How to Survive a Festival with Kids.


We have just returned from 4 nights at Wilderness Festival. It’s Bertie’s 6th festival, which aged 5 is pretty excellent. We’re also off camping again in a few weeks and I can hand on heart say I can not wait. I didn’t expect to be a person who loves sleeping under canvas, but I genuinely do. The key is to be prepared.

Here’s what I have learned along the way:

  • Arrive in good time. Trying to set up camp with overtired children is a miserable experience.

  • Better still have an activity planned to keep them occupied while you try to figure out how to erect the tent. Snacks. Bubbles. Music.

  • It can be tempting to opt for the first pitch you see. But it’s worth taking your time to think first. The first priority is that it’s flat.  Within stumbling distance of toilets is great, but not too close that you can smell them.

  • Get all the gear. I like camping, doesn’t mean I want to be a basic bitch.

  • We have recently invested in a topbox mainly to enable us to bring more ‘stuff’ with us.

  • Full disclosure: my husband actually loves that topbox as if it were his fifth child and often takes male friends see it. Weird.

  • Camping gear is something you can get seriously into. But here’s what I’d go for:

  • The best blow-up bed you can afford. I like the raised sort. Plus the biggest tent you can afford. Both are investments. The more kids you have the more likely your are to resort to camping holidays on the regular.

  • We have a bell tent. I love it with all my heart. Though I am a bit envious of the storage compartments in more modern tents, I love the feeling of actual canvas.

  • Bedding. You can great sleeping bags. But nothing compares the luxury/familiarity of your own duvet and pillows.

  • However, these Bundle Beds are also fab as they have pillows and duvet built in.

  • For babies, a travel cot works. I opt to have Greta in a sleepyhead beside me on a (kingsize) blow-up bed. (Basically, whatever you do at home, you can replicate it in a tent).

  • We also take folding chairs (like these  Regatta ones ), a stove and folding table.

  • If you are looking to take things to the next level when it comes to gear then The Coleman Event Shelter and Xtreme Cooler  are the stuff of dreams. I also have  patchwork quilts to go on the floor and am still fantasizing about fashioning a storage device that hangs on the centre pole of the tent.

  • BUT I’ll stop now because these conversations can run and run. Don’t believe me? Check out this brilliant facebook group: ‘Tent Talk UK”.

  • Layers. You forget how cold it gets at night. Really cold. (Yet my husband still manages to sleep in just his pants! could be something to do with the beer/red wine jacket!)

  • Wool/cashmere socks, make a huge difference to body temparature.

  • Sleep-suit Bags. You can get these Ergopouch ones up to 6 years old, they  are better than a duvet as they can’t slip out of them.

  • Silicone ear-plugs and eye mask. As important as mascara and clean knickers.

  • Swimwear.  I always forget it. But loads of festivals have hot-tubs or swimming lakes and you don’t want to miss out.  Ignore those waify twenty-somethings who don’t even realise how wonderful they look, get your mumbod on and be proud that you grew a human. 

  • Don’t forget the suncream and hats either.

  • And, on the other end of the scale, wet weather gear for everyone. Have the whole families wellies/raincoats zipped into one holdall and cross fingers and toes that you never have to open it.

  • Also PACKING CUBES!!! These are life changing. Enabling you to compartmentalise your case. I have a set in a different colour per family member. Avoids you getting into one big jumbled mess. AND you can separate your dirties the way home.

  • A washbag you can hang-up. Nothing luxurious about the floor of a temporary shower unit. Plus a waterproof bag to put your towel/dry clothes in. A plastic bag-for-life will do.

  • Old-school toothbrush. Generally I prefer electric, but they’re pretty darn useless when they run out of juice 24 hours in.

  • Dead phone = I could pretend it’s rereally liberating. Or if that is truly unthinkable; invest in one of those charging packs.

  • Be a British Cliche. Take teabags and UHT milk and commuter mugs. That morning cuppa is a life line. Drinking from a plastic beaker doesn’t cut it.

  • I also take my kindle. This book worm enjoys a chapter of her book before bed, no matter the location. Wild huh?!

  • Think before you drink. Before you pack loads of booze, ask yourself would I be able to stomach this luke warm? If the answer is yes you are on to a winner. We opt for: gins in tins, boxes of wine and ale.

  • Food? I love the challenge of this. A laughable amount of dry snacks.  Porridge in pots (breakfast for everyone and no washing up).  Pesto pasta (if in doubt serve it twice) and apples/satsumas to offset the guilt.

  • Consider decanting eggs into a large bottle before you go to avoid breakages. See here

  • When camping rather than festivalling I get more involved with food: prebaked potatos, premade spag bol or curry. Also freeze food and use it cool down the coolbox/make it last longer.

  • And if, like me, you have a tendancy, to get blocked up, then a packet of prunes will be a welcome addition. 

  • What’s worse than a teething child? A teething child that wakes a whole field of hungover people up at 4 AM. DO NOT FORGET THE CALPOL. 

  • ALL the Waterwipes. Not only are they lovely and pure for babies bum. But also, as I have discovered, abundantly useful for the whole family: wiping filthy older children’s feet between showers, cleaning your face and even, in emergencies, giving the kitchen area a quick wipe down.

  • Picnic rug. Towels. Tea towels. Spare blanket.

  • Logistical tips (that I never remember to do myslef). Bring something to make your tent stand-out from a sea of other identical ones: bunting/ solar fairy lights/ flag.
  • Save money on a programme: buy one between the group and take photos of it on your phones.

  • A hint of routine. Most things go out the window at a festival. A vaguely familiar timeframe can help everyone. We always heading back to the tent at 5 ish for dinner, a wash (of sorts) and PJs. It helps increase the chances of them falling asleep in the buggy/wagon when you had back into the action.

  • There will come a point when the kids become laughably dirty. You may feel horrified. But chances are they will (literally) be as happy as pigs in shit.

  • Grubby child = happy child.

  • Transport. Most places hire festie carts. They are great. Until this year we have made do with an old double buggy. Consider boring one of friends to save dosh.

  • Cut everyones nails short beforehand. Avoid the horror of dirt under the fingernails

  • Lighters. Remember the days when everyone had a clipper? Not any more. Your stove is redundant without.

  • Don’t try to do everything with other families you’ll just end up waiting around for people all day. And boy is that irritating. Do your own thing and have a meeting place later on. 

  • Sleep comparison.  If  (or when) you find you are only getting 5 hours sleep a night a console yourself with the fact that’s still WAY more sleep than the majority of festival goers will be getting. 

  • DO NOT WEAR DUNGAREES. Those Straps + porta-loos = hideous on so many levels.

  • Similar if you can have the luxury of going to toilet alone do. Kids and portaloos is a bad combo. not only do they touch everything they shouldn’t, they also love opening the door mid-piss.

  • Versatility rules. A black bag = duvet carrying device, laundry basket. or potential rain jacket. Large bucket = washing up bowl and child-washing bowl. Might not exactly be Bear Grylls thinking outside the box does give a pleasing sense of satisfaction. 

  • Embrace the mayhem. In the old days we went to festivals to let loose. Allow the kids to do the same. Spilling stuff, charging about, bouncing on beds. Being given the opportunity to go a bit feral is good for the soul.
  • There will be times when you ask yourself ‘why the hell are we doing this?’.

  • But as soon as you are home, you will know why you did:

  • A break from real life.

  • A chance to feel a little bit like the old you.  

  • A chance to say ‘go on then’ more than ‘no!’

  • Making memories feels a bit trite, but it’s true. Spend a few nights under canvas and I guarantee you or the kids will never forget it. 

** This is an extended version of a list I wrote with Emma from @_ladyland_ a few years ago, read the original here.**

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