Festival camping with a 4-year-old was a whole adventure in itself. I’m not going to promise it is filled with merrily skipping through the countryside before toasting marshmallows around the campfire, while listening to an acousitc guitar.
I’m also no expert, but following so many people asking me “how was the festival camping?”, I thought I’d give it a shot!
Setting the scene…
My mind was giving me flashbacks to Reading Festival 1999, with portaloos burning into the night, my tent showered in a 7p Tesco Value can of all-day breakfast (not mine!), and campsite raves through sunrise. I knew Gloworm would be different, but it didn’t stop these memories being stuck in my mind when planning to take my 4-year-old to a festival weekender!
It really was fun though. We still had an awesome time. A few marshmallows, a bit of skipping, but no Kumbaya on the acoustic.
To add to the mix, I was solo parenting with my little lady on the campsite. I know so many amazing mamas who do solo parent at all times, and you totally smash it, but being on your own on a festival campsite can really throw a few more burnt marshmallows into the campfire… they are still tasty, just take a bit more work to get through!
We had an amazing weekend, there’s no denying it. We turned up in the rain, set up in the drizzle and enjoyed our first night in complete downpours. Lily slept soundly while I lay wondering whether our tent would hold up under the “one-month worth of rainfall in just 3 hours”. Thankfully only a small puddle formed near the door, and we both stayed dry through the night.
Lily found it a whole adventure in itself and loved the whole experience, from eating and playing in the tent through to cosying up in her sleeping bag at night.
We turned up early and set up camp alongside the hedge, which was great because it meant I could be out of the way of everyone while setting up, as well as thought it would be a bit quieter than being surrounded by tents. I also felt a bit safer as despite knowing others who would be camping in that same field later over the weekend, I felt a bit more protected where I was, and a bit more private too!
I found a few items a complete lifesaver to keep us going through the weekend (listed in my checklist of essentials later!), but the trailer was definitely among my top 3, allowing me to go back/fore to the car to get our stuff, while Lily rode on the top of it. It kept her entertained while I had to run the errands, so that was definitely a win-win as I wasn’t sure how she would be when I had to sort everything out. I definitely didn’t need to worry, she was so excited!
I cooked our food on my little gas stove, such as pasta, hoops and rice, and porridge for breakfast, which meant I saved some money on the festival site, while Lily enjoyed the novelty of campsite cooking! Some people had proper stove/cooking setups and were cooking full meals, but we had fun with my little stove and it happily kept us going for a few days without expensive equipment.
She also loved making friends with the little girls in the tent next to our’s, and happily ran around with them, playing catch, card games, toasting marshmallows with her new friends, and shared their toys together.
In the evenings, I took her back to the campsite around 5.30ish to let her play, cook dinner, and have some quiet activity time after the excitement of 7 hours of festival fun. She is still only small, and was instantly asleep at 7.15pm each night – a definite win-win!
Finally, I want to thank the Gloworm festival crew for making sure there was a coffee trailer and a camping essentials trailer on-site. It was lovely to treat myself to a proper coffee before heading to the main festival site, and get Lily a little hot chocolate in her baby KeepCup before bed. I know I could make hot drinks on my little stove, but it was nice as a daily treat, and they sold pastries in the morning too if people had forgotten their breakfast!
The campsite shop was also clearly well-loved for those who had forgotten something for their weekend. They even leant out a couple of their own trailers to people, which was lovely.
Festival toilets – portaloos are never good fun on a sunny day, let alone after 3 days of camping with families. People wouldn’t find bins so would leave dirty nappies in bags around, and with Lily loving to stay cosy in her onesie, this made it even more difficult to use the portaloos. I also used the words “DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING” more than I would ever do in a china shop… and a LOT of hand sanitiser!
Fellow campers – There were a few others on the campsite who didn’t seem to appreciate that it was a family-friendly campsite. I know we were at a festival and there to have fun, but there were clearly some very tired children who weren’t wanting to still party at 10/11pm, and parents who loved the sound of their own voices while getting through their beer stash at 1am. We’re at a festival, I know, but when you’re hearing shouting drinking games at midnight, Reading 1999 did start creeping back into my mind!
Maybe in the future there could be “quiet zones” in the campsite for those who, like me, know their child will be an absolute nightmare if they don’t get some sleep?! Just a suggestion!
Saying that, I do want to say that the atmosphere on the campsite was lovely, with people talking to each other, children playing, and some really lovely families who just wanted to chill and chat.
Bins – I think they needed a few more around the campsite, even one nearer the toilets, as people seemed to lose the ability to carry their rubbish to the site entrance for the bins, so it wasn’t nice to have dirty nappy bags lying around.
Festival essentials with children
Aside from the obvious, here is a little checklist of items we were very thankful for taking camping!
Air beds – Lily has a Readybed which I was ready for her to use. However I made the schoolgirl error of taking the double not single airbed for me, which meant there was little room left in the tent bedroom for her’s. We ended up sharing the double as I’d taken a sleeping bag for her too knowing the Readybed isn’t particularly warm. She ended up sleeping really well!
The potty – Lily is far from using the potty anymore, but it was amazing for early morning/late night wees without trekking to the portaloos. And a bit cleaner too. Hands up, I used it too! At 2am when I couldn’t leave her on her own in the tent, where else was I going to go?! I admitted it in a whatsapp chat to the reply #lifehack, so decided to make it public!! Oh, and remember your toilet paper too!
Hand sanitiser – Portaloos. I say no more!
Blackout bedroom – our tent has a blackout bedroom which was great to avoid late night/a 5am start, and also meant the rain didn’t come in because of the gap between the bedroom and the outside of the tent!
The trailer – I’ve no idea how I would have got to/from the tent/car without it, without doing 20 runs carrying a child who would have got bored walking back/fore. She loved riding in it, and it also served very useful in ride queues in the festival site too as she could happily chill in it with her toys while we waited… and I didn’t need to carry around her/toys/snacks/drinks all day!
Picnic blanket – I used the picnic blanket with a waterproof base as a tent carpet which kept us warmer, made it feel more homely, as well as gave her a place to sit and play with her toys.
Mosquito spray – Although I did lose a battle with a horse fly, but at least Lily stayed bite-free when there were quite a few flying around!
Collapsible bowl – we used this for washing up, washing ourselves, cleaning everything, and combined with our kettle it gave us a lovely warm sink to feel clean again, as we weren’t fans of the camping shower stalls!
Ear defenders – she didn’t need them on the festival site at all, but they really helped her fall asleep at night with the music still going on and the noise of the campsite. I took them off once she was asleep to keep her safe!
Extra blankets – kept us cosy at night when it got colder, and helped us line the trailer for when she sat in it to make it comfier for her!
Portable mobile chargers – our batteries drained quickly while searching for networks when the reception wasn’t great, so I took 3 portable chargers with me for the weekend to keep up the battery!
Camping stove with kettle – tea, porridge, pasta, cleaning us, washing up … hot water bottles! I don’t know what I’d have done without it!
Reusable wipes – These are better for the environment, while having 100000 uses. We used different ones for wiping her face/hands, washing up, washing her face, drying the tent down… we use the lovely bamboo ones from Bonniepopmakes (code LILY10 if you want some too!)
Water bags – to get your water supplies from the watering hole! I have some collapsible ones to save space.
Snack bags – we use Nom Nom Kids snack bags. I found them so useful to store excess pasta I’d cooked up on the camping stove so she could eat it for lunch/dinner cold, as well as to put in some Weetabix for breakfasts for Lily and cereal to snack on when we were at the festival. They help you save money, plus are reusable, so we take them on all our trips!
Onesies – both Lily and I have our own onesies and they’re great for campsites to keep cosy. They may be awkward for toilet trips, but I do find we are both warmer and happier in them, and don’t need to get changed quickly. She also had a waterproof splashsuit onesie which was perfect from the rain!
Wellies – you all know why!
Flipflops – I was thankful for my flipflops to pop on when setting up the stove, or when needing to quickly pop out the tent for something without having to put my wellies on!
KeepCups or reusable mugs – this not only saved spillages from the hot drinks, keeping us both safe, but also meant we could pop to the campsite coffee trailer for a treat hot chocolate, and take it back to the tent to enjoy without spilling the drinks! Lily has her own espresso-sized KeepCup which so many people commented on – even the coffee lady!
Activities – I took some drawing paper, maze puzzles and a few of her toys and card games as well as a ball to keep her entertained inside and outside the tent before/after the festival and when I neeed time to tidy up/cook/make a cuppa. I still had some activities left from her KeepEmQuiet bag (awesome bags if you haven’t seen them already!), and popped a few more in, but they were great for time-killing in the tent, especially when it was raining outside.
There’s probably more I haven’t said but I’ve rambled enough and you’ve done well to get this far if you have! Finally, my last tip is that I found sticking to normal bedtimes and routine really helped. I know she wanted to go out and play with some of the others, but I knew she was tired from all the excitement, and she needed the energy for the next day. Sticking to bedtime and routine meant she fell asleep quickly and slept through, so we managed to enjoy the next days without any over-tiredness.
I know I struggled with sleep, the toilets and some of the others on the site, but I’d do it again tomorrow if I could (now I’m washed and showered!!). I’m still riding on the festival high and although I knew she would enjoy the experience, I was blown away by how much fun she had and how much she loved our “adventures”.
If you want to take your child to a festival and are looking for a family-friendly festival to do so, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Gloworm Festival for the whole experience.
Lily is already talking about “next time we go to the camping festival”, and that really means so much to me to hear – see you next year Glowormers!
If you have any more tips or ideas that I haven’t thought about, or total festival camping life hacks that I need in my life, let me know below or on Instagram at instagram.com/snowkazadventures!