I´ve done a long coverage of SXSW 2016, with the overall review of SXSW, the Trade Show and our experience in the event. Now it´s time to give you some tips and advices for planning your visit to SXSW for 2017. First of all the big question: Is it worth it going to SXSW? Sure. Big time. I want to go back in 2017, and I will start saving now because in my case, I am in a galaxy far far away.
And even though SXSW has its own page with tips and advices for first time goers, we will do it in a different style, according tou our experience.
SXSW Tips for accommodations for 2017
There are tons of options, as Austin is a big city. But, prices can go up like crazy during SXSW (or as locals call it South by…).
In Austin: Very expensive options in terms of regular season prices. Wether it´s a hotel, or AirBnB it will come pricey. But, of course, you will be closer to everything.
If you go through the event website, there are better prices. And the sooner you book, the better fares you will get.
Outside Austin: There are several close cities and the main event areas are all within a few blocks of the I-45, so you will be able to get in and out surprisingly easy. But, of course you will have to rent a car, and use parking.
Our choice was San Marcos, we stayed at Red Roof Inn San Marcos, which was a good option (much better than other Red Roofs we stayed in) and this one included breakfast, free parking, free Wi-Fi (that worked), fridge, microwave oven in the room, and a swimming pool. EAch night went for $100 for the two of us. It is also just one exit away from both Premium Outlets and Tanger Outlets, so you know it´s also a good option if you are planning on doing some shopping.
SXSW Tips on Transportation
Plane Tickets: If you are flying in, you should try and buy as much in advance as possible, or, as we did, fly to San Antonio, for instance, where we also went to an NBA game and rented a car there.
Rent A Car: We were going to be twelve days in total, and we were visiting San Antonio, Houston, Austin, San Marcos and Dallas. So we needed to be very comfortable, and we were bringing tons of equipment, so we rented a Jeep Compass. But you can start with whatever is the lowest on the scale and you will be fine. Since we stayed at San Marcos, we needed to commute a little earlier than if staying at Austin, but in reality the I-45 is a nice highway and you can come and go in 40 minutes on weekdays and less than half an hour on weekends. Problem is when there are accidents that may block a bit. Make sure to leave San Marcos a full hour, hour and a half before the start of your first panel, as you can allow yourself time to park, walk around and even chat a bit with other participants.
Parking: There are several parking lots, and you will definitely need one for the whole day each day. And they go for either 15 or 20 bucks for the full day. My advice is take one that is covered, and either one of the official parking venues of the event, or, my personal favorite, Hilton Garden Inn Downtown parking, as it was one of the hotels of the event, it is two blocks away from the Convention Center, but is on the same street that goes out to the Highway. That way you won´t have any traffic delayes entering or exiting Austin; and it has security.
SXSW Tips on Food
It is Texas, and everything is Big there! Portions are huge if you go to a restaurant. I am a big guy with 220 and even though my girlfriend is tiny we ate both of us with one shared portion and sometimes we didn´t even finish it.
Food Trucks are a different thing though, as the portions there are more gourmet style, meaning you may get hungry soon. But there were several good options, so you can pick according to your style.
My tip is: If you go to a Food truck, one portion per person will be needed, if you go to a restaurant, I´d recommend layering your orders; and if you are still hungry you add something and so on. That way you can save some money.
There are also very good Deli sandwiches inside the Convention Center, so that is another option if you are willing to eat while waiting in line for a session.
SXSW Tips on Clothing
Good thing about this event is you can wear whatever you want. but I will recommend being comfortable, especially in the shoes department, as you will be walking a lot, even if you Uber from one place to another.
It does not get too cold at nights, but maybe you can throw a sweater to your bag just in case.
Extra SXSW Tips to close it out
– Bring Tons of Business Cards. And I mean tons! We brought 300, and by the time of the Trade Show we were running out of them.
– Pen and Paper. You will take lots of notes. It is indeed an inspiring event.
– Water. Bring your own bottle of water. You can refill it on several stations on the event with ice cold water.
If you attended SXSW please leave your own tips in the comments, or ask me for any more if you plan to go next year. You can also follow me on Twitter or other social media for more travel and event tips.