Family friendly festivals are plentiful. The school holidays are within sight and festivals are a break from the norm, combining music and activities. You might be a pre-child festival go-er or entirely free of festival experiences. The prospect of a festival with kids for the first time can be both exciting and overwhelming. Below are my 20 tips for surviving festivals with kids, based on our family festival experience.
Not booked a festival but thinking about it? Not sure whether to large festival or small? We’ve done both. Last summer, we pitched our tent at Starry skies a neat little festival. It has a gentle vibe and a small crowd, with activities grouped around one big field. Potentially, it’s great. The scale and location give children the freedom to roam. However, it rained (a lot) which restricted available activities. The main field was accessible through a very muddy wood. The small size also meant limited food choices.
Previously, we’ve ventured to Deer Shed in North Yorkshire and have friends that go every year. Medium sized, with a greater choice of music and food. It is scaled enough to get up close to the music and keeps an intimate atmosphere.
Smaller/medium festivals make it easier to negotiate all the various things to do and enable you to get closer to the music.
My partner is now a festival convert but I’ve done a couple of festivals as a solo parent. The festival atmosphere is, in my experience, friendly and helpful.
My son was 2 when he attended his first festival Camp Bestival. Then again when he was 5 and then 6. Big festivals offer everything, they can also be frenetic and overwhelming. Camp Bestival is wonderfully well organised. Big name bands and DJs for the grown ups, cocktails bars and pop up dining. Everything from parades to history re-enactments, giant sand pits, woodland adventures for the kids. It a non-stop hive of music and activities.
Festivals cater not just for varying musical tastes, also poetry, comedy, literary, BMX and pampering areas. They cater for every member of the family from Granny to a teenager, toddlers to tweens.
Need some festival ideas? Mumsnet festival round up is here.
These are my 20 top tips for preparing and surviving festivals with kids.
1. Research your festival. Look at what they’ve got going on, get a sense of the size of the crowd. How far is the drive. Rope in friends to join you. Festivals work best with groups of mates, it also helps to share the child care out and kids have instant playmates, although most will find a friends amongst the nearby tents. Get a sense before hand who wants to see and do what.
2. Go with the flow, forget bed-times and routines. Getting the best from a festival is enjoying the moment. Children are incredibly adaptable.
3. Festivals are frenetic. I like time in the late afternoon or early evening for a chill time at the tent. Encourage the kids to nap or slow for a bit. I suggest your own personal spirit of choice; Mixers in a tin are great. Most festivals prohibit glass. Once revived everyone is ready for all that a festival after dusk has to offer.
4. Leave the electronics at home. Festivals are places for kids to run in the open air and use their imaginations. While festivals have a good vibe, tents aren’t secure. Avoid valuables. I really would urge; leave electronic devices at home. There will probably be facilities charge to your phone, check the festival website.
What to pack
5. Ear plugs and extra blankets for a good nights sleep.
6. Baby wipes. Most festivals do have showers, but they don’t have the same washing facilities as a standard campsite. Baby wipes are your friend.
7. Things to do in a tent. Colouring books, quiz books, books, small portable toys. Sometimes you are tent bound. It might be raining. You might be chilling out. It might just be really early in the morning. Some festivals don’t kick off until 10 am and excited children wake up early.
8. Warm clothing, think wooly hat, fleece jackets. Evenings can be chilly.
9. Waterproof trousers and jacket for everyone. The least flattering clothing ever. If it rains you keep dry and can party on regardless.
10. Bubbles and glow-sticks. Of course, you can buy them on site. If you want to save a queue and a few quid, raid the pound shop and bring your own.
11. Flip flops, sun cream, water bottles and sun hats. Sometimes the sun does shine and when it does you will be in it for most of the day.
12. Ruck sack or cross body bag. Hands free for carrying drinks, small people or waving your hands in air like you just don’t care.
13. Torch and slide on shoes for quick trips to the loo in the night
14. Toilet roll and hand wash for keeping small hands hygienic.
15. Ear defenders lots of people swear by them for for little ones. They help with naps and just when it gets a bit loud. Ebay is a good source for second-hand.
16. Bring snacks. Festivals are great for food, however less so for snack type food which suit smaller children. It also saves a bit of cash
17. Kids wake hungry. Easy and quick breakfast items; brioche or cereal bars are a saviour. We bring a small camping stove to make tea in the morning. You may have a willing member of the party, happy to rise, slightly hung over and go in search of hot drinks. Tea bags, sugar. Freeze milk and pop it in a cool box just before you leave. A stove is really handy for quick kids dinners, bring a pan, packet of pasta and plastic container of pesto.
Final top tips
18. Keep small children in sight. Festivals are crowded and busy. Lost children are a regular event and are quickly reunited, but those moments in between are long. A mobile phone number on a kids wrist band is a good idea.
19. Dress up. Where else can you join your five-year old and wear wellies and sequins? Festivals are the place to get out that colourful dress, get playful and have fun. Lots of festivals have a dress up theme. You won’t regret joining in.
20. Either hire a trolley or bring your own. It is often a distance between the car and campsite. At the end of a long journey it’s great to be able to load everything onto a trolley and pull it to your preferred pitch. Pack what you need and then bring less.