Festivals with kids: the ultimate checklist
With the sun finally rearing its head and tickets going on sale for summer fun, I thought it was a timely idea to chat festivals with kids!
I know taking kids to festivals isn’t for everyone, but personally I love taking them. If you choose the right festival, the kids absolutely love it and have heaps of fun rampaging around and soaking it all up. You can give them freedom they can’t normally enjoy at home, and it’s completely priceless seeing the amazement and excitement on their faces at all the colourful and wonderful things to see and do. It’s great to see them enraptured by live music and dancing… and of course, what kid doesn’t love camping…?
I’ve been to plenty of festivals over the years, some with my kids and some without… There are obviously many differences between the two experiences, but I’d say the largest difference is hands down how much crap you have to bring with you. Without kids in tow, there’ve been times over the years when I’ve made do with barely more than a popup tent, a sleeping bag, a box of wine and a packet of wet wipes… But needless to say, when you’re responsible for little people, that list grows exponentially. And good lord, one packet of wet wipes is NEVER enough.
As with any trip away with kids, my nerdy thoughts turn to organising/lists, cos let’s face it, who doesn’t love a bloody good list? (Don’t leave me hanging here please fellow dorks…) So I thought I’d post my imaginatively titled ‘Camping/Festivals With Kids List’ on here incase it helps anyone else on their own festival adventures!
Our family’s been camping a lot over the years, so it’s a list I’ve regularly added to and updated over time – every camping or festival trip throws up a few new useful items to add on– so this one has been a work in progress over about 10 years!
I can safely say that there’s not been one camping/festival trip where I’ve taken absolutely everything on this list – it’s very much an ‘everything you could ever possibly need’ version… Just pick and choose what is right for you and your family, and each particular trip. Also do remember whatever you take, you have to lug to and from the car (the crappest part of a festival by far!) so pack as light as possible!
The list also assumes you’re camping under canvas and not in a campervan or similar… so for campervan trips not all of these things are needed… Similarly if you’re just going camping and not to a festival you can duly ignore some festival-related stuff (and maybe bring more food!)… But at least with this I know nothing will be forgotten.
So, here it is… my ultimate ‘festival/camping with kids’ checklist designed to make this little adventure as easy and enjoyable as possible!
– FESTIVAL TICKETS
Take cashcards but also plenty of cash as there are never many cash machines on site and queues are often horrendous
– PHOTO ID
– MOBILE PHONE & CHARGER
– CAMERA, CAMERA BAG & SPARE BATTERIES
– PULL ALONG TROLLEY OR WHEELBARROW
Load your mountains of crap into them to do the dreaded transfer from car to campsite. Then once you’re all unloaded, they become a fun den/bed. Pile them up with pillows and duvets/blankets/sleeping bags, chuck in some toys/teddies and when they’re tired or ready for sleep, you just pop them in, tuck them up, then pull them around the festival with you. As long as they’re happy and settled you don’t have to return to the tent at night and miss out on all the fun – everyone’s a winner! Usually I’m a stickler for a bedtime routine but for me part of the fun of festivals is that these can go out of the window, and what kid wouldn’t love riding around in a fairy-light-lit magical bed-trolley at night? Leave them plain or decorate them – lots of people use metal garden trolleys, but you can also get cute wooden versions and for Joe’s first festival, I just used a massive wheelbarrow full of duvets. Just need to make sure that whatever you use has pneumatic tyres so it withstands bumpy ground and mud.
– BABY BACK CARRIER
If you have a toddler or younger, these are a godsend for when you want to venture out without a trolley
We put a cheap coir doormat in the tent entrance. Really helps to not transfer lots of mud/grass/crap into the tent
– CAMPING CHAIRS
I don’t bother with these when I go to festivals without kids as I’m rarely at the tent except to sleep and can’t be arsed carrying them around all day. But with kids, you’re going to spend a lot more time at the tent and are likely to want to sit up socialising after they’re asleep in bed, so camping chairs are a must.
– CAMPING TABLE
Not essential but folding camping tables really are ace and make everything so much easier – you kind of don’t realise how useful they are until you have one.
– SHELVING UNITS
Again, not essential and they’re fairly bulky and not cheap, so perhaps more suitable for ‘normal’ camping than festivals. However, they’re brilliant. Great to get everything up off the floor to create spaces and retain a modicum of organisation. We have these and tend to use one for food and one for clothing.
Take as many as you can carry – mega useful for wrapping round you/the kids at night when you’re sat outside, as extra bedding / picnic blankets, additional padding under the mattress, making a bed for the kids in the trolley
– DAY BAG
A good spacious rucksack or similar to lug stuff around during the day. Ideally lots of compartments.
– BIN BAGS
Bring a whole roll. Hands down one of the most useful and versatile camping items. Ideally some black refuse sacks and also a roll of smaller plastic bags / pedal bin bags. They come in useful for SO many things…. Makeshift ‘rugs’ for the tent floor if everyone’s a bit muddy, blackout blinds for tent windows if the sun’s too bright, dirty washing bags, rubbish bags (obvs), emergency waterproofing material, ‘socks’ if an unexpected hole in a welly etc etc.
– GAFFER/DUCT TAPE
Millions of uses
– ANTIBACTERIAL SURFACE WIPES
– EMERGENCY TOILET
Night-time trips to the toilet are never much fun, but with kids they’re even less fun. Ideally have some kind of makeshift ‘toilet’ in the tent that can be used in emergencies – grim but a godsend when you’re with kids – a potty, a bucket with a lid, or I just discovered these fantastic ‘Boginabag‘ contraptions! For night-time leave-the-tent toilet visits, make sure you leave wellies and warm large coats/dressing gowns right next to the tent door so they’re easily found & thrown over pyjamas – no need to be ferreting around the tent finding clothing etc in the dead of night.
We just use those cheap stripy beach ones, great to ‘contain’ the kids and give you all some privacy and an area that’s ‘yours’
As many as you can carry. Useful to have a mixture of head-torches, hand-held torches and larger lanterns to light the tent at night-time
– SWISS ARMY KNIFE
– ALARM CLOCK
So you can see the time without using up your phone battery
Ideally microfibre ones, if not then as thin & lightweight as poss
– TRAVEL CLOTHES LINE & A FEW PEGS
– DUSTPAN & BRUSH
– NOTEPAD & PEN
– MINI SEWING KIT
– PICNIC BLANKET
Ideally with a waterproof backing
– MUSIC SPEAKERS
We have one of these which is ace as it doesn’t require any wires or bluetooth, you just plonk your phone on top of it
– FAIRY LIGHTS
To decorate and help you find the tent and to decorate the trolley for the kids (with the added bonus of stopping drunk adults from tripping over it)
– WALKIE TALKIES
Perfect for older kids who you want to give a bit of extra freedom to
– DISPOSABLE RAIN PONCHOS
They fit everyone and can double up as temporary picnic blankets / seats
– LARGE SOFT FLEXIBLE BUCKET WITH HANDLES
Tubtrugs are a branded make but you can get similar things all over the place cheap as chips. They have a myriad of uses. A bath/washbasin, to carry crap to/from the car, toy basket for the tent and wash clothes in it.
– TENT (WITH MALLET AND PEGS)
As big as possible. More room means more storage, more space, more knowing where things are, more relaxing for everyone.
– SPARE TINY TENT
Just a cheapo one/two-man popup tent – a ‘garage’ for the trolley and extra storage
– SLEEPING BAGS / DUVETS
Which you take is down to personal preference, how much space you have and how far you have to carry it.
– SELF-INFLATING MATS
These are the nuts. Forget foam roll-mats (may as well be sleeping on paper) or airbeds (HELLO deflation, sweaty plastic & crap pumps), these are what you want. Slightly more expensive but you literally just open a valve and they inflate themselves, they insulate well and they’re super comfy. Different widths are available but I’d go for a 5mm or 7mm for a good balance of comfort and weight/size. 10mm is amazing if you have a bad back but they’re very heavy and harder to roll back up.
– TRAVEL COT
Babies and toddlers can obviously easily just sleep with you on your mat on the floor (if you’ve not been drinking), but bring a travel cot if you feel yours will be safer and happier contained in one.
As far as adults are concerned, obviously you don’t need me to tell you what to wear! Just bring whatever clothes you like, with loads of spares and make sure you include waterproofs, wellies, a hat, sunglasses and warm clothing for night-time.
For kids I’d advise bringing the following… Ideally bright/eyecatching clothing so that they stand out in a crowd and can be easily located. Night-time camping is always cold even if the daytime is hot and prepare for everything from tropical heat to snowstorms – good old British weather can fling the whole range at you within a day. Make sure you dress them in lots of layers so you can add/remove throughout the day as needed.
– PYJAMAS / ALL-IN-ONE SLEEPSUITS
Loads more than you think you need! Layer up inside wellies, pop on with pyjamas at night-time and ideally have some nice thick ones too.
– ALTERNATIVE SHOES TO WELLIES
Either sturdy boots like walking boots can be good if the ground is drier, as well as waterproof shoes like Crocs
Soft, stretchy and comfy rather than denim etc
Both short and long sleeved
– JUMPERS / FLEECES
– WATERPROOF COAT / CAGOUL
All-in-one waterproof suits are great for younger kids – we have a Togz one for Huey
– WATERPROOF DUNGAREES / TROUSERS
If the weather is hotter and the all-in-one is too much, we have these ace waterproof dungarees for Huey so he can still get muddy but wear a T-shirt to keep cool
– WOOLLY/WARM HAT
– LITTLE RUCKSACK
They can carry their own drink and snacks in this as well as a couple of favourite toys
– ID TAGS
Essential for their safety if they get lost. Never put their name on them, just your mobile number. You can buy ready-made ones or you can just write on their clothes and/or arm in biro / permanent marker. Agree on a checkpoint that they can see if they get lost. Make sure they know to only speak to the stewards in uniform (usually in neon bibs with radios), not to tell anyone their name, and just show the steward the mobile number for them to call. Take a picture of the kids on your phone each morning so you can easily show people what they look like. For older kids, give them a sitemap so they can find their own way around (this is also fun for them!)
– EAR DEFENDERS
This may seem like overkill but some music festivals can be very loud and small children’s ears are very sensitive. They aren’t expensive from Amazon.
TOILETRIES FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
– SUNCREAM & AFTERSUN
– TOOTHBRUSHES & TOOTHPASTE
– WET WIPES
Both baby wipes and face wipes. You CANNOT HAVE ENOUGH WIPES I REPEAT *NEVER ENOUGH WIPES* and make sure you carry a pack in your day bag too. Many festivals do have showers but let’s face it, most of us tend to embrace the crusty vibe a bit while we’re there, so a naked wet wipe session is a reasonable makeshift ‘shower’. If you bring a plastic tub (listed above) you can of course also have a strip wash with ‘proper water’ WOW LUXURY
– DRY SHAMPOO
– SOAP & FLANNEL
– HAIRBRUSH/COMB & HAIRBANDS/GRIPS
– TOILET ROLL
Again, you cannot have enough! Most festival toilets do not supply this so make sure you take plenty out with you each day. Individually wrapped packs of tissues are also great for day bags and won’t get soggy if your bag gets wet.
– HAND SANITISER
Festival toilets are usually grim. There aren’t many washbasins. Enough said. Bring a few tubes.
– NAPPIES, NAPPY CREAM & NAPPY SACKS
– TAMPAX / SANITARY PRODUCTS
– SHOWER BAG
– MEDICAL KIT
Insect repellent, paracetamol & ibuprofen (both adult and kid versions), antihistamine tablets/cream (adult & kid versions), tweezers, antiseptic cream/spray, plasters & bandages, pocket tissues, Sudafed, burn ointment, Immodium, rehydration sachets
There will be loads at the festival to amuse and entertain kids, but it’s well worth bringing a few choice lightweight items of your own to keep them occupied in the tent, in bad weather and in queues etc.
– FAVOURITE TEDDY
– SOME LIGHTWEIGHT BOOKS
– OUTDOOR TOYS
Frisbee, pois, velcro bats and ball, boules, inflatable balls
– INDOOR GAMES
Personal low-space-consuming favourites are Uno, Pass the Bomb (both adult and kids versions) and kids’ activity books, playing cards, paper & pencils/crayons, and cheapo art/craft supplies
– DRESSING UP CLOTHES
Kids love to play with them but they are also amazing for keeping them visible after dark. Just make sure kids don’t bite them as the neon liquid can leak out into little mouths! I speak from alarming experience of a young Joe with day-glo lips.
– BALLOONS & BUBBLES
– DISPOSABLE CAMERAS
Kids love to play with these and the photos are a great memento for them afterwards too
– FACE PAINT
– TATTOO TRANSFERS
On non-festival camping trips, we take a lot more food equipment and supplies than this, as generally speaking we need enough for breakfast, lunch and dinner most days. But at festivals, to keep it simple we work on the assumption that we’ll eat from festival food stalls for lunch and dinner (tasty, fun and easy), and that we’ll just sort out our own breakfast and snacks, occasionally lunch. Make sure the kids know not to pick up and eat anything they find on the ground! Feed them breakfast at the tent, then pack them a little lunchbox for the day with snacks and a drink. Glass is almost always forbidden at festivals so bring tins and packaged food. We tend to bring:
– CAMPING STOVE WITH FUEL (REMEMBER LIGHTERS/MATCHES)
Even if you’re not cooking food, a hot cup of tea/coffee goes a long way in the morning. You can buy simple ones really cheaply.
– COOLBOX & ICEPACKS
– CAN OPENER & CORKSCREW
– THERMOS FLASK
– PLASTIC/MELAMINE CUTLERY, PLATES, CUPS/MUGS, BOWLS
– CLINGFILM & KITCHEN ROLL
– WASHING UP BOWL, BRUSH/SPONGE & WASHING UP LIQUID
– PLASTIC FOOD BAGS / ZIPLOCS
To carry food/snacks, ideally ziplocked ones or similar so contents don’t spill out in rucksacks
– TEABAGS / COFFEE / INSTANT HOT-CHOCOLATE
Either fresh (if you have a super-duper coolbox) or condensed / powdered / UHT
– BOTTLED WATER
Loads of the stuff, as much as you can carry. A mixture of larger bottles and smaller individual bottles. Smaller individual bottles are good, once used, for decanting wine into from the ‘mother-box’ in the tent to then carry around the festival with you. Obv the same applies to whatever is your booze of choice.
– MILK FOR BABIES
If you have a baby with you still needing milk, then obviously either the old boobies will do the trick (which I’m pretty sure you’d definitely be bringing with you), or alternatively for bottle feeding mamas, the ready-sterilised disposable bottles and ready-made milks are ideal for camping as a short-term solution.
– HEALTHY SNACKS
Obviously you don’t want the kids eating rubbish for days on end and you want to keep their energy up and moods calm, so have a range of healthy snacks on hand eg bananas, oranges, satsumas, apples, rice cakes, cereal bars, houmous, avocado, breadsticks, tomatoes, boxes of raisins/dried fruit, cheese
– ‘TREAT’ SNACKS
Because who wants to eat healthy stuff all the time? Chocolate, crisps, marshmallows. Brioches are a brill camping food – great for breakfast and snacks, and they feel like a treat for the kids
– BREAD, BUTTER, MARMITE / JAM / PEANUT BUTTER
Great for breakfast and lunches – banana and peanut butter sandwiches are an all-day winner
– MULTI VARIETY PACKS OF CEREAL
These can be eaten dry as a snack, or a great tip I read, if kids want to make their own breakfast, they can pour a bit of milk into the inner plastic bag containing the cereal, and eat it straight from the box!
– FRUIT JUICE
The individual little cartons with straws are brill for camping and lunchboxes
– BOX OF WINE / CANS OF BEER/CIDER
Phew! So there it is. My mammoth, cover-all-angles festival-with-kids checklist. Is there anything you’d add to this? I’m always up for new suggestions to make camping with kids easier!
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