Festival season is in full swing, and as I prepare to take my family to the 21st Annual Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance, which I do every year, I’m feeling a little like a pro at this. I mean, we are leaving in a few hours, and not only am I still working, but I haven’t even started packing. Of course I have made a list, but a seasoned festival goer like myself can put this all off at the last minute. So naturally I decided to put this off a little longer and share with my loyal friends and readers the guidelines of taking kids to festivals. Note: this list is for families who are NOT camping on festival grounds, but are going from off-site camping or driving in from somewhere else every day. Camping on grounds is a whole other list!
What to Bring
Ear protection of some kind, if your kids will keep them on. Which mine don’t, so we just try to stay back from the stages.
Sunscreen, and lots of it! I always have extra because not only do you not know how much you or a friend will need, but there is always at least one parent who has forgotten their sunscreen, and they really appreciate it when you non-judgmentally ask them if they need some. I mean, who hasn’t forgotten an essential once in a while!?
Plenty to drink. Not only water, but make sure your kids have something special to drink. Perhaps something you wouldn’t always buy them. It will make them feel special, and it will save you on the $5 a cup fresh-squeezed lemonade.
Snacks. But only enough for the day, and only what you KNOW your kids will eat. Again with the money saving (and see my what to expect below). And I will reiterate: buy things that are healthy but are treats for your kids.
Squirt bottles. They are a.ma.zing. fun for kids! And they keep them nice and cool. Be prepared though, to set some rules, while also letting go a little and not caring about getting a little wet.
Glow Stix. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, kids love ‘em. And there WILL be people there selling way overpriced glow stix. Save yourself the hassle and stop at the dollar store and grab a few packs. You will thank yourself later when you are super mom and you bust ‘em out.
Clothes that you don’t mind them getting super dirty in and then sleeping in. Save yourself the hassle of carrying around a lot of clothes. Grab one light, and extra set for real emergencies. Unless you are very particular about your kids being dirty at a festival, believe me, no one else cares if your kid is dirty. We all are. As for sleeping, let them sleep in their clothes – they will love it! Bring a sweatshirt and a very light blanket (think an oversize swaddling blanket) for when it gets cold at night and call it good.
A stroller or a wagon. While the amount of crap you have to carry around does decrease as your kids get older, you still have to carry crap. This is why I insist on my stroller. I can hang our cooler bag from the back, put our bag of extra clothes and a blanket for sitting on in the bottom, and we are good! Plus, I have a place to put a sleepy/hungry/rampaging around kid when I or they need a break.
A survival kit. Probably the one totally essential element to this whole deal. Of course this kit should include sunscreen and diapers if you need them. It should also include:
- Wipes for messy cleanup
- A first aid kit so you don’t have to walk to the first aid tent for a little boo-boo
- Medication – for adults and children
- Paper towels – these are great for obvious cleanup but also just in case there is no toilet paper in the porta-potty
- Hand sanitizer and sani-wipes
- Plastic bag – for dirty diapers, clothes, garbage, anything!
What to Expect
Things will not go as planned. It will be fun, yes, but stressful (as it usually is for mom). So keep these guidelines in mind, and I promise they will help you enjoy your festival.
Plan to eat one meal a day on the festival grounds. I used to pre-make a lot of food, as we would stay close to the festival grounds at a house where we could use the refridgerator. That is no longer the case, so I’m having to adapt. Also, my kids want to eat festival food, so it works out. What it boils down to is this. I spent more money making sure we had good food than when I budget for everyone to have one meal they really want at the festival. We eat a good breakfast and pack hearty snacks for lunch. Then we scour the festival for what we really want to eat. It’s less stressful, more adventurous, and everyone is happy.
Your kids will want to do more running around and playing in the kids area than you want to. If you have a spouse/partner with you, take a look at the schedule and see what music you each want to see, and make a plan for who is with the kids and when. Of course there will be a lot of time all together, but sometimes everyone will have something else in mind. Everyone really needs to give and take in order for everyone to have a good time.
Regardless of the full sun forecast you see before you leave, it will rain. No, it won’t. It will POUR. Have a plan for shelter wherever you go on the festival site, and plan to meet in a more central location when the storm has passed. Also, all those diapers and extra clothes in your bag? Pack them in large ziplock bags. Also, having a plastic poncho or something you can throw over your stroller isn’t a bad idea either. You won’t be sorry.
Expect to lose things. It will happen, especially if it is meaningful, so leave it at home or in the car.
Everyone will be super tired and grumpy by the end. But you will have had a blast and it will have been worth it!
Do you take your kids to music festivals? What is on your “must have” list? If you don’t go to festivals with your kids, would you ever consider it?