While some of us may have attended a paper cup strewn festival in the pre-children days, armed with little more than a sunhat, condoms in our back pocket, no mobiles and a crate of cider, planning to brave the British elements with the family in tow is quite a different matter.
Some hardy souls may feel unfazed at the idea of bringing their offspring to a festival with a minimum of prep, and to those, we doff our feathered headbands. For the rest, we’ve rounded up some of the best tips on how to get the most out of a festival with your family
What to bring
- Loads of babywipes to cover all bases: bodies/bums/faces/gross festival toilets. Plus a potty for night-time ( which could be used by adults- if you butt is small enough to fit on it!) Please empty it in the communal toilets though- nothing worse than adding to the scent of urine emanating from every hedge, bush and tree.
- A decent pushchair is a must for small children. They can sit in it, sleep in it, and when they’re out of it you can put all your stuff in it.
- Do not take a buggy to a festival unless it is of the three-wheeled mountain variety; if you don’t own one of these and cannot borrow one, take a sling instead. Or a wheelbarrow. Otherwise you and your umbrella fold will be providing entertainment to others as the wheels become stuck in the mud and you are reduced to carrying your toddler aloft like a mini potentate of a small nation.
- Waterproof ponchos are really useful – buy cheap ones in a pound shop and use them to sit on, as rain covers for the pushchair, your feet or to keep your bags dry. Also bring one more layer of clothing/bedding than you think you’ll need.
- Take a giant flag or tie a feather boa or giant inflatable toy to an extended tent pole. That way, in a crowd, your party can always be spotted. “We take a giant giraffe with us and at 40ft he’s dead easy to spot!”
- Bright clothes. Lots of pound coins. Suncream. Something very heavily scented for you. Remember those 80’s perfumes that emptied a room with their heavy scent? (Giorgio, Poison) Now is their time. And should there be an appearance by a reformed band from your youth, those perfumes will help you get in character and sporting 80’s style shoulder pads will get you pushed through to the front. Think David Byrne from the Talking Heads.
- Crayons and colouring books, bubbles, a favourite toy (though not an irreplaceable one), bottles of water, nibbles/snacks. For evenings, a big pushchair/carriage with cushion, blanket and waterproof cover allows them to snooze while you do your thing.
- Take double the quantity of cash you originally thought you’d need and keep it not all in one place. If you are driving, keep an emergency stash of small change, toiletries and other necessaries hidden away in it in case your tent gets robbed, blown away, drifts off in a rain storm.
- Take some food/drink treats which your DC like but don’t have very often; makes it easier to say no to the food stalls and avoid the queues.
- A small, purse-size first aid kit with Calpol, plasters, sting extractor, DIY brain surgery kit (joking) etc.
- “Layers, layers, layers!” But make them cotton.
- Ignore the multiple ‘festival fashion’ spreads in the magazines, usually written by folks who have never been. Loads of floaty scarves a la Talitha Getty might look good in a photo shoot but they’ll get in the way and make you look like a tool in real life. Those photos of the ‘stars’ at Coachella/Latitude/Glasto wafting about in their £2000 festival ‘looks’- they don’t stay on site. Or if they do it is not in the down with the crowds bit. They have showers. Hell, Mick Jagger probably had a temporary country estate built for his Glasto appearance.
- NOT white anything. Or Broderie Anglaise unless you regularly appear on the pages of Grazia, don’t plan on staying for the duration and are ‘with the band’ -AKA flying in and out in a helicopter.
- “Keep the kids covered with hats/long sleeves/suncream, because being outdoors and not under cover for most of day is a long time.” Remember that hours spent in crowds watching bands means faces upturned to the sun. Sunburn central.
- “Let your children dress up as fairies and they’ll get lots of attention.” Animal onesies at night are fun, warm and practical. Brown fur also hides mud and food stains.
- “Take high-topped sturdy boots, eg DMs. Take them off and they make an ideal stand for pints of lager in flimsy cups on bumpy ground. Otherwise your booze will get kicked over by a marauding three-year-old and you will watch, helpless, as the liquid soaks into the parched earth.”
What to do if you get separated Fretting about losing your children does not make for a relaxing festival experience, so be prepared…
- Write your mobile number on their arm. Or buy a plain brightly coloured rubber arm bracelet and write it on that.
- Putting your mobile number somewhere on your child’s person is great, but check first that the venue has reception for your mobile provider. If it doesn’t, get a back-up plan (GPS coordinates for your tent maybe)
- Take a full-length photo on your mobile phone of them every time they get a change of clothes. If they go missing, that’s the exact description right there.
- Get a T-shirt printed with your phone numbers on it – dirt cheap from eBay.
- As soon as you arrive, talk about what the people who work at the event look like, what they wear and what to do if they get lost. And know what the lost children procedure is for adults to follow.
What else? Some final words of festivalling wisdom…
- The little ones seem to have boundless energy, but don’t have the same staying power as adults. Make time to sit in the tent or lie down and relax or they get too knackered.
- Get them to carry their own stuff in a rucksack once they’re big enough; that way you don’t have to haul round their tat, and deal with the drink-with-the-lid-not-on-properly in your bag. Sell it to them as part of the authentic experience and a way of showing that they are cool. Backpacks with glow in the dark strips and a place to write your details are handy.
- Buy your own glow sticks in advance – they’re usually a stupid price at festivals but are reasonable in home bargains/eBay. You can also use them round the guy-ropes to make your tent different to all the others, and to stop people tripping over them in the dark.
- If you are going anywhere down the front, then for God’s sake get your child some ear protectors. Or all you will hear is thousands of parents tutting behind you collectively.
- Camp away from the toilets and away from fences because when men pee: they have to pee against something. Think of it as scent marking and eye anything that can be scent marked warily. Camp upwind of the toilets. Camp away from thickets and bushes – AKA ‘Ad Hoc toilets’.
- If you can, leave just before the end so you don’t get caught in the crush. Or stay for longer.
- “Accept that this will be a totally different experience to the one you may have had without children. We spent more time in the family and circus type fields than watching the bands, getting caned and waking up in a field of bracken at 6 a.m. Change your expectations and you’ll be fine with different but equally special memories.”