How to do SXSW without a badge

South By Southwest doesn't have to be expensive: take advantage of the free events throughout the week.

South By Southwest doesn't have to be expensive: take advantage of the free events throughout the week.

With South by Southwest Conferences & Festivals badges costing more than $1,000, Austin locals may be better off with taking advantage of the free events the festival week has to offer. Here are five tips to make the most of your week sans badge.

Stay connected
It is no surprise that one of the biggest tech conferences in the world would have a massive online community during the event. Follow Twitter accounts, join Facebook groups and track hashtags like #sxsw2017 prior to SXSW to stay in the loop regarding parties, musical events or even free merchandise handouts. Some Twitter accounts worth following are @SXSWPartyList, @sxswparty and @SXUnofficial. Sign up for SXSW’s official free event updates.

Don’t always stick to the schedule
It’s smart to have an idea of events or parties you would like to attend, but stay open to spur-of-the-moment opportunities as well. Your favorite brands and companies will hold free, pop-up-style events and often tweet out a location and time to their followers just before the event starts. They are worth checking out if you happen to be in the right place at the right time.

Your best bet for enjoying the festival without shelling out cash for a badge is to RSVP to everything you can in advance, even if there’s a chance you won’t make it. Entering your name and email address into an online form is a small price to pay to be able to get into an event later. You have nothing to lose.

Expect to stand in line
Even for badge holders, waiting in line during SXSW is a given. For highly publicized and free events, it is a good idea to arrive far in advance, even a few hours in advance to be safe. Consider bringing a portable phone charger, a snack or a friend you don’t hate to pass the time with.

Prepare to walk
Sometimes, the best way to find a fun SXSW event is to literally stumble onto it. Many brands and companies hold parties and demonstrations in and around downtown Austin, and no badge is required. Find a parking space near downtown, wear your comfiest pair of shoes and make a day out of finding the best things SXSW has to offer by foot.


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