Long gone are the days when I used to turn up to a festival with a two-man tent and a backpack, pitching at the first point I came across a friend or when the backpack got too heavy!
Nowadays, with small people in tow, festivals can feel like a military operation what with all the gear necessary to keep our old bones comfortable and young bones whinge-free.
Still, every parent knows that good preparation can be key when doing anything with children, and I believe finding a good camping spot can, if not make a festival, certainly get you well on your way to an enjoyable weekend.
With that in mind, here are Festival Kidz’s top tips for how to bag the perfect pitch…
Where’s the family field?
Find out where the Family field is before you get to the festival. This is rule number one for a reason and cannot be emphasised enough.
Unless your children are much older and you have a good reason not to, it is always best to choose Family Camping when it’s available. Nearly always much quieter at night, you will all get a better night’s sleep.
- You’re far less likely to have drunk people partying by your tent until the early hours
- You don’t need to worry about your early risers disturbing people who have not long gone to bed
- The toilet facilities are often better and cleaner
- Most festivals place Family Camping closer to the car parks, meaning a shorter walk
The downside is you can feel a little out of the action, so this is something you will have to weigh up, but we’re happy to make that compromise. Be sure to check the festival map before you go, so you know where you’re heading and if there is a dedicated car park. When you arrive, ask stewards to direct you – a well organised festival should always have clued-up stewards to point you in the right direction (just don’t rely on it!)
I remember at my first Glastonbury eyeing enviously the tents pitched up right next to the pathways, meaning their inhabitants didn’t have to struggle through a maze of guy ropes every time they went to the loo.
This can be even more tempting when camping with children, but I manage to avoid temptation by reminding myself of those same Glasto tents, a few days and inches of heavy rain later, that had been absorbed into a muddy trench.
It’s a simple fact that paths get the most footfall and will always be the first areas of ground to get chewed up in bad weather conditions. Smaller festivals should fare better, but always avoid the main paths used by vehicles.
You’ll also have the advantage of less people walking past your tent while you’re sleeping, potentially making noise and stumbling over guy ropes!
Consider proximity to toilets
Again, it’s so tempting to pitch up close to the toilets for those middle-of-the-night loo runs, but I would always advise a reasonable distance so you’re not falling asleep to the smell of… well… toilets. Bad enough for an adult, but definitely not something a child can tolerate.
If you can find a spot that has an obviously easy route to the toilets, but is far enough away to not pick up the smell, then perfect!
Look for trees
You can’t beat a good tree to camp near when you have children, but you’ll probably have to arrive early to bag a nice, shady spot, as they go fast.
Remember to work out where the sun rises and if you can, find a tree that protects you from the morning sun (if you are lucky enough to get any!) It will give you an extra couple of hours before the children are melting and wide awake. And who wouldn’t like an extra couple of hours before the demands for breakfast begin?
Just be careful not to camp directly under trees, to avoid the risk of falling branches.
Choose your neighbours wisely
I like to have a quick scan around when pitching up, especially if there isn’t a dedicated Family Camping area. Camping near other families with children is always a good idea. If you can tell they have children of a similar age who your kids may get friendly with, even better.
But the one to avoid if you value a good night’s sleep is the obviously big group. If I see a bell tent, gazebo and about 15 chairs set up, I run a mile! Well, more like stagger a good few metres under the weight of all our gear.
I have nothing against big groups (or bell tents and gazebos for that matter) and have been part of one on many occasions, but as such I recognise that alcohol and lots of people having lots of fun, create lots of noise. I’d rather not be too close to that with two light-sleeping children.
Avoid the bottom of a hill
As annoying as it can be to pitch on a slope, if you have to do it, make sure your heads will be at the top of the slope for sleeping!
It beats being at the bottom, as if it rains heavily (this is the UK after all) gravity will ensure all that not-so-lovely water will run to the bottom, where the unluckiest could end up flooded. If there is any way of avoiding evacuating a tent at 3 a.m. with little people in pyjamas, it’s worth the effort.
Being near the action
It’s really worth thinking about how close you want to be to the action. It’s tempting to camp as close as possible to the arena or stages to limit the walk to and from the tent, especially when you can be nipping back for warm layers and snacks 100 times a day.
But if it’s a festival that has entertainment going on late into the night and you want a quiet night’s sleep, it’s best to keep a reasonable distance.
Do you have any top tips of your own for finding the perfect spot? Do you adopt a more gung-ho approach? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.