Can you take kids to a festival? Planning tips & packing checklist
By Helen Roberts
The rumble of the crowd, the stage lights beaming and the atmosphere buzzing in the air – I’ve been going to music festivals since I was a teenager and I absolutely love them. In my younger, wilder days, taking kids to a music festival would never have been on my radar, but when I had my daughter, Amarah, I immediately began searching for tips on how to take a baby to a festival. I couldn’t wait to experience festival life with her.
Even though this was the first time we had looked into taking kids to a festival, I knew there was a vast pick of family-friendly festivals to choose from over the summer. As a festival lover, I wasn’t ready to go full-on Mr Tumble stage yet, so I was looking for a real mix of adult and child-friendly fun.
Everything you need to know about taking kids to a festival
Having been many times before, my husband and I decided Suffolk-based Latitude Festival would be perfect for 11-month-old Amarah’s first music festival. The laid-back vibes and relaxed setting are ideal for families. They had some excellent acts across eight stages as well as an arts stage, which had entertainment specifically for kids. Latitude Festival also has dedicated family camping (with its own car park), special entertainment areas for kids and teens and the opportunity to go swimming in the famous Latitude lake. With easy access from London by car and by train, it was the obvious choice for us and we couldn’t wait.
Even though we were excited to go, we were definitely anxious about whether we would enjoy a festival with a baby in tow, but it turned out to be a lot of fun and wonderfully rewarding. I want to encourage parents to have the same, great experience we had, so here are my 12 planning essentials and top tips for enjoying a music festival with a baby or toddler.
This year’s Latitude Festival is July 20th – 23rd 2023 (latitudefestival.com)
Cover image: Mr Seb / Flickr. This post contains affilate links.
How to survive a music festival with a baby or toddler
1. Do your research
Choosing the right festival for your family is really important to ensure you all have a good time and your weekend is as easy and as fun as possible – and yes, it is possible! Latitude, Isle of Wight and Camp Bestival are often voted the best for taking babies or kids to a music festival, but there is a variety of events taking place across the UK, so look at what’s on before you decide.
Don’t let the headline acts be the only factor in deciding which festival is best with kids. Festivals that have family-friendly stages and areas as well as dedicated family camping fields will make your first experience of going to a festival with a baby or toddler much easier.
Also consider how you will get to and from the festival. You don’t want to arrive at the camping site in the dark or when your baby or toddler is hungry and tired. If you plan to use public transport or site transfers, remember that going to a festival with a baby or toddler will often mean more ‘stuff’ so make sure you are not overloaded.
Plan your journey to make it as pleasant as possible for your child (which we all know will make it more pleasant for the parents too, let’s face it), taking time for food and toilet stops. If the festival is some distance away, it might be worth getting to the area the day before and checking into a budget hotel for the evening, so you can arrive at the festival feeling fresh for your first day.
2. Book family camping when doing festivals with kids
How and where you camp at a music festival can have a huge impact on how much you enjoy your weekend. Let’s face it, before kids, coming back to your tent to continue the party was part of the fun and your camping neighbours likely had the same idea.
Festivals like Latitude offer family camping sites that are for families with kids under 13 (usually) that are quieter and separate from the general camping. However, pitches sell out quickly so once you’ve decided on your festival, be online as soon as possible once the tickets go on sale to secure your spot.
GOOD TO KNOW: Family festival camping is still festival camping, so don’t expect total silence after-hours. However, family camping is definitely calmer and more suitable for enjoying a festival with kids, so it’s absolutely worth booking in advance.
3. Plan your weekend – but don’t worry if it doesn’t go to plan
As most parents know, life with kids often means time can get away from you. Being at a festival with kids is no different, so have an idea of what you want to see and do over the weekend. Be realistic about what you can achieve with babies or young kids in tow, as getting from A-to-B will take longer than you think. Plan in advance by using the offical festival website or app and once at the festival site, buy a programme and plot your weekend.
One of the greatest joys of experiences and adventures with your kids is seeing the world through their eyes. This is even more true at festivals with kids as they marvel at all the weird and wonderful things on offer. Remember taking kids to a festival is about fun for the whole family, so give children a chance to take the lead. They might spot something fun and fascinating that you haven’t considered, so let them run wild.
BE TACTICAL: If you don’t want to miss that headline act at 9pm, remember your kid might not be as into them as you are. Tired, grumpy kids can really spoil a moment, so consider giving them a late nap back at camp to recharge them for the evening. Failing that, mud-permitting, bring a buggy or a wagon and let them play games on their tablet – which has content you have downloaded in advance, of course. It’s worth noting that games are better than movies or TV shows that require sound as it will be very loud and it may be difficult to wear headphones under the ear defenders.
4. Manage your expectations when taking kids to a festival
If you take kids to a festival, you’re never going to have the same experience as you did as carefree, child-free adults. However, like travel itself, it’s possible to enjoy festivals in the same way, albeit with small adjustments. The after-hours rave tent is probably out, but you can still enjoy great bands, stroll around in the sun, sample some food and drink and take part in all the extra activities available at festivals.
The word relaxing doesn’t often come into the same sentence as an 11-month-old baby, but I can honestly say there were times I was genuinely able to relax and unwind at Latitude Festival. Amarah was so distracted by the joyful, friendly people and entertainment around her, that I was able to sit back on our blanket and sip a cold cocktail in the sun.
In fact, I realised that taking kids to a festival was easier than being at home in some ways. Amarah was never short of attention from friendly festival-goers stopping to talk to her, smile or dance and she was entertained by stilt walkers, dancers and eccentric guests as well as pink sheep and a huge sand pit.
Family-friendly festivals like Latitude have so much on offer for children, with dedicated tents, literary and poetry readings. theatre shows, bouncy castles, circus skill training and arts and crafts.
I loved getting the opportunity to sit with a drink, listen to music in the distance (even though she had ear defenders we still couldn’t go as close to the stage as I normally would) and unwind while she was sat at the bottom of my feet, happy and entertained. I could tell she was enjoying the freedom and stimulation too and being immersed in the festival atmosphere had a positive effect on her – she slept like a baby (or not like one, as the case often is!).
5. Prepare to go walking
At any festival, with kids or without, expect to do a lot of walking. Festival grounds are consistently huge, and the more popular the festival, the bigger they become to accommodate everyone. Latitude is a medium-sized festival, with a daily capacity of around 40,000 guests, making it a manageable and achievable first festival with kids.
Something helpful I found about Latitude Festival is that no matter where you walked, there’s something along the way to look at. Even the walk from the campsite to the main music arena was dotted with Carousels, art and crafts corners, and a big culture tent showcasing dance classes from every corner of the world. The secret woods, and disco forest were also fabulous elements to absorb as we walked into site and Amarah loved exploring the forest. All the trees had stars and huge balloon displays and pathways lined with massive flowers. It was the small attention to detail that made it so magical. Sometimes the added extras are so good, many people don’t even make it into the music area.
If your child is small enough to carry, I recommend taking a lightweight buggy and a baby sling, such as the Ergobaby 360. It’s true, the famous festival images often show innocent souls trudging through the rain with buggy wheels three-inch deep in mud. But what if it’s sunny? Trust me, that pram will be a Godsend! If the weather is on your side, a small pushchair can help you conquer a festival with a baby with ease. As well as not having to carry Amarah around all weekend, she was able to rest in the buggy, take a break from the sun and nap while my husband I enjoyed a drink and some of the entertainment. Plus, as parents and carers know, a pushchair also serves as a wheelbarrow for all your stuff, such as extra layers, sun cream, bottles of water and toddler snacks.
TOP TIP: Take some battery-powered fairy lights and attach them to your buggy. This’ll help stop people from banging into it in the dark and the kids love it too!
6. Go pro with a wagon
If the ground or weather isn’t buggy friendly or if your kids are too big for a pram, consider a festival wagon. Some festivals offer you the opportunity to rent a wagon for your visit, but there are always limited stocks so if this is something you might want to do, get in fast to reserve one for your visit. If you plan on doing multiple festivals or camping trips in the future, or if you have multiple kids or older children, it might be worth buying a wagon, such as this heavy duty, foldable option with a canopy.
Wagons are more spacious than pushchairs and offer a secure environment for younger children if you are going to be at the festival late watching bands. Consider packing the wagon with bedding and sleep aids, such as their favourite teddy bear and you can effectively put them to bed while the evening headliner does their thing.
Packing hacks for taking kids to a festival
7. Have fun at festivals with kids whatever the weather
Like anytime traveling with children, packing light for a festival with kids will make getting there easier and be less hassle for you – to a point. Some items are non-negotiable for surviving festivals with kids, so be careful not to prioritise the wrong things.
In summer, the UK weather can be an unpredictable beast. You may be blessed with glorious sunshine, but fields offer little shade and when taking kids to a festival, it’s vital to have proper sun and heat protection. This can be in the form of a high-factor sun cream, cool, cotton clothes that cover the shoulders, a hat, a sun shade for the buggy (we swear by this when traveling) and even a fan than fixes onto the buggy or back carrier.
Likewise, it’s possible you may be dancing in the pouring rain – which is definitely a lot of fun! Really good Wellies are a festival essential and pack a few pairs of welly socks too, to make sure small feet can stay warm and dry. Since you are doing a lot of walking, if the weather looks iffy, consider waterproof walking boots instead of Wellingtons, These are better for your feet and more comfortable to walk about in for 2-3 days.
Pack a really warm jumper and a thinner jumper with long sleeves, thermal socks and a thermal long-sleeve t-shirt (Uniqlo do great ones), a waterproof splash suit for the kids and a waterproof jacket for adults. Keep warm inside the tent by sleeping in fleece PJs or onesies with a thermal blanket (this is the one we use) or if you can carry it, a duvet. Obviously if you’re treated to the summer heat – not always a blessing – cover yourselves with a lightweight cotton sheet. Don’t forget thin towels that dry easily.
9. What to pack when taking kids to a festival
Having the right clothing is essential but there are also some extra things I would always pack when taking kids to a festival. For younger kids, always pack ear defenders (this is a great value pair that we use). I buy insulated water bottles to keep the water cold (these are my kids’ favourites) and I make sure they have a handle or loop on the end. Then I attach them all to a large buggy clip. Not only can you attach this to the buggy or wagon, if you bring one, it also makes the collection of bottles easier to hold and carry around. I also like to have a plastic or rubber food case to carry around snacks as this is easier to wash or wipe down when camping or at a festival.
TOP TIP: Take an empty carrier bag around with you each day. Then you can use this to dispose of empty snack packets, discarded wipes etc without having to constantly be searching for a bin.
Invest in a good backpack to carry around your essentials. Something with multiple pockets inside and out is best so you can divide up your different bits. Ideally for hot weather, it will have an anti-sweat layer on the back and padded, adjustable straps to lessen the pressure on your shoulders.
If you’re attending a festival with kids, have some fun and invest in glow in the dark makeup, light up jewellery and accessories, glowsticks and even silly costumes. Just because you are the parent, doesn’t mean you can’t indulge your inner child for the weekend too.
AVOID: Bulky children’s luggage like Trunkies, scooters and bikes and precious toys that might get damaged or lost. In the tent, we used puzzles, Lego and a Yoto player to keep Amarah busy.
10. How to stay safe at a festival with kids
There’s always a niggling fear that you may lose your child in large gatherings, or they might get swept away in the crowd. It’s a realistic worry, but, I really felt Latitude Festival did everything they could to help parents fret less. We were with two other families who had older children and the stewards would not let them exit any gates unless they could see they were accompanied by an adult. The security does not feel intimidating, but a worry-reducing insurance.
If you are taking a toddler to a festival and they are walking, consider these backpack reigns to hang on to them in bigger crowds, at shops and stalls and near water. You could also put a digital tag in their pocket (and I have seen some people fashion an anklet out of them too) so you will also be able to see their location on your phone app. Of course, it is still scary to lose your child but with air tags, you will be able to see their location and find them easily, which can put your mind at rest. We have the Chipolo Tag, which is cheaper than Apple Airtag and I highly recomend. The old school air tag, of course is to write your name and phone number on their wristband, so any helpers can get in contact with you if you are separated from your kids at a festival.
Many festivals like Latitude do have great facilities for babies including feeding tents, highchairs, breast feeding areas and baby changing. The fact there were so many families at Latitude also made me feel less conscious when Amarah started crying or winging – because let’s fact it, it’s not all rainbows and roses. There was lots of ‘parenting support’ around and knowing smiles.
11. Forget the routine… but not completely
For some, sleep is already rare with an 11-month-old baby, so be prepared for even less when camping. However, believe it or not, Amarah had some of her best night’s sleep in the tent (she’s not been a great sleeper from birth). I think the busy days helped, but other parents have told me that their kids sleep brilliantly in tents too. It must be the cosy quarters and sleeping side-by-side with mum and dad.
It’s always good, when travelling anywhere, to keep as close as possible to your child’s normal routine (sleeping / eating etc). When taking kids to a festival, it’s hard to do this without missing out on half the reason you are there. Don’t get too caught up in the action and skip meals or snacks when they would usually have them. It’s a given they will go to bed late and get up earlier with the sunlight, so try to encourage naps or downtime during the day to recharge their batteries.
If you are used to a more traditional routine, don’t be stressed by the change of pace. Extra stimulation, walking and day-long action will tire kids out so even if they don’t nap at home, you may find kids at a festival will have no problem getting to sleep during the afternoon. Take it as a win!
Invest in a spacious tent that allows you to have some separate space for adults and doesn’t have you heaped on top of each other all weekend. Grown-ups need their sleep too! We have a tent with a divide between the living quarters and the sleeping quarters. This creates a ‘bedtime’ space for kids already out of their comfort zone. The UK can get chilly at night but the cold doesn’t really come from the air around us, but the ground we’re sleeping on. Ensure you take a good mat, or enough layers to put under you or even better, an inflatable bed. I loved waking up in a tent with Amarah between my husband and I. It was totally adorable. I have always loved camping so this made me determined to do more camping and more festivals!
RELATED POST: See our list of the best camping spots in Lincolnshire
12. Most important tip for going with kids to a festival? Have fun!
Festivals are all about celebrating life and having fun. You don’t need to pack loads of stuff from home to entertain kids at a festival. Encourage them to use their imagination to decorate the tent and dress up for the weekend. Kids love costumes and some festivals have themes for fancy dress, which will be well-advertised. Pack glitter, hair mascara, face paint, flower head garlands and silly hats. Decorate your tent with buntings, flags and solar fairy lights – this will also make it more visable when you are making your way home after-dark.
Lead by example by relaxing, having fun, wearing something silly and getting muddy and grubby. I guarantee you will love it. Enjoy!
Helen Roberts is a freelance journalist. Follow Helen on Instagram at @welshroberts.
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