"Hello, my name is Kate and I'm a listaholic."
It feels good to have that off my chest. I write shopping lists, wish lists, to do lists and job lists, bucket lists (although I'm sure it's only healthy to have one of these on the go at any one time), and check lists for almost every occasion. They cover anything and everything that goes on in my head, areas such as work, food, home education, parenting, life goals and packing lists for holidays. Sometimes, I have to admit, I write too many lists and I've read that lists are not the most productive method for organisation but I love them and can't imagine not having them in my life. In most cases my compulsive list writing is only of any real benefit to myself or my family and so they remain as notes on my phone. However I've recently had an overwhelming success as a result of one of my lists and I realised that this list could help other families get the most out of a similar adventure.
Last month we had our first family festival experience and we loved it! It was a truly magical, musical, colourful adventure and there were no signs of grumpy children or parents. Considering our boys are "terrible" 2 and "fearsome" 4, I'd consider it an overwhelming success!
We had been to a fair few festivals before and this was our 3rd time at Latitude Festival in Suffolk so we had some idea of what to expect. When children are involved however, the preparation required is on another level. We really wanted our boys to experience the fun of a festival, but as they're quite young I realised that for us to all enjoy the experience we would need well rested children who had what they needed on hand to avoid overwhelm and breakdowns from all of us - haha! And this is where my list writing came into it's own along with a fair amount preparation in the days leading up to the festival. Not only were we one happy family, I would even go as far to describe us as relaxed which can be challenging on a holiday with young children. We were able to fully enjoy the festival ourselves instead of having to preempt our children's needs - we were prepared for most eventualities.
I thought it might be helpful to share my list creating efforts so your family can benefit rather than just storing it as an Evernote until our next festival adventure. I know that I take any time-saving opportunity I can get and I'm sure you're the same!
So here is my list of essentials for having a fun festival experience with toddlers and young children.
1. Festival trolley
This is at the top of the list for a reason! We used a large garden trolley that we use to transport our guest's luggage at Round the Woods but they aren't expensive to buy especially for the festival and are worth every penny! Ours comfortably fitted 3 children for carting them around the festival and if Dylan, our youngest, was napping in it there was still space for Elliot to have a rest if he needed. We lined it with foam inside a cover to make it comfy & used some blue plumbing pipes with a cut up tarpaulin for the cover. This meant we could design the cover to work as we needed it to and had a permanent top cover with all 4 sides that rolled down depending on the angle of the sun or the need for cosiness.
We hung all our bags on the outside including a bike panier bag, some small bags clipped on for cups and bottles and bungy cords for the rest. This meant the inside space was kept clear for children and blankets but we had everything we needed and didn't have to carry any bags on our backs, which was a relief!
You can decorate it with bunting, fairy lights or nice fabrics as a sunshade. We got our boys to paint the green tarpaulin to make it a bit more colourful.
Dylan napped in the trolley each day and on Sunday he had a 4 hour nap! This meant the evenings were so much easier for him and once he woke up each time he was revved up and ready to boogie!
It was also really handy on top of the car stuffed with sleeping bags & our tent & enabled us to transport 2 boys and our camping kit from the car to our camping spot with relative ease.
Quick tip on buying a quality trolley - we saw lots of families with folding fabric trolleys across the weekend that fit really easily in the car. It was typically the wheels that gave up on these first, some were abandoned on route from the car on day 1 and others lasted a little longer but couldn't hold up to weight of children and bags.
2. Wet wipes
Wet wipes are just so incredibly handy - great for nappy changes, cleaning hands & faces & mopping up spillages on blankets and in the tent. We used Water Wipes as we try to avoid putting anything nasty on our children's skin & we got through 2 large packs over the course of the weekend. Make sure you bring enough as the shop at Latitude had sold out when our friends tried to buy some halfway through the festival.
3. Battery pack for your phone
Whilst we relished in the opportunity to disconnect from our emails & social media accounts we have come to rely on our mobile phones as cameras too and we did not want to miss the chance to capture some of the many wonderful moments at the festival. Our phones lasted almost 2 days before needing a boost which we were pretty impressed with but that wasn't going to get us through from Thursday lunchtime when we left home all the way to Monday afternoon when we returned. There is a charging station at latitude and I'm sure they have them at all major festivals but it wasn't in the family camping zone and we didn't pass it at all on our adventures. Also, imagine dragging your children around searching for a place to plug in and then waiting for it to charge, I can't think of much that would trigger boredom or meltdowns more than this. The only practical alternative is to bring a portable battery pack with you.
Also we had downloaded the Latitude Festival App and had programmed it with things we would like to see if all went to plan. We were really relaxed about what we saw and what we missed but there were a couple of things we really wanted to see and lots that we knew would be worth seeing if possible. The app then alerted us about 15 minutes before something that we'd favourited started so we could see if it was realistic to go and see it. Having phone battery was obviously quite crucial for this. I can report that even with young children we saw the few acts we were super keen to see including Rag n Bone Man, Belle and Sebastian, Superorganism and Alt-J.
This was essential for shade and in combination with the trolley we were able to create a nice area of shade for us all to sit under when we wanted to watch something on an outside stage. The umbrella obviously strapped to the trolley & would be really handy for the typical British festival experience of rain too
We had so many healthy snacks with us that we brought some back home! I stocked up on raw fruit bars, nuts & dried fruit, fresh fruit & a tub of peanut butter with crackers & rice cakes to spread it on. Small cartons of milk & dried cereal came with us too which are ideal for breakfast & snacks.
I'm specifically talking about onesies for kids here but why not throw your onesie in the car too - you can be the onesie tribe! Onesies are perfect for slipping over the top of the children's day clothes when it gets chilly in the night, which it did even in this summer's heatwave. Also if you choose something bold then it makes the little ones really easy to spot while they're playing and running around nearby.
Activity books, active games like diablo & a foam ball plus a couple of smaller toys, nothing too big or with lots of loose parts as there were a few times I had to count toys out and back into the bag so we didn't move area without them. Our boys spent hours playing with these toys. Their most favourite were the ball and diablo but there were times when they wanted some chill out time and they loved having some sticker & activity books to hand.
8. Food provisions
We took food with us for most of our meals during the 4 days we were away. It took a bit of planning with shopping beforehand and we spent a little time each morning prepping our meals but with a coolbag strapped to the trolley we then had food on hand for all of us whenever we got hungry. The bonus was that we didn't have to join any ridiculously long queues for food with hungry impatient children. We brought precooked food for the first 2 days in a big coolbox and then had lots of vegetables, tinned fish and pasta or noodles to cook each morning for the next couple of days. Bit of an effort, but it saved us a small fortune as well as making life easier.
We also had several water bottles hanging from various places on the trolley. I think we had 4 in total which meant whenever we were near a drinking water tap we were able to fill up any that were empty and ensure we never had thirsty bodies searching for a water point.
9. Ear plugs & eye masks
Having these really helped us all get more sleep by keeping out the noise and spotlights at night & hiding from the sunrise in the morning. I bought cute animal eye masks off ebay to encourage the boys to wear them - they quite enjoyed pretending to be a cat and a rabbit.
10. Ear defenders
I was pleasantly surprised at how happily our boys wore their ear defenders when the music was loud. They're usually on their heads when we do woodland work with noisy chainsaws but they take them off the second the chainsaw stops but they wore them for at least an hour at a go at Latitude Festival. Dylan also wore them for all his naps.
Nice extras: Glowsticks - for making the nighttime a bit more fun for the kids.
I'm very aware that this may seem like a totally random blog post from our usual updates and stories from a smallholding life in Norfolk however there's a connection there somewhere. Whilst packing for our festival break I was reminded why we decided to set up a glampsite where everything is provided for our guests. With or without kids a camping trip with the smallest degree of comfort typically involves a lot of kit for sleeping, cooking and all other eventualities. With a stay at Round the Woods all you need to bring is clothes, a toothbrush and toothpaste and food (we even provide you with a hamper for your first breakfast!). Most festivals now have a glamping option but I can't get over the extortionate prices they charge for a weekend in a pre-erected structure with a bed - unbelievable & I would imagine, way out of the price range for most families. I hope you've found this list useful and if you're planning a festival experience with kids have an amazing, joyful time. With a bit of preparation you too can have happy kids and a successful festival adventure!
I'd love to hear if you've got any tips from your experience of taking your kids to festivals. Please share if you know someone who'll find this helpful and sign up to our blog posts as we've got a super exciting announcement coming up soon!