Planning for your first festival - Festival Top Ten

I know that some people reading this are festival virgins. maybe you have never been to a festival because you are too young to go alone (if so I'm secretly judging your parents! why haven't they taken you?) or maybe you are a coward. Maybe you have never been to a festival because you are a parent and have a baby and babies don't do festivals. Maybe you are disabled, maybe you think you just don't like festivals. I shall assume you at least like camping...or why are you here reading?

Well here's the lowdown, you can go to a festival with kids, and if you are disabled, and if you are old and if you are scared. There are so many types of festivals that you will find one you like if you look. Why not start with E-Festivals, search local, or search by type. Literary festival? Food festival? Beer festival? Beard Festival? Comedy festival? Sci Fi Festival? Kids Festival?  there are not only music festivals! Almost anything you can think of is being celebrated in a field somewhere.

Festivals are great for relaxing and slowing the pace, but also for going crackers and having a blast!

Here are my top ten tips, they won't all apply to everyone but hopefully some will apply to you. You are actively encouraged to add your festival tips in the comments below! Thanks

  1. It's a festival. Get up when you like, sleep when you like, lay about if you like. You might need a watch so that you don't miss acts you really want to see but on the whole a watch is too controlling, go with the flow, eat when you are hungry, drink when you fancy it. Don't forget your kids if you have them with you though! They may be too small to tell you if they are hungry so don't neglect them, but older kids will love the new relaxing of any rules, especially bedtime ones. Let tiny kids sleep in trolleys so you can roam the festival at night.
  2. Take a few snacks and drinks but don't go crazy. There will be food at most festivals and it;s usually pretty good. You will pay a slight premium to have your food served in a field but don't forget most concessions have to pay a fairly high rent to be there.  Buy a meal to share for smaller kids. I usually end up only eating twice a day, a late large brunch and then a large evening supper, sustained by beer and snacks through the day, with the odd icecream.
  3. If you have kids buy or hire a trolley for larger festival sites. You'll see the sea of festival trolleys, tugged by yummy munnies and sexy stubbled dad's, don't be put off that some are elaborately decorated as tiger cages or VW campervans, a trolley is your friend. You can buy them at garden centres or online, they come apart for transport. Some sites hire them out.
  4. Plan where you are going to pitch your tent in advance. You may not find a space where you plan but it's a good idea to have an idea. Do you want the relative quiet of being far from the action so you and the kids can sleep in peace, or close to the centre so you have a short wander back to the tent at the end of the day.
  5. Take decoration for the tent. It looks pretty and there will be a sea of tents. Both you and any kids will appreciate being able to spot it easily. You don't need a flag on a pole but they are fun too. Bunting, solar lights, pom-poms, ribbons go wild - let the kids help.
  6. Don't worry about washing. No honestly, shower before you leave. Take wet wipes. Most festivals are a few days. No one cares if you are sparkly clean. Shower lines are long and boring and can even add extra cost. If you are really worried wash your hair in a bucket of water by the tent. Save time, be hippy. Kids will adore having muddy feet after 4 days and it makes the first shower at home more fun.
  7. Most festivals won't let you take a lot of booze in. Some won't let you take any into the festival site but are happy for you to have it at the tent. Check! No festivals allow glass. Decant any wine etc into plastic bottles or bring boxes/bags. Tins of ready mixed spirits can be bought at supermarkets and are great to pop in your bag (or trolley) for later. Remember to use the beer tents though, it helps the festival revenue and they often have guest beers or fun cocktail options. Also check policies re cooking, some allow open fires - use some common sense - keep a bucket of water near your tent. Some allow cookers, some don't. Ditto disposable barbecues - and whatever you choose take care if you are drinking...
  8. Dress fancy. Just because you are living under canvas for four days in a field it doesn't give you the right to mooch around in jeans and a T shirt. Festival wear varies from year to year but outrageous is always in style, if you have kids make sure  you bring their fancy dress costumes. check if the festival has a theme so you can get a costume ready. Costumes vary form basic homemade, simple fancy dress shop style to elaborate cosplay characters. Don't be shy. Take wellies...maybe crocsif you can bear it.
  9. Talk to other festival goers. It's a festival. You are all there to have fun. Almost everyone is nice. Assume niceness unless proved otherwise, but stay safe. At night keep all your valuables in the bottom of your sleeping bag not near the door of the tent! There is always one drunk person that loses a wallet and would be happy to 'borrow' yours. Don't take any valuables with you that you can't carry around all day.
  10. Toilets. They are both not as bad and worse than you an imagine. One day one they are empty and clean, use them, become familiar with them in day light, soon you will be using them in the dark, when they are urine splashed, lacking toilet paper and 'full'. Take toilet paper, wet wipes and hand gel and carry it with you. Always take it to the toilets. A She-wee is a good investment for a lady, by day 3 you won't want to sit on the seat...
    Consider a potty and some disposable nappies for in the tent (yes even adults) you can put the nappy in the base of the potty and it will soak up the pee for easy disposal, put a plastic bag in the potty first then the nappy then pee, they tie the bag and bin the lot. Perfect for a late night or early morning wee....or when the toilets reach critical mass.
So there are some top tips, of course you will have more, do add them, and also check my camping list and also some camping tips for those with kids  and the tips for dealing with festival mud here.

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  1. I'm in my late 50s and risked my first festival experience last year at Curious Arts in the New Forest. I'd had my doubts about camping/toilets/showers but it all proved great fun!

  2. Great tips! I've always been a bit dubious about festivals, but there's so many different types these days and obviously the camping bit is good fun. I might have to give it a go one day.


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