Survival Guide & Packing Tips For Family Festivals
by Grainne Jordan
Sun hats and sun cream? Check. Ear defenders? Check. A carload of snacks? Check. Enough wet-wipes to give a small army a bed bath? Check.
You might feel you’ve earned your festival stripes in your child-free youth, so you only have to tweak the packing list for the kids. Or perhaps you’re a festival rookie. Either way, in matters where prep matters so much, at KIDLY we think there’s always room for more advice. We asked some die-hard festival-loving parents for some planning and packing tips for taking kids to a family festival this summer:
1. Lower Your Expectations
“By all means go, but if it’s your first family festival, lower your expectations, quite considerably, or you're in for a let-down”. So speaks my mate Mags, a proper rock chick and festival guru. Her first family festival experience was Glastonbury, several years ago, when her eldest was a mere 9-month-old. The Arctic Monkeys, The Killers, Kasabian, Shirley Bassey, Bjork and The Who were all playing. Who did she actually manage to see? Kings of the 'rockney’ singalong, Chas & Dave. (Not familiar? Google them. Arctic Monkeys they ain’t.) “It was still worth it,” she says, “but very quickly I had to face up to the fact that 10 hour sessions in the dance tent were a thing of the past.”
2. Go With Other Families & Tag Team Childcare
That way, you can share the joy and, more importantly, the chores. Like taking it in turns to mind the kids while the mums / dads / each couple has a ‘night out’. Another pal of mine, Kate, has been taking her two boys to End Of The Road in Dorset since they were weeny. She says some of her best festival experiences ever involve watching some wonderful music, a pint of beer in hand, totally by herself or chatting with friendly strangers: “It’s actually a really brilliant way to totally escape from your family responsibilities," she reckons, "even for just half an hour.”
3. Pack For The Arctic
Whatever the forecast, unless you’re going to Coachella (in which case, I am no longer your friend) if you’re festivaling in the UK, the nights will NOT be hot. The very last thing you need is cold kids = misery for all. Get those warm layers and those waterproofs sorted.
4. Dress Up & Get Into Character
People dress funny at festivals for a reason and kids will leap at the opportunity to put on face paint and fancy dress at breakfast. Why not join in with them? Find your alter ego - maybe you can do a bit of twinning as mummy & son mermaids or daddy & daughter dinosaurs? A little bit of well-placed dress-up can take your mind off the dirty necks and muddy knees!
5. Eat & Drink THOUGHTFULLY
Eating little and often and staying hydrated will go a long way to keeping moods and energy up. By the same token, don’t let kids get crazed on high sugar snacks too late in the day. We know festival food can be pricey, so get armed with masses of dried fruit and energy bars, that are easy to pack and fairly lightweight. Sturdy lunch or snack boxes or bags that you can rinse out and refill to take with you while you explore will be well worth the investment, as are refillable water bottles.
While we’re talking food and drink, a word about festival loos. That word is: EUUURRRCHH. Even at the most family-friendly, you'll want to keep visits to a minimum. A travel potty will be super handy, even for potty trained kids. Ditto, disposable biodegradable doggy-doo bags to put soiled wipes (or pants) into. Or consider potty training pants for the few days you’re away, so any accidents aren’t such a crisis.
6. Buy Or Hire A Camping Wagon
About £100 and up will get you a decent camping wagon to tote your kit but, most importantly, to tote your kids. Small people don’t want to walk for an hour to catch a particularly trendy band. (Lots of adults don’t want to either.) So do a bit of research and, once your camp is set up, you can pimp your wagon with cushions and blankets and use it as a travelling bed for smaller kids so you can catch evening sets. (This is where those ear defenders are a must.)
My mate Lucy goes all out and puts fairy lights on her wagon. (To be fair, Lucy’s a fairy light addict: she’d drape a string of them on anyone who stood still near her for long enough.) "Spending an extra £100 might seem splashy, but a decent wagon will earn its keep a thousandfold once you’re home," she points out. "You'll use it for shopping, gardening, picnics and the beach, so it’s a worthwhile investment." At some festivals you can hire pretty swanky ones once you're there. Alternatively (or additionally), good quality baby or child carriers feature lots of clever design touches for the passenger's comfort as well as the wearer's.