The Ultimate Packing Guide for the Kids' First Music Festival
It’s summertime, and the living is easy. So why not pack up the kids for a summer festival tour?
If you like a challenge and are determined not to become one of those boring parents who always stays home, why not take your kid to Bonnaroo, Coachella, or another local-but-out-of-town weekend music festival?
Some may call you crazy, but you are a parent who knows how much your kids can handle. Loud music? No problem. Dazed and debauched adults? Bring it on. Hot weather, camping, high chance of rain – you’ve got this!
So don’t worry about what other parents say. Just plan your weekend meticulously using our handy guide, and it will be you who’s chuckling the next time your friends complain about missing their favorite band or sacrificing fun weekends away in the name of children. Intrepid parents unite!
Where to Stay
Camping on festival grounds is only for the truly ambitious, but it definitely is possible. If you’re a camping family, you’ll know how important it is to pack plenty of clothes (there’s no bathing in a field, usually), sanitizer, and water. A family-sized tent with plenty of sleeping bags and ground cover is best under a pop-up, open-sided tent. You can never be too prepared.
If your festival is near a city or town, forfeit the camping and splurge on a plush hotel room for the family. You can’t go wrong with a safe, dry, air conditioned place to get clean and regroup at the end of a long day. Take the easy way out and get a good night’s sleep before packing a day bag for the festival grounds.
Depending on the location and season of the festival, you’ll want to bring layers. Even though it might be hot, it’s better not to expose too much skin directly to the sun. Light, flowy cotton and linen layers are your best bet for this. Wide-brimmed sun hats and sunglasses will pair well with your cotton wardrobe.
What’s in the Bag
There are a few things you should carry with you at all times. If you’re a festival regular, none of this will come as a surprise to you; what might be new is how conscientious you’ll need to be that your kids are unfamiliar with the festival protocol. Plan enough time to prep them and don’t plan on zipping around the festival grounds with much speed.
Start with sunscreen, and apply liberally before leaving, as well as throughout the day. There’s nothing like a crunchy, burnt little squirt to ruin the festive atmosphere.
Water bottles for each member of the family are also mandatory. Many festivals have a water refill station, which you should be sure to visit often. It may even be accompanied by a shade tent that can provide a welcome respite from sunny skies.
A stock of toilet paper and hand sanitizer will make those inevitable trips to the porta-potty a little more bearable, too. If you’ve got young children, be sure to introduce them to a porta-potty before the festival starts so they won’t be so surprised at the stench. Nose plugs aren’t a bad idea either.
Earplugs or noise-canceling headphones are great for everybody, but especially necessary for young eardrums. Seasoned concert-goers of all ages already know that earplugs are a must, but if they won’t stay in your young child’s ears, there are plenty of child-sized noise-canceling headphones that provide the same service with a more convenient fit.
Stock up on granola bars, nuts, and fruit for an anytime pick-me-up. Most festivals have on-site food and beverages, so make sure you have some cash on hand. But when the lines are long or the food court is a long walk from you, having a seat and munching on something right away can help curb the whining.
Speaking of stopping, dropping, and eating, you’ll want to bring a blanket, folding chairs, and maybe a shade umbrella to make up a pop-up picnic wherever you go.
Child Prep Tips
Children do offer special festival challenges, and you’ll want to take advantage of every bit of preparation advice you can get your hands on to avoid an unruly situation. The following are some top tips we’ve culled from many hair-brained festival outings:
Affix your name, phone number, and address to your child. Maybe it’s a bracelet with your information on it, or a page inside her shirt or jacket. Maybe you’ll just write a tattoo in permanent marker on his arm. Some festivals have a kid-tagging zone, where they’ll take down your information and issue your child a bracelet with a unique number.
Regardless of the system, make sure your kid knows where this information is if you’re separated, and point out festival staff or police officers to her so she knows where to go if you get separated. Designate a meeting point that you can both find so that, even if you get lost momentarily, you’ll have a first point of contact to check out, even before contacting police or event staff.
Consult the lineup together, ahead of time. With babes on board, you might not get to see all of your favorite bands or the biggest shows, but don’t whine. Let the kids sample the bands and choose their favorites. Decide on the music you can enjoy together, and don’t get too ambitious. Little legs get tired of traversing festival grounds faster than grown-up gams.
Finally, plan to arrive and leave the festival grounds early. The early hours will be less crowded and kids will have less chance to see the lewd, drunken behavior of many festival participants. This might be a bit of a compromise, but you’ll have a much better experience with well-rested, un-traumatized children.
Festive Fun for All
Keeping your head above water with kids at a festival is no piece of cake, no matter how well you plan. However, when you follow our tips, you will still be able to have fun and hear lots of great music while making great memories with your kids. We promise, they’ll look back on this and call you the cool parents.
Ever been to a music festival with the kiddos? Share your experience with us!
Cover image by Dziurek/shutterstock