One could argue that there’s no wrong way to attend Tomorrowland. But I know for me personally, there’s a right way — staying onsite at Dreamville, and saving up to splurge.
There’s a serious dearth of Dreamville related information on the internet, if my own searches and the desperate queries I’ve received since publishing a review of Dreamville at Tomorrowland Belgium are any indication. So for any of those looking for a similar tour of Dreamville at Tomorrowland Brasil, you’ve come to the right place!
While there is always the option of staying in a hotel or apartment in Itú or in Sao Paulo and commuting to the festival every day, there’s no way I’d miss out on the fun of staying onsite at a major festival like Tomorrowland. I’ve never even considered staying offsite! Personally, I’m thrilled to forgo air conditioning and other amenities for a few days in exchange for the bonding, fun, and original experience of camping — or in my case, glamping.
Once you’ve decided to stay onsite, you’ve go to choose where exactly to do it, and Tomorrowland provides several options. One thing I noticed as Heather and I were purchasing our tickets was there was a significant price increase over what we paid in Belgium in 2014. The Dream Lodge we’d paid $660 for in Belgium? At Brasil, they’d run us $1,130. Yikes!
Note that it is impossible to buy a Dreamville pass without a Tomorrowland ticket, the price of which is not included here. Specific bracelets allow access to specific camping zones (general camping is one zone, dream tents are another, and then Cabanas and Dream Lodges are a third), and the doors to the Dream Lodges and Cabanas were tightly enforced, especially at night. Here were our options on where to stay:
• Magnificent Greens: Access to the general camping zones of Dreamville, for which you must provide 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. Once again, we did not consider this option considering we were traveling internationally and did not wish to hassle with acquiring the necessary supplies upon arrival in Belgium. Cost: $80 per person.
• Easy Tents: Cute tents, air mattresses, sleeping bags and a night light all set up and ready to go when you arrive. Easy tents have their own special area with private bathroom facilities. Cost: $340 per person for 2 person tents, $225 per person for 4 person tents
• Spectacular Easy Tents: A new upgrade option that includes power outlets (I assume these are USB and not full outlets), wooden platforms under your tent, a private locker, and one Dreamville chair per person. Cost: $425 per person for 2 person tents, $343.50 per person for 4 person tents
• Dream Lodges: Wooden glamping tents that include plush beds, indoor and outdoor lighting, USB outlets, a small lockable hatch in the floor, a small hand mirror, and a cozy porch with two relaxing chairs and a table. One point I’ve clarified since my last Dreamville visit, which has been asked a lot — yes, the beds are moveable! So if you’re a couple, you can push them together, though I can’t comment on how comfortable it would be to do so. Dream Lodges, Spectucular Dream Lodges and Cabanas are contained in their own luxury compound in Dreamville with a private restaurant, bar, and restroom facilities. Cost: $1,130 per person for 2 person lodges.
• Spectacular Dream Lodges: A new upgrade option that includes larger decks, larger tents and from what I could tell, a wooden shelf for storage. Cost: $1,412.50 per person for 2 person lodges.
• Cabanas: Replacing the Relax Room option from Tomorrowland Belgium, Cabanas are modified shipping containers that boast comfy beds, lights, power outlets, a clothing rack with hanging shelves, and a lockable door. The major downside is the heat and stuffiness once the sun rises. Cost: $1,282.50 per person.
Prior to prices being released, we thought we’d try out the Cabanas just for something different, but the price bump was so drastic we actually considered staying in the Easy Tents instead. In the end, based on what a fabulous experience we had at Tomorrowland Belgium we decided to splurge and stay the course and once again book the Dream Lodge. I was the Dream Lodges’ biggest fan after our experience in 2014, going to far as to list staying there as the highlight of my entire time at Tomorrowland. So, did 2016 live up to the hype?
In a word… no.
I’m saddened to say we had a very mixed experience with staying at the Dream Lodges at Tomorrowland Brasil, and if I could do it all again knowing what I know now, I would have saved myself $705 (man, that hurts to type) and gone for the Spectacular Easy Tents instead. Let’s start with the good.
• The Gathering. All Dreamville residents get the major perk of extending their festival for an extra night by attending The Gathering, Tomorrowland’s official warm up party. This informal but exclusive little rave right in the campgrounds is an amazing way to kick off the weekend and get to know your fellow campers! Overall, the Brazilian version was a smaller affair, and there was no VIP stage at The Gathering like at Tomorrowland Belgium.
• Better bathroom situation. Granted, staff admitted it was a fluke, but at Tomorrowland Belgium 2014, the closest row of toilets to our Dream Lodge were standard porta-potties instead of the upgraded flushable version we were promised. Also, we were not impressed that an entire row of tents were set up with the porches facing the bathrooms, and were paranoid we’d be the unlucky ones with that view at Tomorrowland Brasil. We were relieved to arrive and find that the new layout meant no one faced a flusher. Bonus: Showers are free in the Dream Lodges, Spectacular Dream Lodges and Cabanas, as opposed to the 2.5 pearls they cost elsewhere. See more Dreamville details here.
• A place to chill. Despite any the disappointments, the Dream Lodge village is still a peaceful place to retreat and recharge for the next festival stretch. And it’s beautifully designed!
So, that was the good. But I know you want to get to the juicy stuff, right? While these range from petty complaints to I-almost-called-the-police, I feel forking over more than a thousand dollars earned me the right to be finicky.
It’s easy to brush things off with a laugh when you got a bargain. But in my travels I have learned that burden of paying high prices is having high expectations, and ours were admittedly top level for this based on both what we paid and our previous, near-flawless experience. Those expectations weren’t met. Here’s why.
• The lodges were looking rough. Granted, this wasn’t a huge deal — we were lucky enough to get the lodges in their inaugural year our first time, and we couldn’t stop marveling over how stunning they were. They just aren’t aging well.
• The nonsensical Dreamville layout. Ask any experienced festival addict what the main perk of paying for VIP camping is, and they’ll tell you it’s prime festival ground access. While general campers might have to slog forty minutes up to the front gates, the VIP crew pays a premium to waltz in steps away from their tents. Right? At Tomorrowland Brasil, wrong.
The way the various areas of Dreamville were layed out, those that paid the most money had the longest walk to get to the festival. What really rubbed salt in the wound was the fact that there was a blocked-off emergency exit facing straight from the Dream Lodge district to the rainbow arches of the front gate, meaning they could have easily provided that prime access simply by switching the front entrance and the emergency back one. While we could have thrown a stone from our tent and hit the front gates of the festival, we were forced to take a convoluted fifteen minute walk every time. While it doesn’t sound like much, it adds up, especially when you are doing it several times per day — and there was a head-shakingly simple alternative.
• Things were stolen from our tent. Thankfully, we sprang for a locker and so all our valuables were safe and sound, but we were bummed out to find some of our costumes and wine glasses swiped from our porch when we woke up one morning — though we felt lucky when we heard of others who had iPhones and wallets stolen. At Tomorrowland Belgium we knew the security staff who patrolled our area day and night by name and felt completely safe and at secure there, to the point that I sometimes didn’t lock up my camera! In contrast, I never saw a single security staff walking through the aisles of tents at Tomorrowland Brasil.
• A serious lack of surprise and delight. The unexpected little flourishes at Dreamville in Belgium kept smiles constantly on our faces — fun costumes for the staff working at the front desk, masseuses and hairstylists on hand providing fun serves, newspapers delivered daily to our porch, and special Belgian candies and Tomorrowland waters left at our door. Not a single one was replicated at the Brazilian version — and they weren’t replaced with anything either.
• Neighbor blues. We absolutely loved our neighbors at Tomorrowland Belgium, and still keep in touch with some of them today! We looked forward to building the same bonds at Tomorrowland Brasil, but were disappointed when we realized that an extremely large portion of the Dream Lodge village had been bought out by a drug company and gifted to employees as part of an incentive program. The downer was that the group wasn’t really into socializing with anyone outside their clan.
Obviously, it’s not Tomorrowland’s fault that those guys wanted to keep to themselves. However, I wish they kept large groups like that assigned to one tent block. Three out of the four tents we were adjacent to were occupied by this particular group, and as we were already kind of language isolated as non-Portuguese speakers, we definitely felt like we were interlopers at someone else’s party. (The fact that we were on the end of a row and thus only had three neighbors as opposed to five made a difference, too — tent placement is random based on arrival and can’t be changed, so you just have to find of cross your fingers and accept that you’ll get what you get.)
• General disorganization and disinterest. When we first arrived, we laughed at how vast the amount of cleaning staff that always seemed to be lingering near the bathroom was. We weren’t smiling on day three when the showers were gag-worthy while the staff literally sat on the lawn outside staring into space (gone was the free shampoo generously handed out in Belgium, too.)
Information was hard to come by at the Dream Lodge reception. When we asked a basic question about our Tomorrowland transfers back to São Paulo, we were met with blank stares and eventually told “we have nothing to do with that.” Surely that’s handy info to have on hand at the VIP concierge, no?
• Checkout disaster. Most of the above could have been brushed off and forgotten after a few days, had it not been for this final straw. I’ll preface this by saying that at Tomorrowland Belgium, check out took all of five minutes and pretty much consisted of handing over our locker key and being wished a wonderful journey home.
So you can imagine our shock when we rocked up to the check out desk to find a line of hundreds of people that snaked back through a distant row of tents. I quickly realized that we were going to miss our pre-paid shuttle if we didn’t do anything, and so Heather got in line while I set off to figure out what was going on. I found the manager, who thankfully I was able to speak Spanish to. I explained our surprise at the situation and he confessed that only three of the computers were working, and each guest needed to wait while a staff member went and manually inspected their tent before returning and going through the digital check out process. I asked respectfully what would happen if we simply left our keys and walked out and was told security would be called to hold us. While I was negotiating with the manager, a fight broke out in the line and security was indeed called. Some guests had been waiting in line over three hours in the hot sun with a three day festival hangover to check out — no wonder they were furious!
Readers, I confess — I told a lie. We were desperate. I knew that Heather and I were looking at a $200+ cab ride back to Sao Paulo if we missed our transfer, and I had no wifi to let the AirBnB host know if we were going to be late to meet her to get our keys for the apartment we were staying in that night. So I apologetically explained that we had an international flight to catch and while we were so terribly sorry to put the manager in this position (and seriously, we were — he looked miserable) I was going to call my embassy if we were held by security. He reluctantly had one of the staff discreetly check us out, and I pulled Heather out of line. The ordeal had taken about an hour, and in that time she had moved a few feet! We made our shuttle with moments to spare, and just absolutely marveled at how many hours we could have been there and how many dollars we would have been out if I hadn’t been proficient in Spanish, or unscrupulous enough to manipulate our way to the front. We were totally appalled that we had literally paid thousands of dollars to be put in such a terrible position.
So that was that. Again, it really bums me out to put all this negativity out there. I hate complaining over things that should be fun and carefree — like festivals! — but I loathe paying lots of money for a disappointing experience even more.
In the end we focused on loving our tent, enjoying the beauty of the grown up playground that had been created for us, having a ton of fun and making the absolute best of every situation. It’s extremely rare for me to say I regret any of my travel experiences, but looking back I sadly can’t say I felt good about this splurge. In all fairness, Tomorrowland Belgium was celebrating its ten year anniversary when we camped with them — Tomorrowland Brasil was only on its second. Maybe they just need some time to grow. Here’s hoping they find their groove, and future Dreamville experiences can live up to our magical first one.
Have you camped or glamped at a festival? Share your experience below!