Are you thinking of attending Melbourne Cup week but not sure where to start?

What days do you go…. where do you stay and what tickets do you need to buy? It can be a bit overwhelming with all the decisions to make so, being a seasoned attendee (my 5th year this year) I have put together this little guide to help you.

In this guide I’ll be covering the following topics:

About Melbourne Cup Week

Melbourne Cup week is by far, my favourite time of the year for racing fashion. Not only because I get to attend 3 big race events in a week (Derby Day, Melbourne Cup Day and Oaks Day… or 4 if you stay for Stakes Family Day) but because of the atmosphere. Melbourne goes into racing fashion overdrive; the whole state even gets a public holiday for Melbourne Cup Day! That’s passion.

Flemington is the most beautiful race track I have seen. The fields are immaculate and are adorned by rose bushes, 16,000 to be exact. It is bustling with thousands and thousands of people, and they’re all dressed to impress. If you’re single, the viewing of men in dapper suits is enough to make your day! Haha

For Fashions, they have created ‘The Park’. A grassy enclosure that holds the Myer National FOTF competition stage, a band area, food stalls, Ferris Wheel, Pony Bar, karaoke and makeup touch up stands. It’s almost like a mini carnival.

The Dates for 2019 Melbourne Cup Week

flemington spring carnival

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Derby Day Saturday 2nd November 2019

Melbourne Cup Day Tuesday 5th November 2019

Kennedy Oaks Day Thursday 7th November 2019

Stakes Day Saturday 9th November 2019

Choosing which Days to Attend

When deciding which days you will attend, it is good to note that the Myer National FOTF competition final is held on Oaks Day (Thursday). If you are seriously competing in the FOTF competition, then you will want to be there for Oaks Day, as winners of Derby and Cup Day FOTF must compete on Oaks Day for their chance to become the Victorian State finalist. If this sounds confusing, then read this blog on how the National Final competition works.

A lot of us FOTF enthusiasts choose to stay for the three main days; Derby Day, Cup and Oaks Day. This can get quite costly with accommodation and race day entry costs as it means you’re in Melbourne for about a week.

spring carnival week calendar

When I attend Melbourne for the three days I like to fly in on the Friday evening before Derby Day so I can get a relaxing start to the day. Some ladies do choose to catch an early flight on race day morning, all dressed and ready to go. This does save a night’s accommodation cost.

If you are flying in for the day, you may choose to come fully dressed in your outfit. I have seen many race enthusiasts do just this, complete with hat on head, in the airplane! Although I imagine the flight attendants might ask you to remove your hat if it is disrupting other passengers. Or you may have to take a carry on with your outfit that you can change into at the airport toilets.

hats in public

Ladies say that half the fun is travelling on the train and talking to other passengers and race goers. Image credit: Sally Martin, Dee Price and Angela McCormick, Catherine Buckmaster.

racewear at train station to flemington

Image credit: Lisa March

wearing fascinator on an aeroplane

Image credit: Catherine Johnston (left), Angela’s hat with it’s own private seat (right)

travelling to melbourne for cup week

Image credit: Bethany Braj.

You can choose to fly out of Melbourne on Thursday evening after Oaks Day- but it can be a bit of a pain if you have suitcases and have to check out of your hotel on Thursday morning. The traffic out of the race course can be horrific.

Others choose to stay just for Melbourne Cup Day and Oaks Day, which can reduce your time in Melbourne down to half a week. Or for those wanting just a shot at the National Title you can fly in just for Oaks Day.

If this is your first year and you aren’t sure on which day to attend, I have to say all three days are equally as fun. My choice (if I had to choose) is Melbourne Cup day. The race atmosphere is incredible and if you happen to win the FOTF competition, you can always make a super quick trip back for the final on Oaks Day or extend your stay.

The Race Day Dressing Themes

Derby Day is black and white day. It is incredible to see a sea of black and white and how everyone has styled themselves to stand out amongst the crowd.

For FOTF, I would definitely stick to black and white, grey is fine to add in there too. Just because the theme is black and white doesn’t mean you will all look the same, you can use a variety of prints, colour blocking, fabrications and silhouettes to give you a stand out look. Check out this blog for Derby Day Inspo.

Image credit: Getty Images

Melbourne Cup Day The theme for Melbourne Cup day is bright, bold colours showcasing fashion forward styles.

Melbourne cup fashions on the field winners

Image credit: AAP Image/James Ross

 Kennedy Oaks Day is thought to be a feminine day think pastels, florals and lace.

kennedy oaks day fashion

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Of course for Cup and Oaks day you can still wear whatever you like as it isn’t a strict code like Derby Day is.

Stakes Day is family day and a bit more relaxed for FOTF. There is no theme but families dress each other to match in the FOTF competition.

family stakes day

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Keeping an Eye Out for Flight Deals

Nothing beats getting your flights on sale! And the trick to doing this is to start planning early and sign up to different flight websites to be notified when they are having a sale.

I am a member of the Jetstar email list so whenever they have a sale I will get notified and I jump online to check the deals to Melbourne. The last two years I have gotten return flights for $100 (not including baggage)!! The deals are usually around February and mid year.

flight deals to melbourne

Times when I have waited longer to book the flights can be 3 or 4 times as expensive so it definitely pays to start looking early!

Don’t forget when you are booking to allow for enough baggage weight as it is more expensive to add extra weight later. Every year I book for 35 or 40kgs, as I need to pack 3 complete outfits with shoes, accessories and 3 hats. Sometimes I have a hard case suitcase containing just two hats inside. It usually costs $40 each way, but it is better to have extra luggage than not enough.

Spring carnival luggage suitcases

What Racecourse Entry Tickets to Buy

If you are attending Melbourne Cup for the fun of racing or to attend Fashions on the Field, the best ticket to buy is the General Admin ticket (purchase here). They will set you back a different price for each day, and this gets you access to all public areas including the front lawn (where you view the races), Hill Stand level one and two, the betting ring, Saintly Place, the Park and all public bars.

map of flemington racecourse

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If you like a little more luxury you could consider buying Hill Stand allocated seating tickets which will give you your own spot to watch the races and a view of the winning post. Or you could purchase tickets to the precinct which is a closed off area with track side views, outdoor seating and entertainment between races.

As for member’s passes, you will only be able to attain one of these by becoming a member of the VRC (which is quite a process in itself) or if you know a member of the VRC they can purchase a member’s guest pass for you.

Are there Special Tickets for FOTF?

People often ask if you need a special ticket to enter the FOTF competition. You don’t. Any entry ticket to the race course gets you in, then you make your way to The Park to enter the Fashions.

Being a student or pensioner concession holder can get you a nice little discount on tickets- so be sure to bring those along with you.

Derby Day

derby day general admission flemington racecourse entry price

Cup Day

melbourne cup day general admission ticket price

Oaks Day

oaks day general admission ticket price

Where to Stay

When attending the races, you have quite a few options on where to stay. Thanks to Melbourne’s amazing public transport, staying in the city is a great option as a train ride to the track takes less than 50 minutes when they put on special express trains.

I would also consider looking at Air BNB or Stays to find reasonably priced rooms around the city area or around the race track. When looking for accommodation, try to stay within walking distance of a train line so that once dressed you can walk to the train station rather than having to catch a taxi to one.