We went to our went first (staying overnight) family festival in 2019: Camp Bestival. Not being a camper or even much of a festival goer, it was a big leap for me. Audrey was in the Camp Bestival campaign for 2019, which meant we could attend at a discounted rate and it forced me into trying festival life!
We rented a camper van because camping is just not for me. Then I panicked about driving this huge camper van and roped my lovely friend into joining us and driving us.
I wrote a bit about our experience in 2019 (when Audrey was six and Rex was three), but never published it. So now I can tell you about then and now (summer 2022)…
There are no doubt lots of fun people writing about festivals with kids, but as your sensible unlikely festival goer, this is a tame take things!
2019… well, there were times when I was really stressed. There were times when I was tired and grumpy. But it was also oh so magical and some serious family core memories were locked in. I am known to be “indoorsy” (this is the opposite of the better known “outdoorsy”). I am someone that likes a sofa, films, a nice cup of tea, a hot shower, shade, warm clothes, access to a toilet, dry things. I don’t like; being in outside on a hot day in direct sunlight, bugs, dirt, grass, rain, mud, being wet, queuing for toilets, sitting on the floor, being too hot, being too cold. So yeah, a festival is a challenging environment for me!
Elements that worked well for us:
Food. We took a lot of snacks and food so we wouldn’t spend too much, but the food we did buy there was delicious and the ordering and queuing systems were pretty good.
Children’s areas: The kids were most happy in the circus skills area, with lots to play with and space to run around, they also enjoyed the big top (a small tent) at the back.
The Wild Tribe area – they loved a circle of hay bales surrounding a circle of dry mud.
Any outdoor show – the insect circus and other shows were great because the noise is easier to cope with outside.
The painting area.
Ice cream bribery and shade!
We were lucky in that we arrived on the Friday and it was dry the whole time. I hear the traffic in and out can be horrific, but we had an easy time both ways.
Watching things for the kids rather than us. Mr Tumble was a massive highlight, if the kids are happy, you’re happy. Simple.
Weather! It was dry and sunny.
Toilets- CB has an excellent amount of toilets and I never felt we had to queue (or if we did, not for long).
Elements that didn’t work:
We wanted to rent a trolley but I missed the cut off for booking online and when we tried to book one once there, they had sold out. We would definitely buy or borrow a trolley next time.
Very loud music inside upset Audrey. People dressed as monkeys upset Rex. You never really know what your kid will love or hate until you get there.
Trying to get the kids to bed at a reasonable time was not possible, but didn’t risk any late night raves with two so small. So we all went to bed together around 9 or 10pm.
We also didn’t think to book for any of the Wild Tribe activities (sword making, puppet making) and these sold out.
Planning to specifically see something was tough. We managed to see quite a few acts in a row when Rex fell asleep in the buggy, but once he was running about we had to give up and move on.
The sun. I had underestimated how difficult it might be to enjoy what was going on when we were forced to be in direct, hot sun for long periods of time. My friend had a parasol and I have to say that or our little pop up tent for shade are must haves if you are not major sun worshippers.
In 2020 and 2021 we managed to have some glamping and camping holidays that really sealed it for me, I am not a camper. So yet again, I was considering our options for Camp Bestival… and I decided on… a holiday home! Yep, we went for a holiday in Dorset for a whole week, arriving Friday, “commuting” in as day trippers to Camp Bestival each day. And I have to say, I know it’s not rock n roll, but I liked it!!
Things that worked:
Again, we arrived Friday, so the traffic was clear.
We listened to the kids and cut our days quite short. Audrey had a rotten cold, so was definitely not 100% and Rex was surprisingly tired and sensible. Our first day because they were whinging, we were back in our rental sat around eating dinner together about 7pm and Rex asked if he could go to bed!
Again, if the kids are happy, we are happy. So our biggest acts were: Cosmic Kids Yoga (absolutely packed, fab atmosphere), Mr Tumble (ditto, plus totes emosh, he’s been doing it over 20 years!!) and Yolanda’s Band Jam (just a great band for grown ups that happens to be CBeebies vibes).
The Greatest Tent on Earth- shade, glorious shade and something the kids love: kids’ talent shows!
Food: again, we packed snacks and more snacks, but we also treated ourselves to some yummy lunches.
Rides: our first trip I’m pretty sure they went on the Helter Skelter and Ferris Wheel, but then stopped there as it’s extra ££ and the queues can be punishing. This time we just thought “stuff it” and if the queues weren’t too bad (mostly earlier in the day, later or on the Sunday), we let them go for it as it made them soooo happy (most rides were about £3 a child).
We borrowed a trolley. Tough work out for Ted, but great for keeping Audrey contained.
I took an umbrella for shade.
Ear defenders. We forgot these on the Sunday (classic error) and the kids did manage without but it sealed it for us that we wouldn’t be staying late for the fireworks.
So there you have it, I guess some might think we did it by halves, but although we often throw Audrey into situations where we are unsure if she’ll enjoy it, we also do play it safe when needed. I knew that a late night music act with crowds and flashing lights would be a big stretch for her (especially when she was a bit poorly), so a nice Vics Vapour Rub and getting tucked up in bed is what she needed. Especially as she was waking twice a night because of her snotty nose. Taking it easy meant we could enjoy our daytimes there more. Lots of beautiful core memories locked in again (amongst the whinging) and that’s what it’s all about (the memories, not the whinging!).