Survival Guide & Packing Tips For Family Festivals

Survival Guide & Packing Tips For Family Festivals

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:

Glastonbury by James Genchi on Unsplash

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.”

two girls in a hammock -  Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

Going with other families means you can share the childminding....and see more of the music.

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!

Girl in Meri Meri headdress and cloud dress

Embrace dress-up - and that includes adults!


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.)

Banz ear defenders

Ear defenders are a must to protect their ears - and your sanity.

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.

Tents by Uzenk Doezenk on Unsplash

A wagon or child carrier will help you navigate miles of bumpy terrain with small people.

7. Practise & Pimp Your Tent

Make the run up fun for the kids. Maybe have a dry run camping in your garden, so they know what to expect and they can even learn a chore or two. Get them to ‘help’ putting the tent up. Even if their way of ‘helping’ is organising their toys or clothes into neat piles. Or, ask them to collect some nice-looking leaves and twigs so you can make a dreamcatcher for the doorway. Making your camp feel special is something little kids can really bring their natural den-building skills to. We love a few battery operated nightlights for making the tent warm and inviting.

You can also have fun doing your 'homework' on the bands you'll be seeing. Get playing them lots at home so you'll all become superfans and can sing along word-perfectly when you see them live. Hey, why not go the whole nine yards and get a dance routine going too?

8. Safety Comes First

Obviously a mini first aid kit - with plasters, painkillers, upset stomach relief and antiseptic cream (check labels for age suitability) - is a must. Ditto sun hats and sunscreen, WHICH SHOULD BE WORN AT ALL TIMES. The minute you set up camp, familiarise yourself with the lost children's tent and the St John's Ambulance area, so you'll know where to head in an emergency.

baby in a sun hat

Sun hats and sunscreen at all times, please!

Arrange a meeting point with any older kids, in case they get lost. Drill younger kids on what to do if they’re separated from you: most importantly, make sure they know your phone number and full name. Or write it on their arm with a Sharpie pen. Remind them, if they do find themselves separated from you, to stay where they are and ask a safe adult for help. (I always told mine: "Look for a friendly-faced mummy.") If no friendly-faced mummies can be found, tell them to shout out Mummy or Daddy’s first name as loud as they can: that could help you get reunited pretty quickly.

9. Sod The Routine

Rules are great for the real world but a festival is a break from all that and should feel like it - that’s part of the magic. So try not to stress if your little treasures have enough dirt under their nails to plant potatoes or their hair has turned into a weird glittery birds’ nest. You’re kind of in a parallel universe, for a short period of time at least, and all those rules and routines will still be there when you get back.

Glasto by night: Joe Green on Unsplash

It's a chance for kids to stay up late and see some amazing sights, so relax the routine.

10. Or……Stage Your Own!

There’s nothing to say you have to go to a festival at all if, on balance, it feels like too much of a stretch. But why shouldn’t you experience some of the vibes for yourself? If you know someone with a big enough garden, or you can borrow a field (?), why not get a few friends and family to commit to a weekend, and go for it?

Think of the money you’re saving on festival entry, petrol, extra camping kit, taxi fares etc., put that into a pot and see what you can create for the same money. Put up a borrowed gazebo or two and as much bunting as you can lay your hands on, get some hay bales together and throw old rugs over them to make extra outdoor seating, arrange for a pizza or falafel van to turn up for a few hours.

man playing drums outdoor at dusk  by Ingridi Alves Photograph on Unsplash

Got some musical friends? Maybe you could stage your own festival!

For entertainment, as well as a good playlist and some speakers, you’re bound to know someone who would sing a few songs / can borrow some decks for a spot of DJ-ing. Or get in a local band, or invite musical talent from your nearest high school to play. (Warn their neighbours, so the noise isn’t excessive or unexpected.) And for kid-focused entertainment, everyone knows someone who’s a genius with the face-paints or can lead a craft table. Then, at the end of the day, you can camp out safe in the knowledge that you can easily head indoors if it all gets too much. And you’re never more than a few hours from a good hot shower!

Face painted girl by Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash

Everyone's got a talented friend who can do the face-painting.

Sure, your own backyard Glasto is not quite the same thing as the real thing, but you can still get to embrace the outdoors, be a bit adventurous, enjoy some great music and spend some precious time together, exploring a new way to hang out as a family.

Which all sounds pretty festive to us.

We hope this survival guide of packing tips, hints and hacks for family festivals with kids has been helpful. And remember, if you need advice on anything, our Live Chat Team is always here to help, from 9am to 5pm weekdays. Just hit that purple button, bottom right.

Picture credits:
Header image: Rubén Bagüés on Unsplash
Guy on drums: Ingridi Alves Photograph on Unsplash
Glasto by day: James Genchi on Unsplash
Glasto by night: Joe Green on Unsplash
Girls in hammock: Janko Ferlič on Unsplash
Face painted girl: Gift Habeshaw on Unsplash