW sessions begin usually at 9:30am, at the earliest, there’s always a chance to meet with industry leaders or take in the city or show up at an unofficial showcase. Needless to say, sleep can easily come in short supply. SO get your full 8-10 hours in the next few days.
Drink massive amounts of water. Now.
This sounds like perhaps the strangest advice we’ve given, but with the physical demands that SXSW can have of you, in waking hours, in walking miles and in food and drink consumption, your body needs a buffer. You need a foundation of water to help you fight off fatigue and travel-related illnesses that might hinder your ability to make as much of SXSW as possible.
Confirm your travel plans.
Availability of rooms has dwindled in the extreme over the past 20 days, and to ensure that you aren’t a tragic SXSW story, call the hotel/AirBNB/HomeAway you plan to stay at and confirm your arrival/departure times and the room you’re staying in. For normal travel and stays, this isn’t a necessity in the modern age of electronic booking, but there is no demand for rooms like SXSW, and double-confirmation is critical.
Get your SXSW schedule narrowed down.
You’re not going to be able to make all of the sessions and parties you’ve earmarked on your schedule. So, you need to make that schedule manageable. You can’t be in four places at once, and so you have to decide whether the free tacos and Mexican martinis outweigh your need to hear about growing markets in technology or that hot new band from Denmark. It can be a tough decision, but balance your schedule with equal parts meaningful and madness and you’ll be fine. But if you’ve got too many choices for a single timeslot, it’s time to pare down. The opportunity will not be so easy once you’re in it.
Download the SXSW app and sync it to your schedule.
This is the most important piece of advice we have. SXSW provides an app – SXSWGo – to coordinate your chosen online schedule with your smartphone. It will prove invaluable when you’re in a crowd of people without knowing where to head toward next. It will also make you look like a genius when the rest of the masses are unsure of their direction.
Plan a slow day.
This is the advice we never take, and always regret ignoring. When planning your SXSW schedule, the temptation is always to sign up for every possible session, party, workshop and interaction. It’s important to make the most of your time, it’s true. But for one of your days in Austin, carve out a longer lunch, an early end and a light demand, so that you can relax and enjoy the rest of what Austin has to offer, as well as to recharge your batteries. A single early night in, during the middle of SXSW, can make all the difference between a time in Austin you thoroughly enjoyed and a “vacation you need a vacation from.”