find the best family friendly festival and have a great time!
Outdoor Music Festivals can be a great family holiday, if you plan things right and think about what it is you want to do and see when you’re there.
Unless you are a seasoned festival goer then jumping in at the deep end with your nearest and dearest might not be wise, there are plenty of reviews out on the net that provide a guide to music festival and will help you identify the best small festival. Take heed of those that promote themselves as child friendly, and if it’s your first foray then I recommend somewhere reasonably close and not too big, ideally this means less than two hours drive and no more than 15,000 people.
Won't I lose my kids?
This will really depend on how aware your kids are of their surroundings as well as the scale of the event and just how much freedom you give them, most festivals require everyone, even kids if they go free, to wear an wristband, so write your mobile number on it and instruct your kids to go to a steward if they can’t find you.
Another approach is to point out a really obvious land mark or location, such as a quiet area to one side of a stage or gate and tell your kids to wait there if you get separated.
Finally there are techniques for making it easier to find your tent which we’ll cover in the next section.
Music Festival Camping and tent location
You really want to arrive as early as you can, now that might be difficult if you’re working and can’t afford the extra vacation time, but seriously, if you can get there before the masses you have the best chance of picking a spot that is relatively quiet, as well as close enough to the festivities and the car park to not exhaust you as you slog back and forth.
This will give you a number of advantages, one you won’t mind going back to the tent or car to fetch whatever it is your child needs right now and secondly your kids can find the tent if they get separated from you
The best festivals have a family camping area that tends to be quieter than the general camping and I heartily recommend you head there!
Making camp special
By arriving early enough to actually have a choice about where to camp, you also have time to set up camp and make it special, from a fantasy grotto to a futuristic zone this really gets the kids into the spirit and ensures you make friends with your temporary neighbours. Solar powered fairy lights, flags, bunting, and other decorations not only make your pitch unique, but also make it easier to find the tent in the dark or when you’re six years old.
Making time for eating
I’m really talking about breakfast and lunch, in my experience it’s worth relaxing and taking the time to prepare and eat food, in fact why not pre-prepare some meals to make this even easier. Another tip here is to freeze a couple of boxes of wine or cider (hard please!) and use these to keep your food cool, saves a bit of weight, especially on the pack up!
Festival food is expensive, but also it can be fun and giving your kids the option of choosing something they want in the evening can help keep them entertained as well as ensure you get to hear as much of the entertainment as possible.
Doing what they want to do
Most festivals have a kid’s area and entertainment that starts fairly early and goes on until late afternoon, with storytelling, puppet making, bug hunting, film making, etc, you get the idea. These are great experiences for both you and them, in fact one of my favourite festival hours was spent making gargoyles from air dry clay while it rained outside and the storyteller scared them with tales of ghosts and witches. Sometimes these things need to be booked in advance, do this as it means you’ll get up and make the effort plus the popular sessions do fill up pretty quickly.
Be prepared to miss some of the headlines or even your favourite band
You can’t see/do everything at even the smallest festival, so relax, work out a bit of a childcare system if you’re with other families and just enjoy yourself being away from the real world for a few days, sitting on your own with a beer, listening to the music in the distance while your kids sleep is a lot better than being at work or stuck in your car in a jam.
Sometimes the kids and even the adults need a bit of a rest, if you’re all really committed to staying up till 11 to see The Flaming Lips headline then have a bit of a sleep in the afternoon and stay off the sugar, coffee and alcohol if you can.
Things to take to the festival
This could be endless, but remember two things, firstly you’ve got to carry it from the car to the tent, and secondly you’ve got to carry it back again.
With that in mind, and the fact you can often get newspapers and things for the kids to read or colour in (and don't forget that there will be shops selling essentials as well as a bewildering array of festival food available), it’s worth being pretty brutal with your choices, here’s a list of recommendations.
- Something comfortable to sleep on and in – if you can afford them lightweight self inflating mattresses take up less space in the car than air beds and are warmer and more comfortable.
- Ear Plugs - those little foam ones or even more expensive attenuating type, help reduce the chances of being woken by a reveller at 4am.
- Something to sit on – inflatable chairs always look like a recipe for disaster, folding chairs, especially those that collapse completely and have their own bag are great for both camp and carrying into the main site.
- Picnic mats – soft brushed fabric on one side, waterproof on the other, great if it’s nice enough to sit on the floor, also nice in the tent as a carpet.
- Bucket with lid – yes you guessed it, your own private festival toilet, take some wipes, some bleach and some hand sanitizer and avoid those left it till the last minute on no look at the queue panics. You can actually buy disposable portable toilets but the bucket approach has always served us well.
- All over waterproofs – these don’t need to be the latest expensive breathable gear you’d take hiking, you’re more likely to be standing or sitting around in them.
- Hats – everyone needs a festival hat, especially kids and they are a potential festival saver if you’re blessed with sunshine.
- Walkie Talkies – Let your friends know about the impromptu secret set that’s just started up somewhere and helps you let your kids go off exploring. Festival sites are often quite flat and open, the structures being temporary don’t provide much of a barrier to even the cheapest license free radios, plus the kids love them and you get to play CB radio with other festival goers as you stray onto each other’s frequencies.
- Games – cards or travel games are best, Pass the Pigs probably being the best (in my opinion).
- First Aid – adult and kid’s strength pain relief, plasters, bite cream and insect repellent, sun cream etc, don’t buy an expensive set just use your common sense.
- Festival Clothes – part of the fun is getting ready for the big weekend, making wacky festival clothes for you all is a great way to get the kids involved and excited, plus it means you’re not tempted to wear anything fancy that will get ruined even if it’s only because you spill your Goan Fish Curry down it.
- Camera – obviously, but consider one for the kids too as it will make them feel even more important, grown up and special, plus they will take pictures you never thought of taking!
- Ear Defenders – it really depends on how close you need to get to the stage, especially inside a big tent when the noise levels are much more intense than outside, worth having if just for the peace of mind that you’re children’s hearing is not going to be a bad as yours is by the time they are 35.
Defeats the purpose of taking the kids along in my opinion as they tend to only operate during the day when the so so bands are on and all the kid’s entertainment is in full swing, however, it’s an option especially if you’ve promised yourself a $50 massage.