Festivals with Kids: Should I?

Me and CJ love the outdoors. She likes to glamp it up in her tipi. She loves music and can identify The Specials, The XX and Vampire Weekend amongst others from hearing just a couple of notes. So we should hit the festivals next year, shouldn’t we? What could possibly go wrong?

Well, the fact that I’ve not been near a tent since an unfortunate Duke of Edinburgh hike aged about 13 in which my group hiked up the wrong hill, does make me a tiny bit nervous. But I’m a big girl now, I can handle a tent surely? In fairness it was the navigation rather than the tent erecting skills that made me pack D of E in – and to the best of my knowledge, a compass and OS map are not needed at a festival.

I’ve already bought a ticket to Latitude and I’m planning to leave CJ with Mr Parklover (who definitely doesn’t do tents) and head there with friends. I like the idea of taking my daughter along to a different, possibly smaller, festival though. So what should I be prepared for?

I’ve searched the web far and wide to bring together essential advice for would be festival goers with kids in tow – from nervous newbies to seasoned ravers trying to figure out what needs to change now they have small people to look after.

  • Take lots of wetwipes, snacks drinks and some colouring books for distraction purposes.
  • Tempting as it is to shun anything connected to Gwyneth Paltrow, it’s probably a good idea to get some ear protectors.
  • Be honest with yourself. Will you really enjoy yourself, or just be worrying about your children getting trampled/feeling you’re missing out?
  • Do your research about the best festivals for kids, ask on online forums if necessary. My rule of thumb is, if there’s not a big, glaring section about families on the homepage of a festival, it’s probably only paying lip service. And that’s fine, if some festivals want to keep it a grown up experience, why not?
  • Read the excellent and very practical advice in this article on efestivals about taking kids to festivals.
  • We’re planning some camping trips not too far from home to see how we get on and work out the practicalities. Particularly of the toilet/potty situation. If I’m taking her on my own, I’ll nedd to get my head round how best to organise ourselves.

If you fancy getting a taste of what the festival experience might be like with kids, I found some fantastic blog posts with parents sharing their experiences. Check these out:

I love the sound of Camp Bestival, a festival specifically aimed at families – although that doesn’t necessarliy mean that you are automatically sited in a family camping field, as Madame Guillotine discovered. She gives a detailed account of her experience of the Dorset based festival when she took her family last summer. Her descriptions of the wealth of vegetarian delights available are making me hungry right now.

Over at family travel site Have a Lovely Time, Jo Beaufoix writes about taking her daughters to The Big Chill – if you’ve ever been put off going to festivals by the thought of those horror stories of stinking, fetid toilets, then this post may put your mind at rest. Quite rightly, Jo is a woman concerned about hygiene. This post is packed with practical advice and is a must-read.

Richard at Like Father Like Daughter was a festival regular before daughter G came along. He and his wife decided to give renowned family friendly festival Green Man a go. He reflects on the change in experience from rocking at Reading, to hitting a festival in the Brecon Beacons with a sleeping baby on tow.


In the coming weeks I’m planning to bring you details of some smallish festivals (can’t quite bring myself to call them “boutique”…)in beautiful locations, many of which (but not all) may be suitable for children. If you haven’t already been put off, pop back and check them out. And if you head to any this summer, you may bump in to me with CJ raving on my shoulders!

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22 Responses to Festivals with Kids: Should I?

  1. Hi – do it do it do it! We take our daughter to Solfest every August. It’s well geared for kids and always has a good line up, our daughter loves it. We also take her to smaller folk festivals, which again are fun for all x

  2. The camping situation was our own fault – most of the camping there is for families but we went to the non family bit, which was a mistake. I’m still shocked by the way those teenagers behaved though – it was disgusting.

    I didn’t mention the loos at Camp Bestival but they were impressive. I was really worried about that sort of thing before I went as I am a bit mad when it comes to hygiene and bugs and stuff, but it was fine. 🙂

    • Parklover says:

      I can’t really understand why anyone who wasn’t with kids would go to Camp Bestival though really – it’s set up for families. Unless they loved one of the bands and they weren’t playing anywhere else. It’s strange isn’t it. I think you’re right, they got it confused with actual “bestival”!
      Good to hear about the toilets too, I am fearful about stinky, dirty loos!

      • I don’t understand it either. The line up was good but not exactly geared to the usual festival goers – it was definitely aimed more at people in their thirties plus, I think.

        I really wanted to ask if they’d come to the wrong festival by accident as people do seem to get confused between the two quite a lot but didn’t want to push my luck. 😉

        The loos at Bestival were great and not scary at all.

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  4. JoJo Kirtley says:

    I suppose it depends what festival you take them too. I am with Mr Parklover on this one-I just don’t do tents but I wouldn’t stop my hubbie going with my son if wanted too!!!

    • Parklover says:

      I think you’re right, the festival needs careful selection. I would only be able to persuade Mr P along if we found a nearby hotel I think! As you say though, he’s quite happy for me to take her. And happy to hold the fort whilst I swan off to Latitude with my friends this summer. Excited already!

  5. Rachael says:

    I still haven’t bought tickets but am supposed to be dragging the villagelets to Camp Bestival with the Guillotinelets this summer. Mine have done one-day festivals and loved them, as did I (cor, expensive though foodwise) but I am allergic to camping and a bit of a princess so the idea of sleeping on the floor doesn’t really appeal. I need to get over myself, I think. (shudder)

  6. Jo Beaufoix says:

    Do it, but start small. My two had had enough after 2 days but are now asking to go again. I’m hoping to get to Latitude this year too, though on my own as I’m seeing it as a grown up cultural moment…plus you can’t get into the night time comedy shows with kids along (Bad Jo). Have a wonderful time, and maybe I’ll see you at Latitiude. 😀

    • Parklover says:

      Hi Jo, yes, I’m tempted to start small. I’m considering Just So, which is not far from me, and is just for kids and families, so no need to worry about anything inappropriate! Alternatively I’m looking at Wychwood or maybe Green Man. If I do that, I’ll consider looking at the lineup and maybe not staying for the whole time. Good advice, thanks Jo – and yes, might bump into you at Latitude in the night time comedy tent without our kids!

  7. I took my 3 yr old to shambala last year which was v family oriented. Had nice green compost toilets which smelt of sawdust not poo and chemicals. Loads of kids stuff and loads of other families. She had a great time but if going again I’d take earplugs for me when trying to sleep before 4am. She didn’t struggle at all but I did so had about 3 hrs sleep for 2 nights which didn’t make for a happy or very patient mummy. Probably a drawback of a small festival as family camping was still pretty close to the action due to general size of the place. Would I do it again? Probably.

    • Parklover says:

      Hi, that’s good advice. I usually pack earplugs when I go away anywhere, as I’m a horribly light sleeper! I’ll have to make sure I don’t forget. I hadn’t considererd that the drawback of a small festival would be less distance between us and the action. Definitely something to think about.
      Ps, I just tried to add a comment to your blog, but it wouldn’t let me!

  8. I have just started looking into which ones to go to after seeing some fab pics of me and my bro at folk festivals as kids. Had narrowed it down to Big Chill mainly because they allow caravans. Camp Bestival doesn’t allow caravans, just not sure I can cope with our kids (they are only 2 and 4) and a festival, in the tent. But it looks amazing! Thanks for the pointers everyone!

  9. Hi Parklover,
    Festivals and kids really can be a fantastic mix – but you are so right… you need to do your research and pick one that will suit your family’s needs. There are literally hundreds of lovely family-friendly festivals out there from the teeny tiny ones like Small Nations, though middly ones like Blissfields, Bearded Theory and Larmer Tree, to much bigger ones like Camp Bestival.
    We’re currently busy writing the content for our website but eventually we will have a whole heap of info on there all for parents considering taking their kids to festivals as well as a map of the best family-friendly festivals with a summary of each to help parents choose.
    Good luck with your festival plans – please let us know how you get on so we can share it with other festival families :o)

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