The past five years, my husband and I made travel a priority. We wanted to see as much as we could before we started to grow our family. Now that our first child will be arriving in May 2021, we would like to make sure she also is able to explore. Our new trips might be slightly different, but seeing new sights and learning about different cultures will always be a priority. One of my favorite trips was attending Oktoberfest in Munich Germany. We enjoyed it so much my husband has been five times and me, I’ve been three. Each trip we pick up on must do’s and tips to get the most out of your Oktoberfest experience.
There is so much to share about the Oktoberfest and traveling to Munich, Germany in general. These are just the “must know’s” to plan a successful trip.
5 Tips when attending the Oktoberfest in Munich Germany
- Strategically plan your arrival and departing flight times
- Follow an itinerary
- Load up on cash
- Dress the part
- Navigate the crowds
1. Strategically plan your arrival departing flight times
Oktoberfest Arrival Tips
When traveling to Europe from the U.S. I recommend booking an evening flight. Plan to leave anywhere from 5:00-8:00 PM. This allows you to get on the plane, enjoy your meal, turn on the television and get some sleep.
In order for sleep to be possible, make sure you start your travel day early. Get up no later than 6:30 AM, exercise, finish packing and no naps!
You’ll land around 9:00 AM in the morning. Once you get through customs and locate your hotel, it will be 11:30 AM. Grab lunch and plan an afternoon activity. The best thing you can do on day 1 is to stay awake until 8:00 PM.
Pro tip: Interested in upgrades? I recommend booking economy plus with your original reservation. This is typically less than $200 more per ticket and upgrades your cabin, meals and leg space.
Oktoberfest Departure Tips
The best flight out of Munich leaves between 3:00-4:00 PM CST. If you do an add-on trip (more below), the recommendation still stands. Get a flight back to the U.S. that leaves Europe between 3:00-5:00 PM. Allow yourself a cat nap, but you want to land tired. Find a few movies that interest you on the way to Europe and plan to watch those on the way home. On the way to Europe you will want to sleep.
Depending on your final destination in the U.S. you will probably land between 5:00-7:30 PM. This is perfect for you to go through customs, find your car or taxi and head home. Go right to sleep, you’ll be tired. You might wake up at 4 AM in the morning, go back to sleep if possible. If not, start your day. I guarantee that taking an evening flight home will significantly decrease jet lag.
2. Follow an Itinerary
When exploring it is important to keep your valuables either locked in a safe at your hotel or on your person. Most flag hotels (Marriott/Sheraton/Hyatt..etc) will have a safe in each room. If you are carrying your passport and other valuable items with you, I encourage you to invest in a travel pouch or travel purse. Both will block RFID. The pouch is worn under your clothes.
Oktoberfest 4-Day Itinerary
At a minimum, you will want to spend four days exploring Munich and the Oktoberfest. There are so many great sights to see beyond just attending the festival. Since you’ve already traveled all the way to Europe, if you select a 4 day Oktoberfest itinerary, please consider doing an “add-on trip”. This itinerary includes two days at the fest and two days exploring Munich and the surrounding sites, such as the Marienplatz, the Original Hofbrauhaus, Dachau, the BMW Museum, Olympic Park and the English Garden.
Oktoberfest 5-day Itinerary
This Oktoberfest 5-day Itinerary includes two days at the festival, plus recommendations on several other must see places around Munich. Note, the Neuschwanstein option is a very full day trip. The train ride is two hours each way and the experience will last about four hours. The Andechs option requires a 45 minute train ride and about a three hour onsite experience.
Oktoberfest Trip: Recommended Add-On’s
These add-on trips are great to get a more inclusive European experience. I recommend spend trying to 8-9 nights total. For those of us working a Monday-Friday, 8-5 that tends to be a good amount to refresh, see the sites and start to miss the comforts of your home. Once you have your first European trip under your belt, you’ll have a better idea of the magic duration for you. Duration will also depend on where you are going, how busy you want to be and how much you want to see. Recommendations included in this add-on itinerary include: Amsterdam, Dublin and Prague.
3. Load up on Cash
Cash is very important in many places in Europe, but especially Munich. You can get euros at your bank prior to your trip or you can visit the cash station at the Airport.
Make sure to call your bank prior to your trip to alert them of your travel. The worst thing that can happen is your cash station card and credit cards don’t work. Also, make sure to review your credit card policies and fees on withdrawing cash prior to departure. Some banks will charge hefty international transaction fees.
You will pay for everything in the Oktoberfest grounds with euros, plus many of the meals you have at restaurants in Munich. I recommend $100-$150 per person per day as a starting point. You can always get more euros when you arrive. Credit cards are more commonly used for retail shopping, train fare and hotels.
Pro-tip: Just get euros before you leave. This will minimize any anxiety for finding a cash station and doubting if your credit cards and cash station cards will work.
4. Dress the part: Traditional Oktoberfest outfits
It is customary to dress in traditional Oktoberfest attire when attending the festival. This is optional, but just know the outfit is part of the experience and 90% of attendees will be in traditional attire. You will wear your traditional Oktoberfest outfit each time you visit the fest, therefore make sure to take that into consideration when packing.
For ladies: A dirndl, however, there are some ladies lederhosen versions. I recommend starting your collection with a dirndl and if you want to expand later, you can look into lederhosen. Items to take into consideration:
- Sizing: All sizing is European, so make sure you are aware of how your size correlates from US to European.
- Quality: Do not buy a dirndl from a gift shop. If you are going to spend the money on a nice dirndl, purchase one from an authentic German clothing store. Moser Trachten is a high quality store if you would like to purchase online prior to your trip. I bought mine on site at the AngerMaier Trachten, which is about a 15 minute walk from the Hofbanhoff (main train station).
- Costs: You will need to purchase the dirndl plus the blouse. At places like the AngerMaier, you will be able to get a high quality dirndl for 150-250 euros. Credit cards are accepted.
- Accessories: The weather might be slightly chilly, so bring accessories to accompany your dirndl. Bring a button or zip down neutral sweater, brown or black flat does to wear with your dress and a nice white push-up bra (smaller cup- avoid the full coverage cups)
For Men: Lederhosen is your traditional outfit. Now these short overall type outfits are made of leather and therefore can be pricy. Lederhosen, without the collared shirt run anywhere from 170-500 euros. A white (~30 euro) or gingham shirt are traditionally worn under the lederhosen. The outfit also consists of high wool socks (~10 euro) and traditional shoes (~50 euro).
If you would like to purchase all your attire prior to arriving, I found some similar options on Amazon! Order in advance to make sure you have time to return and re-order if the sizes aren’t quite right.
5. Navigating the Oktoberfest crowds
A lot of people come to the Oktoberfest each year! It is a one of a kind event and honestly, one of the most interesting and culture filled fests I’ve attended. Take the following into consideration when planning your itinerary:
- Unless you have a connection (know someone with a long standing reservation) your chances of getting into a tent on opening or closing day are slim to none. I’d lean more towards none with those scenarios.
- Attend the fest at least two days when you are there and space our your visits (example: day 2 and 4).
- Get to the fest early!! I cannot stress this enough. If you get to the fest after 4:30 PM you will not find a seat. Get to the fest early, find a tent you want to sit in for the rest of the day and STAY PUT.
- Purses larger than a small handheld will need to be checked. You’re dirndl will have pockets, use those and only bring necessities.
- It is very hard to hold seats. If you are waiting for friends, make sure all of you get there together and early. You might be able to hold two seats for 30 minutes before 4:30 PM but after, no such luck.
- Remember to bring the cash. A server will come to your table and you will pay for all food and drink in cash.
- If you are taking up a table, continue to order. I recommend having a few drinks, then ordering a meal (recover from the beer) and then you can continue ordering.
- Remember this is a marathon day not a sprint when it comes to alcohol consumption. You will find that the purity levels in the beer make for a much smoother taste and honestly, minimized, if any hangover.
- At night it will get rowdy with chugging, and table dancing. Kids should exit by 5PM.
Enjoy your trip! If you have any planning questions, feel free to email me.