Tara King is a journalist, blogger (hanwellnest.wordpress.com) and mum to two small boys. She takes any opportunity to get away with the family to festivals, cool campsites and British beaches – whatever the weather. Here, she gives her best tips for arriving prepared and enjoying the fun with the entire family. (Special thanks to Jamie Baker/Camp Bestival for the picture.)
Taking your kids to a music festival offers a kaleidoscope of sensory and fun-packed experiences all packed into one short weekend. Tumbling around fields in the English sunshine, listening to live music, watching quirky acts, dressing up and eating tasty delights from caterers such as the superb River Cottage…what more could a family ask for?
Last year I went to the bumper family festival Camp Bestival (www.campbestival.net) in Lulworth Castle. Even though I could have done with a few days in a spa to recover, the weekend lifted my mood and spirits in ways no other family holiday has managed before.
If you’re heading to one of the family-friendly festivals this summer, the key to having a fun weekend (apart from obviously dry and sunny weather) is having the right stuff – plus adequate mad money on the weekend.
Here’s my list of what to pack for a summer festival. Word of warning: You will have to carry it all, probably across the equivalent of four fields, often with hills, in extreme weather conditions with children in tow. Even though festivals say there are wheelbarrows and trolleys available, I've never found one!
25 essentials to pack
1. Tickets and directions
2. Fancy dress outfits – this is essential for Camp Bestival and many other kid-friendly festivals with dressing-up tents
3. Layers of cool clothes for the day and warm stuff for the night. It gets chilly
4. Sunglasses, sun hat and plenty of sun cream. Recent news reports highlight concerns about getting enough protection from SPF 15. Bring high SPF, plenty of it and slap on heaps even if it’s overcast since you’ll be outside all day
5. Camping gear, naturally: tent, air-beds, sleeping bags, extra blankets, lantern.
6. Lots of plastic bags – pack everything in them before you put it in your bas as they keep it all dry. Throw in extras to isolate clothing that gets sodden or dirty.
7. Waterproof-backed blanket for sitting on. Bin liners are great too: I know it’s un-glam but they’re useful to sit on and they fit in your pocket!
8. Wellies and a lightweight waterproof coat (also un-glam but better to be warm and dry than fashionable)
9. Loo roll. Because you always need it
10. Headache pills for the mornings after and Calpol or Nurofen in case the kids get sick
11. Your mobile - don't rely on mobile phones to keep track of friends and family as the signal is often weak at music festivals and it’s hard to hear it ringing in a crowd. If you’re using your mobile as a camera, pack a battery booster as charging facilities are limited
12. Ear protectors for little ones. Ear Defenders (http://www.eardefendersforkids.co.uk/) do a funky range for £14.99 to protect little ears from head-banging decibels
13. A torch or three – the head-mounted ones are best for midnight toilet trips
14. Soap/baby wipes – long queues for showers might leave you 3 days unwashed, so pack baby wipes and facial wipes for a quick spruce up in the tent
15. Hand sanitiser – keeps hands clean on the move
16. Travel potty for midnight wees. Some families pack their own portaloos but I personally think that’s a bit extreme.
17. Kiddie transport – a child carrier for babies or buggy for older ones
18. This Radio flyer wagon is great for transporting kids in style around the festival and for lugging heavy stuff from the car to camping area. Available from The Great Little Trading Company, http://www.gltc.co.uk/ £82
19. Breakfast bars, crunch bars, smoothie pouches, dry snacks. Keep some handy for when you or the kids are tired and need a sugar-boost to get you back to the tent!
20. If you wear glasses, pack a second pair or some contact lenses just in case yours get lost, dropped or broken in busy crowds
21. A spacious day bag to carry essentials
22. Lots of cash. Queues for the ATMs are long and dull with kids in tow
23. Wine box – no glass bottles are allowed on festival sites
24. A camper van if you want to go groovy and stay warm and dry at night. You will need to pre-book your camper van tickets if you plan to camp on site. You can hire retro Volkswagon camper vans from O’Conners Campers.
25. Childcare. The family in the neighbouring tent had brought along their 17 year old babysitter for the weekend so they could venture out after dark.
My Essential General Tips
Festivals are busy, colourful, noisy events and the under-fives will need to be kept close by at all times. In fact it's the slightly older age-group that are most likely to stray and get lost.
Dress your kids in bright clothing, make regular meeting points throughout the day and relax and soak up the vibe rather than marching from place to place, act to act.
Abandon routine and just go with the flow for the weekend: let the kids sleep when they're tired and eat when they're hungry.
Watch the toilets and warn kids to be careful with the doors. Last year my two-year-old got his hand stuck in a Portaloo door. He survived but it gave him a nasty shock!
Back at camp, erect a flag, hang up a balloon or something bright to distinguish your tent from the masses.
You can read my ‘warts and all’ review of Camp Bestival 2010 on my blog.
-- Tara King @taraking, hanwellnest.wordpress.com