Oktoberfest Guide for the Thrifty Traveler
Oktoberfest is one of my favorite festivals. Even if you’re not into beer, the festive atmosphere at Oktoberfest is entertaining, and there are plenty of other things to do and more importantly eat. Many people are surprised to learn that Oktoberfest in Munich starts on the third Saturday in September and ends in the first week of October. Mrs. TT and I attended Oktoberfest a couple years back, and again visited Munich this summer. Follow our Oktoberfest Guide for the Thrifty Traveler and learn how to plan your next trip and save some cash.
Where and When?
Location: Munich, Germany @ Theresienwiese (Nicknamed “Weisen”)
2015: Sept 19 – Oct 4th
2016: Sept 17 – Oct 3th
2017: Sept 23 – Oct 8th
Oktoberfest is located in a large area known as the Theresienwiese directly south of the main train station (10-15 minute walk) and just west of the city center (Marienplatz). Don’t forget to visit the classic Hofbrauhaus near the city center!
Your best bet for flights is to book early, especially if you are trying to book with points.
Points: United Airlines offers the most direct routes from the United States to Munich so I’d recommend building up as many United miles as possible. Flight bookings are available 11 months out and you should book as soon as you can. As it gets closer to the Fest, award space on most airlines dries up. Alternatively you can build Oktoberfest into a much longer trip and fly in and out of another city with more award space.
Delta is also a good choice especially with the new route from Detroit to Munich. I typically fly Delta into Amsterdam or Paris when arriving in Europe. It’s relatively cheap to get around Europe once you get there by plane or rail.
Purchasing flight: Go to Airfarewatchdog and set up a city to city alert, which will let you know by email when there are sales for flights to Munich. Check out my tips for finding the cheapest flight possible.
Oktoberfest is less than 20 minutes away from the central train station in Munich and many people commute to the festival each day without staying in the city. If you only wanted to spend the day at Oktoberfest you can easily reach it from many surrounding cities via rail including Augsburg, Salzburg, Fussen, and Nuremberg. I always book with RailEurope.
I prefer to stay in Starwood (SPG) hotels but Munich has hotels which represent every major hotel chain, although SPG really has a monopoly on the city center. All three SPG properties in Munich’s city center are only 10k Starpoints a night, which is a bargain considering rooms are 400 euro per night! I’d recommend staying in the city center by the train station or right next to the Oktoberfest grounds.
- Four Points Sheraton Munich (2 minute walk to Oktoberfest)
- Le Meridien Munich (15 minute walk)
- Aloft Munich (15 minute walk)
Another great way to save money is to book a room or apartment through Airbnb. You can find relatively inexpensive rooms right next to the Oktoberfest grounds and experience what it’s like to live in the city versus a boring hotel.
How do you get a seat at Oktoberfest?
Admission to Oktoberfest and entrance to the tents, if they have room, is free. When I went with Mrs. TT we arrived at the Schottenhamel tent at 9am and we were able to find a couple seats, although it was still very busy. If you are going with a group larger then six then I’d definitely recommend reserving a table. Some tents are bigger than others and busier than others. We spent the most time in Schottenhamel but I recommend going early and checking the others out. While they all serve beer, each has their own vibe. Go early, you won’t be judged for drinking excessively before noon:)
Munich has 6 different main breweries that have tents at Oktoberfest: Lowenbrau, Spaten, Paulaner, Hofbrau, Hacker-Schorr and Augustiner. Augustiner is most popular with local Muenchners.
Thrifty Tip #1: You do not need a reservation for a table but the later in the day you go, the less likely you are to find a spot. Ask nicely if you see people have space at a table.
Oktoberfest annual attendance is more than six million and most of them are Germans. Don’t let that hold you back though. Most the germans we met spoke english as well as we did, even if they did it with a strange British accent. Oktoberfest is all about meeting new people, and the beer does most of the work for you.
If you are going with a group larger than six people, you should reserve a table in advance. This is slightly more complicated. Usually the beer tents gather all requests during January and February; and allocate the beer tent tables in March. You can book directly at each tent’s website.
You don’t pay for the reservation, but for what you’ll be eating and drinking. With each seat you have to buy a minimum of 2 beer and 1/2 chicken, which costs about 30 euro (35 USD) per person. So to reserve a table for 10 is 300 euro (350 USD).
Thrifty Tip #2: Beers are about 10 euro, but it’s for a full liter so actually not too expensive.
Those prepaid beer and food vouchers will be sent to you once you confirm and pay for your reservation. The vouchers are valid during the whole Oktoberfest period. Although I really doubt you’ll have any left over.
Should you dress up?
I recommend finding one at least three months before Oktoberfest on eBay, when they’re the cheapest. I was able to get a classy leather Lederhosen, button up shirt, socks, and shoes for less than $100. The same goes with Mrs. TT’s dirndl.
By booking your flights and hotels with points, you can save a significant amount, and be able to enjoy Oktoberfest without breaking the bank. I highly recommend Oktoberfest and also exploring the areas outside of Munich in Bavaria. Germany is a beautiful country and with the Euro as cheap as it is, you’ll probably never find a thriftier time to go!
Want more details on how to get to Oktoberfest on Points and Miles? Check out our detailed article!
More tips on Europe travel? Check our Thrifty Tools for Booking your next Eurotrip.