Festival Of The Sun 2016 / Photo: Maria Boyadgis

Meet Vanessa: Your Summer Festival Road Trip Guide

Rocking up to a music festival involves a lot of prep. Do you have your ticket, ID, car pass, phone, charger and money? Not forgetting sunscreen, insect repellant and hand sanitiser… Did we say hand sanitiser x 10? Then there’s the matter of what to wear for the Insta pics. And all that isn’t even considering camping festivals such as Falls Festival, where remembering the pegs for your tent is super-important. Yet festival-goers don’t always plan the most basic part of the whole enterprise – their road trip and how to get to the event and back safely. This is where Vanessa can support you and your mates.

You may have already spotted the Vanessa Bus at your fave fest – Falls, Groovin The Moo, Listen Out and many more. It’s the huge iconic white bus with orange ‘Vanessa’ lettering and a rooftop deck. The bus has heaps of fun activities – like a photo booth, spinning wheel and ball pit – plus giveaways. However, Vanessa also provides free breath-testing, drug and alcohol info, and safe driving tips. In fact, Vanessa is the hipster side of the TAC (Transport Accident Commission), sponsored by the Victorian Government. Her persona speaks to the Zero Generation – those raised in the noughties. She wants to promote collective road safety so zero lives are lost. Vanessa’s motto? We’re on the Road to Zero. And now you can chat with Vanessa, your buddy who has the festie tea, via the Vanessenger Bot on Facebook.

Before the silly season kicks into full gear we gave Vanessa Bot a bit of a test drive and uncovered all the ways she has your back this music festival season. Here are the lessons we learnt from Vanessa about festival prep.

1. Before you hit the road, hit the info highway

Once you’ve decided which festies you’re hitting up (a choice Vanessa can help you with too!), it’s time to get into planning mode. Many of summer’s most buzz fests are out of the big cities. The sold-out Falls Fest is down at Lorne on the Otway Coast over the New Year’s Eve period, with Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals (and Toto performing ‘Africa’!). Beyond The Valley, which has The Kooks, Tash Sultana and Joey Bada$$ on the bill, is at Gippsland’s Lardner Park. Dance day fest Let Them Eat Cake on NYD (OMG, Bicep!) is at Werribee Park, a 30 minute drive from Melbourne. This means that booking an Uber, or walking, is DEF not viable for your party pilgrimage.

Most festivals have FAQ pages on their websites that are worth scoping out when you confirm the line-up and timetable. Organisers cover directions to the site to save you fiddling with a GPS or Google maps during an unfamiliar journey (and in places where the Internet is dodgy, anyway).

There should be advice about weather conditions and traffic on country roads. Festivals also offer alternative (and environmentally-friendly) transit options – including carpooling, public transport, shuttle buses, and even chartered coaches from the city (sounds bougie, but they’re usually affordable).

But, if driving yourself, quiz the Vanessenger Bot for tips.

2. Now, let’s inspect. Is your ride safe?

Driving to a festival? Make sure that your vehicle is roadworthy prior to departure: wheels, tyres, steering, suspension, brakes, lights, signals… Have you looked at the oil, water and radiator? Check that any camping gear is totally secure. It’s smartest to travel light to prevent overloading as this can dangerously mess with navigation. Lastly, ensure that no cargo is obstructing your rear view.

When heading to, say, NYE On The Hill, you wanna dance to The Kite String Tangle, not get into one. And leave that couch at home. You can always lounge at Vanessa’s Bus instead with its shade and beanbags. Ask the Vanessenger Bot if she’s attending.

3. Know the deal with drink and drug driving

Getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol and/or drugs is a major NO. Alcohol and drugs affect your driving skills, concentration, reaction times and decision-making. Drivers on their P-plates must have zero blood alcohol concentration (BAC), while those with a full licence need to blow on or under 0.05. Drugs can linger in your system for days. Be aware that even coming down impairs driving.

Saliva tests at random roadside police checks can pick up weed, speed and ecstasy (MDMA). Additionally, make sure that any prescription medications don’t have side-effects. Alcohol testing is crucial before you drive and risk an accident or cross a booze bus – so ask the Vanessenger Bot about a festival’s on-site facilities rather than second-guess.

If taking a car to a festival, consider sharing the driving to and from. Or, better, designate a driver who’s happy to indulge in the gourmet food trucks over bars. Besides, every attendee should pace themselves and stay hydrated by drinking water. These rules are as golden as, well, Golden Plains (where The Internet, Beach House and Four Tet are playing in March).

4. Are you awake?

Festivals are fun – but fun is exhausting af, just ask the Vanessenger Bot. Sleeping probably won’t happen. But, when driving fatigued, you risk dozing off. Have a kip before driving home, especially over long distances. If you feel tired, or more like a Lana Del Rey ballad than a Peking Duk banger, pull over for a (post-) disco nap.

5. Avoid the perils of distraction

The one time to definitely not chat with the Vanessenger Bot? When actually driving. Indeed, using phones to check texts, social notifications or Spotify playlists can cause crashes. Tuck your phone away in the glovebox, pull over to handle it, or save networking for when you buy snacks or have a toilet break. The same applies to all devices, like that Apple Watch.

Even momentary inattention on the open road can have serious consequences due to other vehicles, wildlife and unforeseen hazards. And don’t let your mates distract you in the ride with goofing (again, if you’re a Red P1-plater, remember peer passenger restrictions). Road safety is about everyone pitching in – particularly when you’re discussing Daniel Avery’s fire techno set at Pitch Music & Arts Festival. Make your road trip an epic one to remember. It’s what Vanessa and everyone else wants.

Head here to find out more about Vanessa. 

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