The idea of a music festival with young children does not float everybody’s boat. Rain, mud, losing children (and that’s without even mentioning the toilets) are just a few of the worries that could make you type ‘luxury family hotels’ instead when searching for a family weekend away.
However, many families attend festivals every year and have a marvellous time! Keen festival goer, and Country Mummy contributor Jess Clements explores the practicalities of taking young children to festivals.
Here are her top tips on being sassy to save money, and how to get through the weekend ensuring everybody has a great time.
1. Pick the right festival
There is a lot of choice out there, some are smaller and less crowded and others are giant cities that some people could find really overwhelming. A smaller affair in some ways can be less stressful and with fewer people can mean you can relax as a family a bit more and don’t need to keep your children by your side all the time. But then, there may not be as much to keep the children entertained the whole weekend. Do your research and pick the festival that you think will suit your family. Have a read of our 2018 round up of family friendly festivals here to decide on the ones that will appeal to you
Many festivals have designated family camping areas that will generally be quieter than the main areas. Remember though, that there will always be some noise going on and so there should be – everyone is there to have a great time - maybe consider earplugs if your children are light sleepers. There are often many different options at festivals than just bringing a suitable family tent.
Take a look at what festivals may offer from Glamping in yurts & tipis or bringing a camper van (you could even look into hiring one for the weekend). Another option is picking a festival not too far from home and then going home each night for a good sleep and a shower, returning the next day feeling refreshed!
Wherever you camp with your children, try to make sure you are not too far away from toilets (obviously you wouldn’t want to be right next to them!) and with younger children bring a potty, or you could even invest in a portable loo.
Try to forget about your routines and make the most of everything – it’s just a couple of days.
3. Pack sensibly!!!
Nobody can predict the weather when booking tickets, and no matter how many times you check the weather forecast before you go – you will need to pack for every eventuality! If there is a hint that the weather could include rain, pack 2 or 3 sets of wet weather gear! More than one pair of wellies can also be really helpful! Borrow from friends who have similar aged children. You don’t want to get caught out and have to buy more – one year we had to buy a pair of tie dye socks for £10 for our daughter as everything was wet and we couldn’t dry anything out.
The other end of the weather scale - be sure to pack lots of sun-cream and sun hats (pack more than one hat! If you are anything like our family they are easy to lose) It can sometimes be hard to find shade, especially if you want to catch lots of the music on a main stage, so be prepared. Parasols are good to keep little ones out of the sun. Remember to pack warm clothes, jumpers and blankets!
The temperature can dramatically drop in the evenings. This could be the time when children may want to cosy down in a buggy or sit on a blanket, while you enjoy the evening music. So make sure you have set up a good base and that everyone is warm enough. If settling down on a picnic blanket, children are going to start feeling cold very quickly.
Remember to pack ear defenders for small children!
Bring lots of snacks for the kids! Food is often very expensive at a festival (a rough average is about £8 for a 'main meal' such as bowl of paella) Make sure to pack lightweight snacks and drinks. You will still be buying lots of different food and beverages over the weekend anyway, but having a few favourite snacks at hand will make life a little easier for everyone.
5. Getting Around - Buggies and Festival Wagons
Taking a buggy that will be easy to manoeuvre on all ground types is important. Festivals can go from thick rainy mud to dusty sand in a day!
If your children are too old for a buggy, you may want to consider bringing (or some festivals rent them) a festival wagon or garden trolley. Even if your children are too big / heavy to drag around it is a great way to move all your gear, snacks, water and warm clothes around. Then later in the evening, your kids can snuggle up and get comfortable off the ground. Make this a family task before the festival, deciding how to customise your wagon and make it festival ready…one year ours doubled up as a sofa when watching music at the main stage. Incorporating a waterproof hood can also be a life saver!
6. Fancy Dress
Don’t forget fancy dress outfits so you can really get into the swing of it! Everywhere you look, you’ll see fairies and tutus! You may want to buy the kids a treat or two, but having the basics of a fun costume can make things much cheaper.
The same goes with face- paints, taking your own chunky glitter and florescent paints could save you a fortune on paying out for a professional face-paint every day (and could also mean you don’t have to queue up for ages each day as well!)We also try to pack our own glow sticks and sometimes even bubble guns. All the things children will see and have to have!
7. Go with the flow!
Have a loose plan of what you want to do and see, but remember it might not always happen. You need to be relaxed about this, and so much of what you enjoy and do will be things you come across accidentally. Or divide and conquer – we’ve often split up as a family if there is something one of us really wants to see while the others are happy doing something else. Make plans to meet back at certain place, in case you have no phone signal or your battery dies.
8. Losing Children
One of my biggest fears would be to lose a child! So as well as ensuring they have identity bracelets and that they are to stay by your side, go through a ‘lost plan’ with them. A meeting place, show them a stall or what the stewards are dressed like, so they can go to the correct people and say they are lost. Walk them through this plan, showing them exactly what to do. Festivals have very good procedures in place for lost children, and you will be reunited in no time. But talking to children lots about this will make it much easier for them if it actually happens
9. Staying Clean
Many festivals do have showers, but it will often mean queuing for a long time – especially in the morning. Come back at a later time in the day when queues will be much shorter. You are not likely to have this luxury at smaller festivals so pack Dettol wipes and hand sanitizer.
We went to Larmer Tree when our youngest was 6 weeks, and it is actually easier than you think with a baby this young. Breast feeding made it easier with such a young baby, but if bottle feeding buy the cartons of ready-made stuff and ‘train’ your baby to drink it at room temperature for a couple of weeks before. You could take a camping stove to boil water to clean bottles or take sterilising tablets to dissolve in the water.
Going with friends as a bigger group can make festivals so much more enjoyable. You can split up and go and see different things that people are interested in. You can also make a base camp near the main stage where you all return to. Remember to be flexible with this – it’s a festival, you don’t own the land – you can’t get grumpy if somebody sits in front of you blocking your view of the stage – regardless of what time you arrived at that spot.
Or make friends there! Children may find other children to play with and you can hang out with their parents. We have made best friends for life at lots of festivals now – our festival family is certainly growing! We have discovered new festivals together and meet up lots throughout the year. You are bound to meet like-minded people and have a really good time together.
There are many festivals out there to choose from, with lots on offer for the whole family to enjoy. Performances, kid’s areas and decorations are designed with children in mind. They are not just an afterthought, but are embedded at the heart of many festivals. Remember if you are not keen on the whole weekend, then lots of festivals have one-day tickets, so you can go for the day and get a taster. It is much cheaper as well! We did this one year for Camp Bestival and camped in a local campsite a short drive away, so we got the experience of a whole day at the festival.
Here’s our round up again of the best family-friendly festivals this year, we’ve updated line-ups and added a few more :)