Festivals with kids: a survivors guide
When I think of music festivals I'm momentarily transported to my youth: a summer weekend filled with great music, great friends, copious amounts of alcohol and not a care in the world as we danced late into the night. Fast forward a few decades and a few kids later and the thought of going to my favourite music festival now invokes a whole new set of feelings, mostly: how the hell am I going to enjoy the vibe and still look after two rambunctious little people?
It's fair to say that attending a festival with kids is a totally different experience to attending it child-free, but that's not to say you can't still have a great time with a little pre-planning and preparation. Here are my top tips to enjoy the festival experience without losing your sanity or your kids and hopefully make some amazing family memories along the way!
Tip 1: Prepare for every possibility
There's no such thing as bad weather - just bad clothing - so pack for all occasions. Chances are pretty good here in Britain that it will rain during a summer festival so pack your sunnies and sunhat and wellies and waterproofs. Thin layers are better than bulky clothing especially if it's warm in the day and cool in the evening. Don't forget to bring spare clothes just in case. A small first aid kit, hand sanitizer and wet wipes are essential too as well as ear defenders for the kids and a picnic blanket with a plastic bottom in case the ground is wet. Consider going with a group of friends if possible and work out a childcare roster so parents can get a few moments to enjoy the festival and the music child-free.
Tip 2: Think about your food and drink strategy
Festivals nowadays tend to have a pretty good food selection - often from all over the world - and part of the festival experience is tasting what's on offer. If your budget will allow for it then definitely indulge in and enjoy festival food. Having said that, if you don't want to blow the bank then pack a bag with healthy snacks and carton drinks or water. Festival food is expensive and the cost will really add up, especially if you are there for more than a day. A camelback is a great option for carrying lots of water that can easily be refilled. Most festivals have a water station where you can fill up with fresh water, but you may want to bring sterilising tablets just in case they don't.
Tip 3: Safety, Safety, Safety
It's hard enough keeping an eye on kids in the super market let alone a huge festival with thousands of people. Every parent's worst nightmare is losing their child in a large crowd so taking extra precautions at the festival is paramount.
To start, dress your kids in obvious, bright clothing so it’s easier to keep an eye on them in the crowd and take a picture of them in their clothes on the day so you have it for reference if you do get separated and need to show people who are looking for them. At night, light them up with glow sticks or other lighting accerssories. This article has great tips on how to keep track of your kids at night. Also, write multiple mobile numbers on either the inside of an ID bracelet or directly on their arm so if they do get separated you are easy to contact - multiple numbers are essential so if one mobile is lost or the battery is flat there is a backup number. You can also go hi-tech and purchase a child locator device that syncs with your phone and alerts you if your child strays too far from you. Better still, read this excellent article: Where’s my child? – Diary of a Lost Kids Officer before you go to the festival for detailed information on what to do if you lose your child.
If your children are older make sure they understand who they should look for in order to get help. Agree on a designated meeting point in case you get split up or decide to do different things during the day and make sure each adult (or whoever is in charge of the group) has a watch and they are all set to the same time.
Tip 4: Transporting Little People
Using a sling is a fantastic idea - especially from a safety perspective in large crowds - if you don’t mind carrying your kid. Otherwise, definitely bring a sturdy pushchair or a trolley so little ones have a place to rest when they get tired. It's worth noting that festivals can turn into mud pits pretty quickly so unless you have a hardcore pushchair that won't get stuck in the mud you may be better off with a trolley that you can pull through mud and puddles instead. If you don't have your own trolley most family-friendly festivals have them available for hire so check ahead if that's your preferred option. Also, check out this awesome guide which explains everything you need to know about transporting kids around a festival.
Tip 5: Toilet Time
The line for festival toilets is usually long and when you finally get to use one they are often pretty gross which is even worse if your little one likes to hold onto the seat to balance. For children (not adults unless you really don't want to wait in line and hold it) bring a portable, fold up potty with a disposable liner which is much cleaner and you don't have to worry about accidents in the queue. I'm a fan of this one (which is also great for potty training when you are out and about). It's also worth bringing a stash of toilet paper just in case there isn't any available for you!
Tip 6: Listen to the music
Listen to the music that will be at the festival ahead of time so kids can get to know it and recognise it when they are there. If you’re heading to Green Man this year they have an excellent playlist on Spotify!
Tip 7: See the festival through their eyes
If your child is old enough consider giving them an old camera (that you don’t mind possibly getting lost) so they can snap some pictures and video from their perspective and capture their own unique memories. Also, don’t forget to snap lots of your own pics and videos - you don’t want to forget the awesome memories you’ll make together!
Tip 8: Plan ahead
Decide what you want to see and do throughout the day and let it guide your activities, but be realistic. If you have toddlers chances are they will dictate your day - don't sweat it. Taking kids to a festival is really about the kids, not the adults so go with the flow. Don’t forget to plan in a bit of rest time for the kids (and probably yourself). Be prepared to spend lots of time in the kids area instead of watching a full set from your favourite band. Gone are the mosh pit days - get comfortable sitting near the back of the crowd where little people won't get stepped on or banged into - it's a nice, relaxing perspective. Pack some bubbles, some balloons, paper and crayons and glow sticks for night to keep them entertained while you listen to the music.
Tip 9: Break the rules
If your kids are into a routine at home break the rules come festival time. They’ll probably be excited and a bit overstimulated from the festival atmosphere so let them enjoy it - put them in their pyjamas after dinner and let them fall asleep naturally when they are ready. After all, they don’t go to a festival everyday so it’s a really exciting treat for them. Some rules are definitely meant to be broken!
Tip 10: Have Fun!
Don't let the stress of bringing kids to a festival overwhelm you. With a little forward planning you will have a great time. Have fun and make amazing memories to your favourite music!