Tips for your 1st family festival
So… you’ve been a regular festival goer for years, but now you have a young family, the thought of being away for 3 days in a field with so many unknowns truly terrifies you to the core… But you see soooo many families doing it so effortlessly, there just has to be a way to get through the weekend where it is not only about survival, but actually enjoying the experience…
Well, we have pulled together a selection of things that will hopefully ease your mind and entice you to give a festival a go with your family this year. The main thing is to choose your festival wisely. There are a number of things to think about and we have listed a few to help in your decision:
1. Entertainment – Music may not necessarily cut it as entertainment for youngsters. Depending on the age of your kids, the festival will probably need to cater for so much more. When looking at options, check what sort of activities are taking place. Is there a specific area for kids entertainment? Do the workshops have options for different ages? Do the schedules run all day, or just the evening? Are the activities free? Do you need to book anything? Basically, is there enough there to entertain your young’ens for a whole weekend. If the festival has any reviews, check these out. If you are in doubt, contact the festival to find out.
2. Camping – Do it! What an adventure! If you go into camping with an “I’m going to try and brave it” attitude, you will not have a good time. Make sure you embrace the whole weekend. Lookout for festivals that have family camping, where campsite noise is kept to a minimum. This does tend to be further away from the main arena, but it is quieter. This means you can take your little’ens back for afternoon naps if you choose, handy if they are going to be up a little later than usual. If you can park your car next to your tent, this is a massive bonus and worth finding out. If this is allowed, treat your car as an extension to your camping plot as a place to store buggies, valuables, etc… in.
3. Festival Size – For your first family festival, you might consider looking for a slightly smaller sized event. Some of the bigger ones can be quite overwhelming, especially where there are a lot of people and multiple areas, music tents, fields, etc. Some of the smaller sized events which fit into one arena are more practical, easier to navigate round, everything is in walking distance and compact for ease.
4. Catering – At some point over the weekend, you will probably need to venture to the food stands. Festivals will often ask caterers to offer child portions/prices as part of their contract. Organisers will also (hopefully) pick food stalls that offer suitable grub for kids palates, i.e. simpler food like jacket potatoes and sandwiches. Check out the festival’s website to find out which caterers are attending or ask the organisers what you should expect, so you can prepare. This way, you will know what you need to bring with you.
High chairs in the eating zones could also be a possibility at some events. Having said that, it is always good to bring a waterproof blanket onsite if the dining shelters are too busy. Kids always love a picnic!
5. Washing – If you are camping, festivals will tend to provide you with washing facilities, such as showers. These will be very busy at certain times of the day – between 7-11am. It’s good to find out out when the least busy times are and use them then. Showers are handy but if you feel that this is a bit too much, a handy tip is to bring a plastic baby bath for babies or an extra plastic tub for bigger kids that you can fill with water. Bring a flannel and some soap and you have yourself a portable bath. Warm bath tip: fill up the bucket in the morning and let it sit out in the sun to warm up. A fully-washed and clean baby/child often leads to a better nights sleep.
6. Baby facilities –Festivals will hopefully provide (although best to check) areas for changing nappies, breast feeding, and potentially an area that may be a bit more peaceful than the hustle and bustle of festival life. It is nice to take a break from it all to spend time in a place of relaxation with your little ones. Areas like this usually have some useful supplies. Again, best thing to do is to check with the festival as you may be able to bring less with you if the festival can supply it.
7. Safety – This can always be a scary subject, but if you are prepared and have done your research, you will feel a lot calmer about this important subject. We advise that on arrival, you make yourself aware of important landmarks around the festival site, such as the first aid tent. We hope you never have to use it, but if you do need assistance, you will know where to go.
Festivals usually operate a system where you write your mobile number on your child’s wristband. When collecting your wristbands, enquire where the lost child point is so you are aware. Speak and advise your children (if they are at an age) about not going off with strangers. Stewards will usually have some sort of identification such as a badge or a coloured T-shirt. Point out what the stewards look like to them, just in case they cannot find you and know who to approach. Suggest a meeting point, just in case you are separated. If you can feel prepared, it goes along way if you were ever to find yourself in that situation.
8. Getting around – Festivals in the UK can get very wet. You might need to think about how well your push chair will cope with uneven or wet ground (off-road versions might be more favourable). Please be prepared for mud and wet grass as well as dusty dry conditions.
Lighting is also important at festivals if it is dark and you have little ones. Festivals usually try to keep walk ways as lit as they can, but always bring a torch just incase you find yourself in an area that is not so well lit.
If the festivals offer trolley hire, this could be a great option. We highly recommend baby slings or carriers which are also favourable at these types of events. To keep as hands free as possible, a great suggestion is a rucksack (for ease) filled with all useful things to take around the main arena.
9. Clothing – Lots of clothing for all types of climates. British weather can vary so much. It can be roasting in the day and then feel like minus temperatures in the evening. Take lots of blankets and coats to wrap up in. Hats, waterproofs, wellies, etc. are a must. Lots of spare clothing and extra socks!!!
10. Sleeping – Make sure you have home comforts with you. If a child is used to a certain pillow and toys when sleeping, make sure you bring these. Anything to make it as comfortable for them to fall to sleep. It will all go towards getting a good nights sleep. If you have chosen sleeping bags for older children, soft floor mats are a great tip to put underneath them, or a yoga mat! Make sure they have lots of blankets so they stay toasty and warm. If you are using a travel cot for a tiny tot, make sure you have thought about space and where this is placed in the tent. Always think big when choosing your tent, space is taken up very quickly when kids are involved.
11. What to bring – Some suggestions would be; sunscreen, wipes, antibacterial hand gel, first aid kit, calpol, travel potty (for midnight wees) sling/carrier, buggy or cart, food/snacks, kitchen supplies, torch (or head torch for a hands-free option), insect repellent, books/colouring activities, blankets, fold-up chairs, loo roll, toys, books, bathroom/bathing supplies, pegs (to hang out dirty wet clothes to dry). A handy tip is to label things so they are easy to find. Large tubs that can be named and stacked are ideal.
12. Exiting – As much as you won’t want to leave the site after the most fantastic weekend, make sure you know when you need to vacate the field so there are no surprises. As you are well aware, packing with children around can be hard work and rushing this only heightens the tension. Most festivals allow an appropriate amount of time to get sorted the following day after the festival finishes. Find out beforehand and be prepared.
Finally, please don’t let the fear of bringing your precious ones to a festival stop you from enjoying a fantastic weekend away. Managing expectations is a must. Daily routines and set bedtimes are not likely to happen. But if you know this, then you can work around and plan.
Expect to spend a lot of time in the kids areas. If you have a blanket, chairs, food, etc. then set up camp and embrace/enjoy it. Many activities involve family participation which means you have an excuse to get messy, have fun and enjoy time with your fav little people.
Take everything in your stride. There is no rush to do anything and as you are well aware, things always take sooooo much longer than you expect when you have kids. Don’t expect to move anywhere too fast. If you can plan this in, you will be just fine… not just fine, you will be laughing!
So much is done these days to make sure families can have a great time at festivals. If you do your research and come prepared, ready to embrace your first festival with your children, your entire experience will be a blast.