Many of us have had some great times at festivals pre-children, but they can also be great places to introduce kids to music, culture and camping. We've been taking our daughter to various festivals since she was 3 and have learnt a lot about how to ensure it's stress free and everyone has fun.
These are just some of the mistakes I wish we had avoided our first time (and maybe several other times). I hope it helps you enjoy your next family festival experience.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, research is crucial. A lot of festivals are becoming more and more family friendly with quieter camping areas, craft fields and specific children’s entertainment but some are just not – they don’t even pretend to be.
So make sure the kids will be welcomed and there will be plenty for them to do. Mini Travellers has put together a great list of family friendly festivals for 2018.
We’re talking festivals in the UK here and whilst most of us know by now that the weather is unpredictable, families often disregard this when attending festivals in a way to cut down on the amount of clobber they need.
Don’t! Even if it’s forecast to rain for the whole weekend you may find yourself watching your favourite band (or Mr Tumble), the sun comes out and you’ve forgotten a sunhat or suncream (this is the only one Piper isn't allergic to and you only need to apply once a day!) and have to go and find some shade away from the action.
Even worse, perhaps you’ve trusted that the sun will shine the whole time you are there but then the heavens open, soaking you all and the kids scream for the rest of the day in soggy wet clothes – if only you’d packed that raincoat and poncho! A spare pare of wellies can turn a miserable kid into a happy one - one pair drying in your tent, one being re-muddied!
Festivals are awesome if you’re a kid (and yes if you’re a grown up too), there is always so much to do and see, magic shows, fairground rides, dancing in fields and walking…. Oh the walking! This will keep little ones entertained for hours, they WON’T want to miss getting their face-painted or trying out the helter-skelter but all this excitement can lead to major meltdowns when tiredness creeps in.
Yes, they may look fine, they may even say they want to rush to the other side of the festival to watch Dick and Dom but make sure you take lots of breaks.
Most festivals will have family friendly chillout areas if it’s too far to head back to the tent, use them to relax and don’t try to start your day too early, hang out together where you’re staying/camping, enjoy a lazy breakfast and talk about what you all want to do with the day ahead.
Little ones will really benefit from some good quality ear defenders, music can be very load and overwhelming and it will make those afternoon naps so much easier when youre out and about.
Of course everyone wants to look their best at a festival, kids included, but try to relax about what clothes they are wearing and save their best things for when you’re closer to home.
There’s nothing worse than spending a fortune on funky new festival gear for your little one to fall over in the mud ten minutes into your arrival – yes this has happened to us and we were never able to save that cute “party like a pineapple” T-shirt! Basic leggings, shorts and t-shirts can easily be accessorised into something a little bit special.
Because the sad truth is you may well miss it. Visiting a festival with kids is a whole different experience to going with a gang of mates, your timeframes will be different, your ability to run from stage to stage will vanish but you will happily trek for miles to find a child friendly toilet (and by that we mean one they will actually enter).
But the things you do see will be that extra bit magical. Kids entertainers at festivals are the best of the best and watching your children’s faces as they are entertained by a flea circus or trapeze act can be just as special as seeing your favourite band on the Pyramid Stage. I promise!
If you really want to see something, make sure you have a back-up plan if the kids aren’t keen/are too tired.
Festivals are expensive, of course they are, food stalls and retail tents have a totally captive audience (and don’t even think about the price of a poncho if it rains unexpectedly!) so try to work out what you need before you get there. Cereal, energy bars and dried fruit are all great snacks which will mean you don’t need to shell out on overpriced churros every ten minutes.
If you are taking a trolley or wagon to transport the little ones when they get tired make sure you bling it up a bit before you arrive, this way you won’t mistake it for someone else’s and the kids will feel they are sleeping in a fairy palace/the batcave making them more likely to take a break inside. These are also great for lugging around all the additional items I’ve just recommended you bring, not buy – win win!.
We’ve all heard horror stories about what people get up to at festivals, we may even have seen a few ourselves but don’t let it put you off. As mistake number one suggests, pick the right one, do a little research and you will find more kid friendly festivals than you thought.
Remember, even if it’s not a festival solely aimed at kids, you will be spending more time in the kids fields than anywhere else and you are all likely to be tucked up in your tent before anything remotely crazy happens.
Yes, the toilets will be awful, on one of our visits, Mr AWTYK ended up throwing up over my daughters shoulder when entering a particularly bad long drop. You will get used to it, take tiger balm for rubbing under your nose, cover your face with a scarf or your top and just try not to look at anything. Recently I've found the shepee blocks a lifesaver but it does take some practice! If you're taking really little ones a portable potty is always a good idea, just make sure you dispose of the contents in an actual toilet.
If you really can't stomach it, many toilets have posh loos you have to pay a small fortune to use but they are so definitly worth it!
I know you dont WANT to drag those camping chairs around all weekend but honestly just bite the bullet and do it. Your legs and bums will thank you later, most have somewhere to rest a drink (no more cider down the hill) and they're portable enough to pack up and move if you prefered space gets to busy/rowdy.
Another great option is a blow up air sofa - not the pool type, these will easily fit in a backpack when deflated and somehow puff up just by waving them round the field. This does take a little practice admittedly but it had our kids in fits of giggles and is comfy enough for a quick snooze in the shade if you can find somewhere quiet enough!
Make sure you take a rucksack and a bum bag (leave your fashion hang ups at the gate) A rucksack will be much kinder to your shoulders than a hand bag and you can keep your toilet roll/hand sanitizer/cash in you bum bag when you want to leave your main bag with friends while you nip to the toilets or to grab an ice cream.
Have a great time if you’re attending a festival this year and be sure to leave us a review to help other families decide where they want to go next year.
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