Exploring new destinations and experiencing different cultures is a wonderful way to create lasting memories and broaden your horizons. One destination that holds a special place in our hearts is Munich, Germany, where we’ve had the pleasure of attending the world-famous Oktoberfest.
Over the past five years, my husband and I have prioritized travel, savoring every opportunity to see the world before we embark on the journey of parenthood. With our first child set to arrive in May 2021, we’re eager to ensure that our little one inherits our passion for exploration. Our future trips may come with a few adjustments, but the thrill of discovering new places and immersing ourselves in diverse cultures remains a top priority.
Among our cherished travel memories, one adventure stands out: our visits to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. So enamored were we with this lively and unforgettable festival that my husband has made the pilgrimage an impressive five times, while I’ve joined the revelry on three occasions. With each visit, we’ve gathered invaluable insights and must-know tips to maximize your Oktoberfest experience.
In this blog post, we aim to share the essence of Oktoberfest in Munich and provide you with essential information to plan an exceptional trip. From the rich traditions and delectable cuisine to the vibrant atmosphere and, of course, the beer, Munich’s Oktoberfest offers an experience like no other. So, let’s raise a stein, dive into the details, and embark on a journey to discover the keys to a successful Oktoberfest adventure in Munich, Germany. Prost!
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 and Departing Flight Times
When embarking on your Oktoberfest adventure, smart planning is key. Munich’s airport can get quite busy during this time, so it’s essential to book your flights strategically. Arriving a day or two before the festival starts and departing a day or two after it ends can help you avoid the peak travel chaos and secure more affordable fares. This extra time in Munich also allows for a buffer in case of unexpected delays, ensuring you don’t miss out on any Oktoberfest excitement.
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
Oktoberfest is vast, with a multitude of beer tents, attractions, and cultural events. To make the most of your visit, create a flexible itinerary. Highlight the beer tents you want to visit, the parades or concerts you’d like to attend, and any specific foods you’d like to try. But be sure to leave room for spontaneity – some of the best moments at Oktoberfest can be the unplanned ones.
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: Expanding Your European Experience
If you’re eager to make the most of your European adventure, consider these add-on trips to enhance your experience. A recommended duration for such endeavors is around 8 to 9 nights. This time frame allows you to refresh, explore new sights, and start to appreciate the comforts of home again, especially if you’re accustomed to the Monday-to-Friday, 8-5 routine. However, the ideal trip duration can vary from person to person.
Your choice of duration should factor in where you’re headed, how packed you want your itinerary to be, and how much you aim to see. To help you get started, here are some enticing add-on destinations: Amsterdam, Dublin, and Prague. These cities offer unique experiences that can complement your Oktoberfest adventure, making your European journey even more memorable.
3. Load Up on Cash
While credit cards are widely accepted in Germany, having cash on hand at Oktoberfest can be a lifesaver. Some food stalls and smaller vendors may not accept cards, and it’s customary to tip the staff. Withdraw cash from ATMs before arriving at the festival to avoid long lines and keep it in a secure money belt or pouch to prevent pickpocketing.
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 Attire
It’s a long-standing tradition to dress in traditional Oktoberfest attire when you attend the festival, and while it’s not mandatory, embracing the dress code is part of the experience. In fact, you’ll find that about 90% of attendees choose to don the customary outfits. Keep in mind that your Oktoberfest attire will become a staple of your festival visits, so it’s wise to factor this into your packing plans.
For ladies: The go-to option is a dirndl, although some ladies also opt for lederhosen versions. If you’re just starting your collection, I recommend beginning with a dirndl. Later on, if you wish to diversify, you can explore lederhosen. Here are a few key considerations:
- Sizing: Remember that all sizing is European, so be sure to understand how your US size corresponds to European sizes.
- Quality: When it comes to purchasing a dirndl, avoid the gift shops. If you’re going to invest in a high-quality dirndl, consider buying it from an authentic German clothing store. Moser Trachten, for example, is a reputable online store providing high-quality clothing for pre-trip shopping. Personally, I cound my dirndl at the AngerMaier Trachten, conveniently located a short 15-minute walk from the Hofbanhoff (main train station).
- Costs: Be prepared to invest in both the dirndl and the blouse. At places like AngerMaier, you can acquire a high-quality dirndl in the range of 150-250 euros, and they often accept credit cards for payment.
- Accessories: Given the possibility of slightly chilly weather, it’s advisable to bring some accessories to complement your dirndl. Consider a button or zip-down neutral sweater, brown or black flats to pair with your dress, and a well-fitted white push-up bra (opt for smaller cup sizes, avoiding full coverage cups) to complete your ensemble.
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
The Oktoberfest draws an impressive crowd every year, making it a one-of-a-kind event filled with culture and excitement. When planning your visit, keep these tips in mind:
Opening and Closing Days: Unless you have a special connection, like knowing someone with a long-standing reservation, your chances of getting into a tent on opening or closing day are extremely slim. In such scenarios, it’s safer to assume it’s next to impossible.
- Plan Multiple Visits: Make the most of your Oktoberfest experience by attending for at least two days. Space your visits, perhaps on, say, day 2 and day 4, to explore different aspects of the festival.
- Early Arrival is Key: Arrive at the festival early, and I can’t emphasize this enough. After 4:30 PM, finding a seat becomes nearly impossible. Get there in the morning, select a tent you’d like to spend the day in, and stay put.
- Bag Size Matters: If your bag is larger than a small handheld one, you’ll need to check it. Most authentic dirndls come with pockets, so consider using them for your essentials instead of carrying a handbag.
- Seat Holding Challenge: Holding seats can be quite challenging. If you’re waiting for friends, ensure that all of you arrive together and early. You might be able to save two seats for a short while before 4:30 PM, but after that, it becomes considerably more difficult.
- Cash is King: Remember to bring cash. Servers will come to your table, and you’ll need cash to pay for all your food and drinks.
- Order Strategically: If you’ve secured a table, keep ordering to maintain your spot. It’s often a good idea to have a few drinks, order a meal to balance things out, and then continue ordering.
- Moderate Drinking: Oktoberfest is a marathon, not a sprint when it comes to alcohol consumption. The purity of the beer makes for a smoother taste and, honestly, minimizes the risk of hangovers.
- Evening Revelry: As the night falls, expect the atmosphere to get rowdy with chugging and table dancing. If you’re traveling with kids, keep in mind that the festival becomes less child-friendly in the evening, and it’s best for them to exit by 5 PM. If you are bringing children, explore the family day options.
With these insights in your arsenal, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the lively Oktoberfest crowds and have an unforgettable experience.