In my day, back when this was all fields, you knew where you stood with festivals. You had your Glastonbury and your Reading, maybe the occasional rave. Wherever and whatever they were, one thing was clear: they weren’t for children. You’d be sleeping in your clothes in a poorly erected tent, losing your mind and living on crisps for three days. Little ones were most certainly not invited to this party.

festivals with children

All that has changed now and for many of us, the annual family festival trip has become as much a part of the summer calendar as the annual camping trip, or any of the other forms of torture we like to endure in the name of holidaying with children.

I’d never taken my children to a proper festival before. I’d held off, reasoning that it would be much better for everyone to go when they were old enough to a) use the toilet and b) go off with their friends for some of the indepenence they crave, but rarely get.

And so this year I took the plunge at Camp Bestival. It’s aimed squarely at families but with the cool-kids heritage of Bestival behind it, and crucially it’s only a 45 minute drive from my home. I figured this was the one to go for on my virgin trip. Here’s what I learnt:

  • Biblical rain and flash floods do not mean you can cancel this trip. You have paid over £500 for these festival tickets and your children are more excited about it than Christmas. You are going.
  • When they say camping ‘field’, check old maps and photographs to see if it is on the site of a disused quarry or ski slope. Unless you are well practiced at sleeping upright, you might want to consider paying the extra £700 for a tee-pee, which is closer to the action (noise) and has showers (Porta-cabins with taps in.)
  • Presumably because they are so smug with their waterproof, horizontal sleeping arrangements, campervan owners have to park a good half an hour away from the festival, in another county.
  • If you think World Book Day is a ballache because you have to send your children to school in fancy dress, then family festivals may not be for you. In festival-land, every day is fancy dress day. And you’re included, mummy!
  • Your ten-year-old sums up everything that is wrong with the world when he says; ‘So to be a DJ, all you have to do is play some songs and say some motivational stuff to the crowd, and you get paid millions of pounds for it?’

festival with children

  • As in any survival situation, people tend to show their true colours at a festival. Choose your fellow festival-going parents with care. What you believe is giving them freedom and independence (not knowing where they are for several hours), other less liberally-inclined parents might frame as irresponsible (neglect). Drinking win at 11.30am and trying to do the splits in front of them will not help your cause here.
  • Your daughter has a sparkly face and a squirrel tail and wears a tutu with her wellies the whole weekend.  She is the happiest she has ever been.

festivals with children

  • Strolling past the many food stalls and shops selling squirrel tails and sparkles, the uncomfortable thought that this is not a festivaly but actually just a really bad outdoor shopping centre won’t go away.
  • Then you see the Waitrose stand and you realise it’s an upmarket outdoor shopping centre.
  • A woman pushing a buggy stumbles out of the rave tent and as her husband scoops her up you notice that she’s enjoying the effects of something that might not be completely legal.
  • Festival toilets are never OK. Even when there’s a Waitrose.
  • Those Tron disposable potties make great rain hats.
  • You see lots of parents pulling children around in vintage carts at 11pm, all tucked up as if they were in bed. And you thank God your kids are too old for one of those and wonder why anyone would want to do that, just so they could watch Suggs from Madness slogging it out up there.
  • Despite being soaked through and having a drunk for a mother, your children seem to believe they have had the best time EVER. They want to come again next year. We’ll see about that.