I’ve written a fair few of these festival essentials posts now, but there are always so many new products coming onto the market I think it’s worth doing a new round-up every year, even though I have my absolute must-haves that don’t change from year to year. Let’s start with those. My tent recommendation is Pukka Tents’ 5m bell tent. I really cannot tell you how this has revolutionised the camping experience for me, it’s so airy and roomy I feel as though I could stay in it for months (if only there were decent showers and toilets nearby!) Not ones to do things by halves, we have an Aerobed mattress, while Alfie has a single inflatable mattress and Kitty is still cosy in her Snugglepod. Pack more blankets than you think it humanly possible to need, then pack some more – those clear nights can get pretty chilly.
Following on from that, my best piece of advice is to cater for all weathers. It may seem ridiculous to be packing all-in-one waterproofs while the sun’s beating down, but you’ll thank me when you make it back to your tent in a downpour warm and dry. We are big fans of Kozi Kidz wet weather wear – Kitty has the Randig rain set which she wears with JoJo Maman Bebe rainbow wellies – while Alfie has the Smidig jacket, which handily packs away in its own pouch, and his second pair of Hunter glow-in-the-dark wellies (why are these still not available in adult sizes?) for inclement weather. Fingers crossed, we won’t need any of those, but instead will be reaching for the suncream (I swear by Australian brand SunSense – the roll-on toddler milk is just brilliant for wriggly little ones), shades (try Sons & Daughters and Paxley for the coolest designs) and sunhats (JoJo Maman Bebe has a huge selection). Bringing baby? Pack a pop-up UV tent – there’s not a lot of shade in a field.
You certainly won’t be spoilt for choice food-wise at festivals – gone are the days of soggy chips and floppy burgers, it’s all about the street food and fine dining pop-ups out there now. It’s not always the cheapest, however, so if you’re there for three or four days, eating every meal out can be prohibitively expensive. We like to mix and match and take a fair amount of food with us in a huge cooler (which also keeps the prosecco chilled – so important!). We tend to have cereal for breakfast at the tent, grab lunch out and about, then return to camp for tea (pasta, noodles, jacket potatoes, salad are all decent, filling camping meals), unless there’s a band/activity we want to see, in which case we head for a dining tent (The Feast Collective at Camp Bestival is just brilliant). There are usually designated cooking areas in the camping fields and, this year, we’ll be taking a CampingGaz stove, which has two burners, but folds up, so is perfect for limited space. Snacks are essential – there’s nothing worse than a hangry child (or husband) at a festival – as is plenty of water, especially if (fingers crossed) the weather is kind. My tip for non-leaky water bottles is the Camelbak Kids – lots of cool newÂ designs, too.
So, what about the bit that everyone dreads – the toilets. The good news is that they’re rarely as bad as you think they’re going to be. In my experience, at family festivals, although certainly not luxe, they are kept pretty clean. Do take small packs of tissues and biodegradable wet wipes with you – also handy for impromptu ‘showers’, I like Jackson Reece Kinder by Nature. And do pack an antibacterial hand wash, as the ones provided will inevitably run out. If you’ve got little little ones, then it’s worth considering a My Carry Potty or Potette portable potty, as festival loos can be intimidating, although many festivals are introducing small compost toilets for children. In terms of cleanliness, head for the showers at unusual times (mid-afternoon or unfeasibly early in the morning) to avoid queues or just pack no-rinse body wash (Nilaqua do an alcohol and paraben-free one) and dry shampoo – we’ll be trying the rather beautifully packaged (and brilliantly named) Hairydust, which is organic with no nasties.
It does get surprisingly dark at festivals, particularly on late-night loo trips or when trekking back to your campsite, so a few torches are vital. We also pack a big camping lantern and various solar fairy lights – I’m feeling as though I might need some new ones this year and I have my eye on Power Bee’s stars. As my iPhone tends to act as my camera I’ll be popping a GoTravel portable charger in my bag, so I don’t miss out on capturing any of those magical moments festivals tend to provide.
No matter how small the festival, you’re going to end up walking for miles and little legs might struggle with some distances. We always take our Radio Flyer wagon, but most festivals offer the option to hire trolleys to transport children – especially useful at night as they often fall asleep in them. When Alfie and Kitty were smaller, we took our LittleLife back carrier with us as well, but this year we’ll be packing the Hopp (check out our exclusive discount code), which I’m sure is going to save our weary shoulders. Ear defenders are another absolute must. There are lots of great ones on the market now – look out for Banz, Peltor, Edz Kidz and, for teeny tiny ones, Em’s 4 Bubs – we have a great round up in our Ear Defenders for Babies and Young Children post.
Now for the really important stuff – fancy dress. Festivals really give children (and you) the chance to be a bit creative with what they (you) wear, so make the most of it. We always take capes, crowns and masks as they don’t take up too much space. I’m going to do a specific round-up of outfit ideas for Camp Bestival in a couple of weeks – this year’s theme is The Wild – but, in the meantime, have a look at the great selections at Molly Meg, Carousel, Little Lulubel, Not on the High Street and, of course, Shop BG. Temporary tattoos are another must-take – we love Tattyoo and Meri Meri for children (plus Kattoos to make sure they get back to you if they get lost) and we’re coveting the beautiful metallic skin jewellery from Azzy London for ourselves – saves running the risk of losing your genuine precious jewels as well.
If you haven’t decided on a festival yet, look out for our family-friendly festival calendar.