My Top Tips for Oktoberfest
This fall I crossed one off my bucket list and made it Octoberfest in Munich. Here's what I learned:
Oktoberfest isn't in October.
At least not completely; it seems to always begin in September and is sometimes over by early October.
For instance in 2016 & 2017 the dates were September 16th-October 3rd. In 2018 they are September 22nd to October 7th. Mark your calendars accordingly.
You can in fact find reasonably priced flights to Germany during the festival.
I had incorrectly assumed that prices would be crazy and reward flights impossible. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could book a reward ticket to Munich using United miles only a few weeks before my departure date.
My friends found tickets from San Francisco to Frankurt via Iceland on WOW for around $400. Not too bad! Especially given these were booked only a month or so out.
Group discounts on the train will save you big time!
For a single train ticket from Frankfurt to Munich you'll pay around 120 Euros. But get a group of ten or more and the price drops to only 35 Euros!
The other non-group option is to be very on the ball and buy your tickets 90 days out right when the cheaper seats are available.
Trains leave straight from the Frankfurt airport to Munich. As you'd expect in Germany, the trains are comfortable, timely, and there is plenty of beer in the dining cars if you'd like to get acclimated to German culture before arriving at the festival.
You don't need a reservation to get into a beer tent.
If you don't know, Octoberfest is famous for its massive tents that each hold thousands of people. Each tent has its own particular beer, food, and reputation.
Our group was able to walk into one of the smaller (but still massive) tents on a Thursday night and had a blast. We also had no problem getting a table for twelve guys at the Augustiner tent (one of the better tents) on a Friday. We made it there by around 11:30 and there were lots of tables, by 12:30 it was filing up. Maybe on a weekend it would fill up faster.
But the bottom line is that you will be able to find a way in and have a good time without a reservation.
If you're on the fence about dressing up, let me push you over the edge: do it! It felt like at least 90% of people were in costume. Lederhosen is readily available all over town for $75 on the less authentic side and over $200 for quality stuff. You can also rent lederhosen. My German friend who lives in Munich recommended Bavarian Outfitters.
There are rides!
I wasn't prepared for the scale of the festival grounds, full of enormous tents, games, food stands, and amusement park rides! Some would say drinking and spinning rides don't mix. Octoberfest tries to prove otherwise, with mostly fun results. Our group witnessed no puking off the rides, but I'm sure it happens!
Hotels are still a bit tough.
The hotel prices were still a bit high, but our group booked only about a month ahead of time. I'm curious to see if it's possible to find things a bit cheaper if reserved farther ahead.
Oktoberfest isn't just in Munich.
There are enormous festivals in lots of other cities in Germany. Check these out if you can't get to Munich. I could see these being extremely fun as they'd have a less touristy and more off-the-beaten-track feel, while still being big, fun parties. Even the "smaller" Octoberfest parties are still massive.
Octoberfest is a blast, even more so that I expected.
Admittedly, I love a good festival, maybe moreso than the average person, but Oktoberfest abounded with good vibes. Everyone we met was super friendly (beer helps with this) and the festival strikes the right balance of revelry--super fun without being obnoxious.
Oktoberfest delivers big time, so much so that I'm already planning my return visit!
Ein Prosit to Oktoberfest!