How to Take Young Children to Festivals - And Still Have Fun!
Me & My Boy Overlooking Glade Bar
1. Manage your expectations, which is one I tried to drill into my husband before we went, this will not be the same as the time you stayed up until the sunset taking acid by the stone circle, you now have an extra person or two's desires, needs and moans to take into account....
2, Getting there, have a look at the site map and try to plan your approach based on where you want to camp i.e. get in the car park nearest to your desired camping spot.
So, for example, if you wanted to camp in Cockmill Meadow, aim for the blue and purple car parks on the east of the site. If you're headed for Wicket Ground, aim to park on the west in pink or orange.
3. And where should you camp? Well, if I were you, i'd do my very best not to camp, and to hire a campervan and stay in the Bath & West fields instead ... this is how I did it for 3 of my pre-kids years. It makes life so much easier, as you don't have to carry anything anywhere, just pop the roof, put the awning up, open a cold beer and relax... but, we're not all made of money.... and this wasn't the way we went this year either.... So, into the festival popular, quieter family spots on site are Wicket Ground in the North West, handy for John Peel Stage and Pyramid, and a fairly easy route to the Kidz Field. Or, Cockmills & Big Ground in the East, here you'll find a hilly campsite, but flushing toilets, very close to the Kidz Field and easy access to Pyramid Stage. There's also a welfare and medical tent up here. Best to avoid Pennard Hill, Oxlyers, and Park Home Ground - these are all more central, but will likely attract a lively crowd. We actually cheated this year and stayed off site at Willow Meadow - it's a long old walk up to near orange car park and Sticklinch.
4. What time to arrive? Well, this is what goes down. Folks start arriving overnight and sleep in the car park for a bit, and then start queuing as the sun starts to rise (some do it all night with no sleep, crazy kids). The campsite gates will open at 6am, and if you're at the right gate, you might even be greeted by Michael Eavis himself. As you enter, there will be a giant map with stewards standing by, these guys keep tabs on which campsites are full, and which you can still get a spot in, so check in with them before traipsing off Also, if you come in at the blue car park, you'll be waiting in the camper van fields, where there are toilets and water. Pink and orange car parks have no facilities for waiting overnight.
5. Travel light or take multiple trips. We are totally rubbish at travelling light! So we take a few trips back to the car. On your first trip prioritise the tent, something to create shade or shelter, and somewhere to safely trap little one and occupy them while you battle to erect the tent. One of you stays at the tent, or goes for a wander, while the other goes back to fetch the rest of the gear. Oh, and on this, turn off the screen time guilt! If you need to thrust your phone in front of your restless toddler while you get something done - you go for it!
6. Once you're in - now what? Well, the site opens on Wednesday, but very little happens, so have a wander, get lost, just take it all in. There is a opening ceremony up by the Stone Circle, you'll need to get in there early. But there will be fireworks, which you can see from all around. Same with Thursday, some acts will pop up, but they will be few and far between and will get very busy, as there's not a lot else to do. We'd gone for a sit down by Williams Green to listen to a bit of Northern Soul which was followed by Mel C and 30,000 other people looking to spice up their life and the area was swamped! We were trapped there for a while, but we were with friends, and we had a spot to sit in the sunshine.
7. Kidz Field.... does not open until Thursday but it does open at 9am. In here you will find, traditional kids rides (which are free to ride) obstacles course, magic shows, crafts and making, circus skills workshops, walk around entertainers, a giant pink castle to climb and explore, a family "restaurant", story telling, Basil Brush and so much more. There's also childrens only toilets, which we never actually used, but it's here. There's a NCT Baby Tent area where you'll be able to warm bottles, bath babies, borrow cots, take shelter from the elements, drink tea, use the high chairs, warm up meals in the microwave - plus they have most things that you might have forgotten, like nappies, food, hats, shoes etc. Thanks for the tips @rachel_liles83 - we totally missed the NCT area, but sounds perfect if you're there with a baby. All free too, they just ask that you consider a donation. Things to keep in mind, the helter skelter doesn't allow parents to go on with the kids, so save yourself the disappointment of joining that queue. There's an unspoken "don't rob my buggy rule" in here, abandon your trailer behind the gates and go explore! Under the arch as you enter the field, you'll also find stewards with sharpies and wristbands, so that you can write your phone number on your child. Oh, by the way... and you can drink booze in here... I was like, are the other parents going to frown at me if I crack open this warm San Miguel ... but no it's cool, we're all at it and we're here to have fun too right?
Kidz Field Bubble Making
The Big Pink Castle
15. Feeding kids at festivals can get expensive, especially if they suddenly decide that "they don't like it" after you've just spent £25 on the burger they insisted that they wanted. So I threw any attempts at healthy eating out of the window and purchased the crowd pleasing beige things. Many stalls do "food for a fiver" or, if you ask nicely, will do you half the meal, for half the price if you present your womb fruit at the counter. Most full meals were over £10 - so be warned, eating out ain't cheap. There's stalls selling fresh fruit, milk and smoothies too. You can pretty much eat and drink anything you could think of at Glastonbury!
16. Where to go, and where to avoid. Especially relevant if you're trying to navigate some giant child transport. We found that The Park stage was difficult to access with the trailer, the hill is all sort of on the wonk. Avoid any secret acts, they'll be busy. If you want to be in the crowd with your trailer, arrive early, and be prepared to wait before you can leave again. If you go into a tent with a buggy or trailer, attach yourself to one of the towers which are holding the tent up. The Other Stage & West Holts are good ones to go at with transport, easy to get in, and easy to get out. Plus, in my opinion West Holts has to best music, and the best bar! Personally, we avoid headline acts on Pyramid stage, always have, the area is so vast, that the experience for me isn't great if you're a mile back. There's plenty of other things to see and do in the early evening.
17. Navigating crowds with a trailer or a buggy can be tough, we found ourselves trapped at The Park for Wet Leg, just off the track near the ribbon tower, with a sleeping child in the trailer and vehicles trying to pass up and down the road. Make friends with the people around you. Make sure the ones stood in front know you've just wheeled something behind them so they don't accidentally back into it. And shout, if in doubt be an obnoxious prick and start shouting that you're trying to move with a baby. Often, i'd walk in front to guide and make space - shouting and pointing as you go. Doing this with a smile on your face rather than a scowl will get you a better reception.
Also, plan your attack. Everything at Glastonbury takes twice as long as it should, three times as long if it's muddy or you are walking with your child. Don't give yourself too much to do in one day. Don't plan to see bands that are at stages miles apart, at times close together. Don't sit by the Pyramid stage all day everyday - there's so much more to it than that. Assess the crowd, for example, we wanted to see Noel Gallagher, but we didn't want to stay for Paul McCartney, so we sacked if off and went somewhere else, as we realised the crowd probably wasn't going to move or change, and we'd be trapped for hours.
18. You're going to walk for miles, pick good shoes. Over 5 days, we walked 70 miles and over 180,000 steps. Walking boots would be your best bet, although I didn't take my own advice and wore Converse. Don't wear your wellies unless the ground has gone, this won't happen after the odd shower. They are heavy and make your feet sweat. I made this mistake twice this year, and ended up with blue sweaty legs!
19. If you're on an 02 network or 3 - your phone probably isn't going to work at all. There's an EE tower near the site, and EE have an onsite charging place. To save time, buy yourself a couple of charging block things. Keep your phone on flight mode - just take photos and check the time. No scrolling!
20. Watch out for people and their opinions! Now we didn't have any bad experiences with this, however, a lot of people on the forums did. You may run into someone that looks at you like you've got two heads for bringing your crotch critter to Glastonbury, and they'll say things like how "they could never bring their children" and "I don't know how you're coping with this" although some are just curious, drunk people are like toddlers after all, they're very similar. We chatted to a couple of people, curious more than scathing, both parents themselves curious as to why we'd do it. Truth is for is, it's either bring our little treasure and get on with it, or don't go at all.
Or you might catch the eye of someone who longs some day to be like you, hopes that one day they'll have their own face painted, smiling fairy on their shoulders to share it all with. That used to be me, doesn't mean they think you're a dick. They're in their own moment, quietly sharing yours. Don't be mad, just smile and do your thing!
21. Can you still party as a parent at a festival? Well, I give this a hard yes, but it all depends on how you feel about it. If you decide to crack open a cider at 11.30am, you won't be the only one. If you decide to stay at Arcadia until 3am drinking wine from the bag, you won't be the only one. If you want to explore SE corner with your infant, go for it, you won't be the only one. Enjoy it, risk assess it for yourself, see what you feel comfortable with. You don't have to scale it all back so far that it isn't how you remember it. We drank, we danced, we stayed out until about 1am, we went to Arcadia, we went for a wander around SE corner, we smiled, we loved, and we can't wait to go back. We had a bit of a running joke, when pushing around the trailer... one hand for parenting (the hand on the trailer) and the other hand for partying!
Oh, one parting tip, and this one's for the girls.... how to use the long drop!
As I mentioned at the start, i've had a long and prosperous festival career, and i'm about to share with you, the secret of how to use the long drop. Seems obvious, why am I telling you? Because you've probably been doing it wrong! First of all, join the queue, or jump the queue depending on how desperate you are and how good your pelvic floor is these days, I won't judge you, i'll be jumping too. Start mouth breathing, the smell of these toilets I can not even describe to you, especially on a hot day, it's something else. Once you're in, and before you lock the door. Hang your bag on the latch and then lock it. You don't want to put your bag on the floor in there. and now it's suspended in the air. See all that piss on the floor? That's all from girls who do not know how to do this properly and tried to hover. Now, here's the secret, now you're in. Climb up! That's right, stand on the platform, one foot either side of the seat and squat low. Put one hand on the top of the divider for balance, the other hand holds the tissue! No risk of falling backwards onto the loo, no risk of whizzing all over your own feet, or getting wee running down your legs. Tadarrr! Try it next time and thank me later. Also, gentlemen, this technique, I imagine would also work if you've got a Code Brown!
Shopping List for Glastonbury!
Those who fail to prepare, prepare to fail.... so here's a list of things that we took, that we found invaluable.
- Ear defenders
- Sun cream (luckily we had a sunny festival)
- Hat (sunny and wooly)
- And as the weather is not guaranteed, waders or a puddle suit, rain coat
- Now we're beyond potty training, however we took the Carry Potty with us, and this neat little urinal thing we found on Amazon.... the long drops are not a delightful place, i'd avoid taking your kids in there if I were you
- Transport - we went for a bike trolley
- Solar powered fairy lights
- Refillable drink bottles
- Squash - to take the edge of drinking water all of the time
- Blankets - both to sit on, and to cover up at night
- Layers of clothes, so you can add warmth as the sun drops
- Pen to write your number on your child
- Power block phone charger
- Big water carrying thing for at the tent
- Camping stove and a pan or kettle
- Pot noodles, pot porridge sort of stuff
- Ear plugs
- Swim suit & towel
- Calpol, paracetamol, fizzy-nice-make-feel-betters (or Berocca as you might call it)
- Toys - they'll hand you a tote bag as you enter, so you can make a little treasure bag out of this
Things suggested by my new friends from the Glasto Mums, Dads & Families parenting group, that you might need for babies
- Sleeping bag with built in sleeves
- Pop up travel cot (Koodoo)
- Wet flannel in a zip lock bag - cloth wipes would be good to use here too - great to clean up mucky faces, and to cool off with a quick blast of cold water from the plentiful taps and sinks around the site
- Little paddling pool or fold away washing up bowl
- Clip on fan for the pram
- Pop up windbreaker type tent
- UV shade umbrella
- Dummies, comforterers. bottles
- You can buy fresh milk daily from the milk shops
- A spare one of anything you can't be without
- Repair kit, or pump for your pushchair
If i've missed anything, drop a comment below. I'd love to hear about your experiences.