Tips for a Last-Minute Trip to Oktoberfest

By: Russell Benavides

Megan and I traveled to Munich last December for our Christmas trip through Europe. When we left, we could have never imagined we would be returning nine months later for Oktoberfest. But that is exactly what happened a few weeks ago as we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of the opening weekend of the great German beer festival.

What is even harder to believe is how easy and affordable it was for us to book this trip at the last-minute.

For those looking for the cliff notes version of our trip, here are eight takeaways we learned from our experience at Oktoberfest:

1) You do not need table reservations in order to have a seat inside a tent.

2) BUT if you want to guarantee yourself an unreserved seat on the weekend inside, it is best to arrive by 8 am.

3) Biergarten tables fill up by 11 am on the weekends.

4) You need to be seated inside a tent or in a biergarten in order to be served a beer.

5) Camping is an inexpensive alternative to the pricey hostels and hotels. We recommend Campingplatz Obermenzing. Stoke Travel also offers camping packages.

6) Order a pork knuckle and a roasted chicken inside the tent. They are too delicious to pass up.

7) There are affordable food options outside the tent. Wiener schnitzel sandwiches, bratwursts, crepes, and roasted potatoes are all priced under 5 euro each.

8) If you are arriving early on the opening day of Oktoberfest, bring a deck of cards to help pass the time. It could take up to four hours before you are served your first beer.

Now that we have that out of the way. Let’s continue on to see how this crazy trip came to be and how it ended.

Planning the Trip

About four weeks prior to opening weekend, we had zero plans to attend Oktoberfest. It was not until Megan realized that a friend of hers was going to be in Munich that we started to look into making a trip to Germany.

What really got us excited though is that we could visit her friend AND attend Oktoberfest opening weekend. So at 1 am in the morning, we began to frantically map out all our options for traveling to Oktoberfest.

Since we live in A Coruña, Spain, we quickly realized that flying directly to Munich was not going to be an option. Next, train travel was also eliminated due to high costs. Then, we settled on the idea of driving from our home all the way to Munich. At first, this seemed like a great idea since car rental was only $12/day on Kayak.

Unfortunately, we had forgotten a minor detail. That rate was for a manual transmission car and neither of us can drive a stick. Doh! (Note to self: Have my Uncle Dave teach me how to drive a stick while I am home for Christmas).

When we adjusted the search for an automatic car, the price jumped to over $40/day if we left from A Coruña.

Just as we were about to give up, I realized we could fly round trip from Santiago de Compostela (30 minutes away from A Coruña by train) to Barcelona for dirt cheap via Ryan Air. Perfect. Now, could we rent an automatic car from Barcelona for cheap as well? Answer: Yes! Only $14/day.

Trip booked. Oktoberfest here we come.

Wait…..what about lodging in Munich?

1) Hostels: all booked up. 2) Hotels: Outrageously expensive. 3) Airbnb: Ditto.

4) Camping?!

No tent, no sleeping bags, cold nights, threat of rain…….naturally, camping sounded like a great idea.

I researched extensively camping in Europe and Munich and found it to be very affordable and also a very popular activity among many Europeans. Further, I devised a plan for us to stop at a European sporting goods store, Decathlon, once we landed in Barcelona to pick up a tent and sleeping bags.

Everything was falling into place perfectly. Oktoberfest wanted us to be there.

When it finally came time for the trip, we were ready. I had spent the prior weeks scouring the internet for tips on how to best navigate Oktoberfest on opening weekend.

My best resources for the event itself came from Nomadic Matt’s Oktoberfest experience and this thorough Oktoberfest Insider Guide.

I also found a campground, Campingplatz Obermenzing, on the outskirts of Munich that was cheap and had access to public transportation that took us directly to the Oktoberfest fairgrounds.

On the Road to Oktoberfest

All we needed now was camping gear. Once we landed in Barcelona, we stopped as planned at a local Decathlon and picked up a two-person tent and two sleeping bags for under 50 euro. Money.

With all the essentials accounted for, we made our way from Barcelona to Munich over the next couple of days. We even managed to pick up our friend Clayton from the Zurich airport along the way.

We arrived in Munich on Friday, the day before Oktoberfest was set to begin and pulled into the campgrounds without any issue. They had plenty of room for us. We pitched our tent, parked our car, and headed into town for some delicious beer and German fare at our favorite bierhalle, Augustiner. We could not wait for the next day to arrive.

Saturday, Day 1

We had planned to wake up very early on Saturday in order to get in line before the tents opened, but we could only manage to get up and moving by nine thanks to a few liters of beer the night before.

We hopped on the bus outside the campground and rode it for three stops, where we then jumped off and grabbed the S Bahn train into town. After a few stops on the train, we followed the crowds to the Oktoberfest fairgrounds. Overall, the entire trip took us 30 minutes and was easy and convenient. I love public transportation in Europe.

We strolled into Oktoberfest for FREE (at the State Fair of Texas in my hometown of Dallas you are charged an $17 entrance fee, so yes, I was quite pleased that entrance was free) and immediately bought a delicious bratwurst for breakfast. Brat in hand, we strolled around the fest, marveling at each beer tent. We went in a few and realized we had arrived too late to snag one of the coveted unreserved seats inside a tent.

Instead, we decided to grab a table outside in the biergarten at the Paulaner tent, a great second option for those who cannot find a seat inside a tent.

The Packed Paulaner Biergarten
The Packed Paulaner Biergarten

On the first day, the festival does not begin until the mayor of Munich taps the first keg at noon. As such, no beer is served prior to then. So we waited for over two hours before we received our first beer. But it was well worth the wait.

Since the weather that day was perfect, the biergarten ended up being a great place for us to be. We sat there all day talking to our fellow table mates, drinking wonderful German beer and consuming copious amounts of pork knuckle and roasted chicken (once again, do not miss out on these!).

Delicious Pork Knuckle
Delicious Pork Knuckle

As five o’clock rolled around, we decided it was time to call it a day since we wanted to wake up early the next day. But we still managed to have a little fun on the carnival rides before we left.

Carnival Rides
Carnival Rides

Sunday, Day 2

The next day we woke up before the sun and quickly made our way to the bus stop. We were determined to find ourselves a seat inside one of the beer tents.

We arrived at the fairgrounds shortly after 7:30 am and were some of the first people in line at the Löwenbräu tent. We only had to wait until 9 am before they opened the doors to let us in.

Beers were in front of us by 9:15. I love Oktoberfest.

Moments later, we were best friends with the Australians sitting at our table and began trading stories from the prior day.

We also ordered a bowl of Goulash to help revive us. Excellent decision.

Oktoberfest Goulash for Breakfast
Oktoberfest Goulash for Breakfast

From that point forward, things got very rowdy in the tent very quickly. It began with this guy skulling (as our Australian friends call it) a beer.

Skulling a beer at Oktoberfest
Skulling a beer at Oktoberfest

And it kicked up a notch once the band started around 10:30 am.

Pretty soon everyone was your best friend and you found yourself standing on top of tables. It was a great time.

Ultimately, we ducked out of the tent by 3 in the afternoon, realizing we could not keep up with our fellow tent mates. We consumed a wiener schnitzel sandwich on the way out and left feeling very satisfied. Oktoberfest 2013 was a success for us.

What was not even a thought four weeks prior turned into a once-in-a-lifetime experience that Clayton, Megan, and I will not forget. Lastly, our experience proved that an Oktoberfest trip can be done at the last-minute and still be affordable so long as you are willing to get a little creative with your arrangements. Trust me, you will find the hassle to be worth it.

Click here to see where the Thankful Traveler is headed to next and view pictures of our recent travels!

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