Embracing festivals: The family survival guide
It may not even be spring but it’s still not too early to start thinking about festivals and if you’re like me and you like to plan your year ahead, now is the right time to pick your favourite for any tickets at early-bird prices. Starting to plan now also allows you to prepare especially if it’s your first time - don’t be put off if you still have very young children, I took my eldest to his first festival when he was a toddler and my second when he was only 5 months old. As long as you pack the right things, camping, good food, music, art and festival fun is the perfect combination for a great family adventure.
I have always been a camper and have fond memories of spending time under canvas as a child, teen and right through to my twenties when I worked at festivals and spent a summer camping in Cornwall. My partner on the other hand has always needed some encouragement and doesn't like being uncomfortable but the one thing I have learnt from many a trial and error over the years is there is a good way and a bad way to camp and absolutely no reason to not get a restful night, plus all the fresh air usual means kids sleep right through the night.
Festivals are a great introduction to reconnecting as a family and disconnecting from technology without feeling like you’re missing out as there are always plenty of food options, entertainment, time to kick off your shoes and dance as well as crafts, workshops and loads of opportunities for kids to make new friends. Also if you don't fancy taking your own tent there are usually plenty of glamping options at the bigger festivals, it does costs more but lessens the stress. As with everything organisation and preparation really dictates how the whole weekend will turn out so here is the Ultimate Festival Survival guide when taking young children
1. Invest or borrow a decent tent & sleeping bags - not all tents are the same so if you know you are going to use it more than once consider getting a decent tent with a high waterproof rating or borrow one from a seasoned camping friend. This will go a long way in keeping you all warm, dry and happy. Sleeping bags also have different seasons for warmth, camping in late spring or early summer you will want to have at least a season 3 to ensure you stay nice and toasty.
2. Airbeds are a must - when it comes to sleep the more space you can put between yourself and the ground the better. Don't opt simply for the small roll up foam mats, they wont be enough, an airbed is surprisingly comfortable and they also pack down to a small size.
3. Consider getting a wagon - if you have small children and lots of bags to carry from the car to your tent, a small wagon will be a real saviour. We bought one a few years ago and it’s been worth its weight in gold in transporting tired children across festival sites as well as getting all our stuff packed up and back to our car with minimal hassle and stress.
4. Don’t forget Ear Defenders - unless you are going to a very small festival I would advise packing some ear defenders as young children can be very sensitive to loud music which at times can be quite upsetting for them, especially if they are tired.
5. Pack waterproofs for everyone - every member of your family should have some kind of waterproofs should it rain, which in the UK is a fairly high possibility. Rain doesn't have to ruin a weekend away, just be prepared with wellies, waterproof tops and bottoms and a small pack-away umbrella.
6. Layer up - when it comes to packing clothes only take what you need but do remember layers because as soon as the sun disappears the temperature drops. Pack some thermals, long sleeve tops, jumpers and a thick jacket for the night. It might be summer but it can still get very cold.
7. Toilet time - most family festivals have greatly improved toilets these days which are usually always clean with plenty of toilet roll but in the middle of the night it’s very useful to have a small portable potty for the kids so they don't have to venture out into the cold with you on tow.
8. Food - eating out for every meal can quickly become very expensive so packing a few essentials will really save you money. Take your kids favourite cereals and a few small UHT milks for each day as well as cereal bars and long-lasting dry foods such as nuts, crisps and dried fruit. I always make two large banana loafs for the weekend as well as packing a bag of fresh apples. You can also pick up a small camping stove in most budget friendly stores these days such as pound stretchers and they are perfect for rustling up something quick for lunch such as scrambled eggs and beans or pasta. We usually only eat out once a day when it comes to festivals, this also allows for some down time back at the tent before going back to the festivities.
Just remember to have fun and also, like anything with children, going to a festival with them in tow is a different experience to going child-free so expect the pace to be a little slower and follow their lead. Don’t get too caught up with what’s going on or the line-up because you will most likely end up in the kids section most of the time. Embrace what’s is on offer and enjoy learning some new skills alongside your children, last year we tried out stone balancing and lantern making. You will get muddy and by the end of the weekend you'll be looking forward to a long hot shower - but you will also have made some incredible family memories.