If there was one chorus that Heather and I couldn’t stop repeating to each other during out time at Tomorrowland, it was how insanely overjoyed we were with our decision to camp at the Dream Lodges in DreamVille. I mean, can you blame us for occasionally tossing around the idea of foregoing the festival altogether and just chilling here all day?
It had been a decision fraught with a fair amount of hand-wringing. Part of the reason I’m writing this in-depth post is to help others looking for DreamVille information in the future. Trying to find clear information about Tomorrowland and/or DreamVille is like attempting to get a live person on the phone regarding your flight rerouting during a major storm at JFK on Thanksgiving weekend — you might as well just light yourself on fire now and save yourself the frustration. Oh, and unless your goal is doubled over laughter at the the true depths of failure to which customer service can sink, don’t attempt to reach out to anyone at the Tomorrowland help desk.
So, we were somewhat in the dark about our choices. While of course there is always the option to stay in a hotel in Brussels or Antwerp and shuttle into the festival each day, or even take advantage of one of the handfuls of rooms rented by enterprising Boom residents, we were set on staying on site with 35,000 of our fellow ravers. Here are the options in DreamVille.
• General Camping: This option allows you access to the general camping zones of DreamVille. You must bring your own tent and camping gear. This is the only option available for solo travelers who don’t want to pay double — all other packages are sold by tent or by room rather than by person, and are meant for groups of two or four. You can buy a group camping pass which will allow large groups of friends to stay together in a special area. We did not consider this option as we were traveling internationally to the festival and did not want to deal with acquiring the necessary supplies upon arrival in Belgium. Cost: €52.50 or $67 per person.
• Easy Tent: This option allows you to rock up to DreamVille with a Tomorrowland-branded tent all set up and ready to go — there’s even a light inside. Easy tents are contained in their own special area slightly closer to the festival grounds than general camping. Tents are available for two or four people. We considered this option, but were concerned about how we’d feel either leaving our valuable unlocked or trudging to the campground lockers every time we needed something, and as two photographers we were concerned about charging our devices. Cost: €137.5 or $175 per person.
• Relax Rooms: Relax Rooms and Dream Lodges are contained in their own luxury compound in DreamVille’s closest edge to Tomorrowland. Strangely similar in appearance to storage containers, the Relax Rooms boast comfy beds, lights, power outlets and a clothing rack with hanging shelves — and of course, a lockable door. We considered this option but were concerned it would be stuffy inside once the sun came up. Cost: €475 or $603 per person.
• Dream Lodges: In the same plush suburb of DreamVille as the Relax Rooms, Dream Lodges were a new option in 2014 and so we were made somewhat nervous by only being able to reference digital renderings. Still, they promised plush beds, lighting, power outlets, a locker, and a cozy looking porch with two relaxing chairs and a table. Dream Lodges are available for two or four persons. Cost: €525 0r $661 per person.
• Mansion: There are no prices listed and as my Dad always says, if you have to ask, you can’t afford it. Didn’t consider.
Note that it is impossible to buy a DreamVille pass without a Tomorrowland ticket, the price of which is not included here. Specific bracelets meant only those registered to the special camping zones — Easy Tents and Relax Rooms/Dream Lodges — were allowed in those areas. Security was tight.
Eventually we narrowed it down to Relax Rooms or Dream Lodges — we realized our enjoyment of the festival would be multiplied tenfold if we could lock up our laptops (we both work online and were on long-term trips so having them there was non-negotiable), charge our cameras and phones, and sleep on a real mattress at night. After roughing it at Burning Man I was ready for some creature comforts and considering how hard it is to get tickets, we realized this was probably a once in a lifetime experience and thus something to splurge on. We were a bit confused however since the online descriptions indicated that the Relax Rooms had access to better facilities, despite being cheaper. In the end, though, fate made the decision for us — by the time we got through to the purchase page, only Dream Lodges were left as an option.
And we couldn’t have been luckier for it.
From the moment we checked in with a pink-toga-and-flower-headdress wearing receptionist we knew we were in for something special. Dream Lodges and Relax Rooms shared the same reception and communal spaces, including a private gourmet dining room, an on-site masseuse and hair team on call for pampering, bathroom areas boasting warm water showers and flushable toilets, and a friendly — and flamboyantly costumed — staff and security team.
So how much did I love camping at the Dream Lodges? Let me count the ways.
1. Home Sweet Home
While a few things weren’t quite as implied — the promised power plug was not a socket but just a USB port and the locker was laughably too small to fit dSLR cameras — we were pretty wildly in love with our little tent. The beds were insanely comfy and the set up was very communal, which meant we made fast friends with our neighbors over long chats in our deck chairs.
Every morning we woke up to a Tomorrowland newspaper on our porch, often accompanied by a little gift, like burlap bags of chocolate-covered almonds or cold bottles of Tomorrowland-branded water.
2. The Middle Party
All three days of the festival followed the same formula for us — venture in during the day and have a few hours of sun-filled fun, retreat back to DreamVille for what we quickly dubbed “The Middle Party” (who needs after parties?) and then head back out into the night, recharged and ready to rage. Goofing around at our campsite and getting silly with our fabulous neighbors — we couldn’t have lucked out more in that department — ended up being some of my favorite memories of the weekend.
3. All The Small Things
There were so many things I loved about our Dream Lodge that I didn’t even know to appreciate until a few days in. When I heard general camping residents complain of endless lines for cold showers — that they had to pay extra for — I said a silent thanks for our free warm showers, free shampoo, and never having to wait a single second before waltzing into one. We also didn’t have to pay extra for lockers, since we had our own (albeit small) ones in our tent, and security in our ‘hood was tight.
One benefit I didn’t even consider until we arrived was our commute. From our tent to the Tomorrowland gates was under a ten minute walk — for those in the far reaches of the sprawling general camping area, that walk could be almost forty minutes. This map gives an idea of the general layout — you don’t want to be in the pink camping!
And while I realize to many this would be a bummer instead of a blessing, I loved that our neighborhood was nice and quiet after hours. If we wanted an after party, we could easily venture into general camping, but when we needed to switch off, sleep came easily.
4. The DreamVille Marketplace
Tomorrowland wasn’t the only place full of surprises. The adorable DreamVille Marketplace boasted a supermarket, a bakery, Dreamville Radio, Tomorrowland boutiques, frozen yogurt stands and more all with matching false shop fronts. Regrettably I have none of my own photos of this twee-ness because, hangover, but here you go. While we did have our own fancy catering options going on in the Dream Lodge village, the prices in the communal marketplace leaned more towards standard-festival-ridiculous than the this-is-just-insulting levels we were talking.
Best part? Oxygen bar! For a mere €6, we exhaled away all our bad decisions from the previous days. That is how it works, right?
5. The Gathering
One of the biggest benefits to camping at DreamVille is extending the Tomorrowland experience by an extra night. While for some the festival may be a Friday through Sunday affair, DreamVillers start on Thursday night an exclusive but informal little rave right in the campsite. It’s quite the way to celebrate unpacking. Being in the Dream Lodge village meant we had access to the VIP stages for The Gathering.
A fun detail about The Gathering is exclusively features up and coming Belgian acts — a nice nod to the festival’s host country.
Room for Improvement
As I’m sure the higher ups at Tomorrowland and DreamVille are waiting with baited breath for my suggestions on how to improve the experience for next year, I’ve compiled a convenient list!
• Clear up confusion about the facilities between Relax Rooms and Dream Lodges — it should be made obvious that these are shared communal spaces. Also give more details about the details of the rooms — make clear the locker size, and explain that the power plug is a USB port (thank goodness we arrived with cameras fully charged!). Finally, consider adding some form of storage or organization in the Dream Lodges — the hanging shelves in the Relax Rooms were the one major benefit we saw to that option.
• Our first night at the campsite we were pretty horrified by the condition of the porta potties closest to us. It changed our
lives weekend the next day when we discovered that every single other bathroom area in the Dream Lodge village had gloriously flushing toilets. When we mentioned this to a security guard, he sheepishly admitted that it had been a mistake on the part of the set up team. Also, on the topic of toilets, I personally think I would have wept if after paying so much for a luxury camping experience I was in the row of tents directly facing the toilets! Surely there must be a way to arrange things so no one had to sit on their porch and watch people do the potty dance.
• Sell ice! While we were overjoyed at being able to bring in as much food and booze as we pleased into DreamVille (the only no-no was glass containers), we were not so thrilled at serving our mimosas warm. We were pretty shocked that ice wasn’t sold anywhere in DreamVille, and our neighbors couldn’t find it in Boom’s local supermarket when they ventured out, either. A few times we lucked out and got a friendly bartender from the dining tent to dole us out a few cubes.
• We loved that every trash can in DreamVille had a twin recycling bin right beside it, and that a trade-in token system for re-usable cups reduced plastic waste. We also appreciated that security handed out trash bags to us every morning and picked them up at night while we were sleeping. Personally, we were careful to separate our recyclables and carry them outside to the recycling bins ourselves, but it would be great if along with the trash bags, recycling bags of a different color were handed out to ensure that no one tosses their cans and bottles out of convenience.
• Throw an opening night cocktail party before The Gathering on Thursday night! While we immediately bonded with those in the tents around us, it would have been nice to have a mixer to get to know those who might be staying on the other side of the village.
DreamVille exceeded our wildest dreams! Now tell me, are you more of a camper or a glamper — or an I’ll-see-you-at-the-hotel-er?