Planning

Festival fun with kids- a Wheeler Guide.

We are about to embark on our first festival of the season- I am so excited about making plans. I’m not the only one who loves to make these lists, surely?!

When it comes to getting our camping kit together, happy memories leap off the tin plates and who doesn’t love a gadget? The kit to me is all part of the fun.

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Also, these days we want to be comfortable- once upon a time we probably just used our tent as a place to collapse into slumber.

Times and expectations have changed.  Seeing every band isn’t going to happen- trying to do too much can result in meltdown central so we pick our favourites and are prepared to make compromises. Take turns doing what each person in the family wants or tag team childcare with a partner/ friend is a good idea if you can. We can still do this, just in a different way. 

There might be times when you take the kids out into the fresh, night air- an evening of magic lying ahead of you.

Then the kids might vomit/ wee everywhere/ jump in a massive puddle which is actually cow poo- and you have to retreat back to your tent wondering why you bothered to try to have fun in the first place? All is not lost- put on your big girl pants and claw it back. If I can, you can. 

Festivals with children ARE different beasts, but being organised helps and flouting normal routines catapults everyone into holiday mode. Relax, let everyone get filthy and explore whilst staying safe: you will find that the magic can still happen as you see the place unfold through their eyes.

 

Safety and security:

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Losing a child is every parents’ worst nightmare. It probably won't happen though- and if it does there’s a few things you can do to help.

Firstly, introduce your child to a steward- show them what a high-vis looks like and tell them to find one of these kind people if they get lost. OR find another Mummy who will help. Either is good.

I take a permanent marker with me, and write both parents numbers on their arm- in case one phone is out of reception/ battery has died. In truth I have never needed to use this, as the one time I DID lose a child, the security/ steward team radioed their colleagues ahead and found the youngest in just a few terrifying minutes. Yes, it felt like hours.

Valuables: just be sensible. Don’t flash your ipad in the door of your tent etc. Pop it into the lock up if you have to bring it.

Ear defenders for the children are ESSENTIAL. Keep them in the wagon- you never know when a marching band/ banging Jungle set might kick off around you. If this does happen, you’ll shock yourself at how fast you can move…

Next is my favourite subject: KIT. What to bring?! kicking off my list, I am starting with the essentials:

Tent:

If you can get a tent you can stand up in, it makes things so much more comfortable- when was the last time you tried to put on jeans on one leg whilst wobbling on an air bed?

Our tent is canvas, which is heavy, but means it doesn’t get overly hot in the morning sun and it stays stable in wind.

You could always opt for a caravan or campervan- though as these fields tend to be further away we often opt for the tent. 

 

Children’s transport:

Whatever you choose to save those little legs, make sure it is all terrain as small wheels get clogged up easily.

 The year our mountain buggy broke: good friends acquied this wheelbarrow and built a shade for our eldest baby. He LOVED it and everyone wanted to meet the baby in a barrow....

The year our mountain buggy broke: good friends acquied this wheelbarrow and built a shade for our eldest baby. He LOVED it and everyone wanted to meet the baby in a barrow....

 The year of the red waggon. It looked great, but kept tipping over on uneven ground. Eek. 

The year of the red waggon. It looked great, but kept tipping over on uneven ground. Eek. 

We have used just about everything in our time- wheel barrow (Back breaking,) red waggon (for us this resulted in an emergency trip to the chiropractor on our return…)  mountain buggy (great) and cycle trailer (even better as the rain cover made it like a little wendy house)

 

All the above help you carry your kit and give your children a portable chill-out space. I used to fill the side pockets with sticker books and torches for the children to play with when they got bored between bands in the evenings.

 

If your child is young, slings are best in crowds- but if you do take a buggy out at night remember to decorate it with fairy lights and flags. People tend to crowd into a space if they don’t see something at head height! Make your buggy stand out so it doesn’t get fallen on. It happened to us several times before we embraced the bling.

 

Bedding:

Self inflating mattresses are essential in my book. Less trampoline- like so last well beyond the first night.  

Our children love their sleeping bags- us adults like a light duvet.

Don’t forget your pillows and blankets for cosying up around the campfire.

 

Clothes:

Wellies, over trousers and anoraks are essential for the whole family.

Bring layers to wear for the evening and clean clothes for each day. You’d be surprised how mucky you get having fun- face paints, sun screen, ice cream, and if it is a wet year, putting on muddy trousers  from the day before is really really horrible…

 

Kitchen stuff:

Gas stove- ours is in a carry case, which works great as we try to cook 1 pot meals anyway.

Cool box to keep food cool- beyond the first day everything will be thawed out.. so we use it to store open food away from ants and rodents.

Saucepan,

Frying pan

Kettle,

 Some of our festival food. (The cider is in the fridge btw)

Some of our festival food. (The cider is in the fridge btw)

Camping plates,

Mugs

Cutlery

1 sharp knife, tongs and spatula.

Kitchen towels

Washing up sponge & liquid

Black bin liner

Water carrier

Bucket/ washing up bowl

 The multiple uses of a bucket. BATHTIME!

The multiple uses of a bucket. BATHTIME!

Food:

Festival food can be expensive and unhealthy. We try to get as much fruit and veg into the kids as we can before letting them loose at the pizza van.

 

Jars of hot dog sausages

Bread rolls or tortilla wraps

Ketchup

Pasta & pesto

Tinned sweetcorn and peas

Oil

Eggs for scrambling

Baked beans

Cereal

UHT or powdered milk

Coffee for adults! (it’s a festival- you could pop a slug of brandy on there if you wanted. Go on, treat yourself.)

Fruit (nothing too fragile- apples and bananas are always a favourite)

Boxes of raisins and dried fruit

Fruit juice cartons- freeze these ahead of the event to use as ice packs in your cool box.

Breadsticks

Jerky

Flapjacks/ cereal bars

 A muddy Glastonbury; a happy boy. 

A muddy Glastonbury; a happy boy. 

Posh Crisps (for when the kids go to sleep…)

 

Other stuff

Torches (one each is easiest)

Pen knife

String/ cable ties/ Gaffer tape

Ear plugs for adults- ear defenders for children, see above.

Chairs

Picnic blanket

Permanent marker (for writing your phone number on your childrens’ arms. If you don’t like doing this, you can write with biro and paint over the top with a liquid/ spray plaster)

Fully charged power bank- you’ll be gutted if you can’t take pictures of all the fun you’re having.

 

Toiletries:

Sunscreen

Toothbrushes, toothpaste, flannel, soap, towel

Wet wipes- though we are trying to do without these this year after learning about their negative impact on the environment… wish us luck.

Hair brush

Hand sanitiser

Toilet roll

POTTY. Ok, a bucket with a lid on.….. it’s not just for the kids either- I don’t like a long walk in the middle of the night or getting up early to take the boys for their first wee of the day. Once I got over the embarrassment of taking my bucket to the loo in the morning, I never looked back. Trust me, it’s worth it.

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First aid kit; plasters, antiseptic wipes, calpol, piriton, dioralyte, paracetamol (for adult headaches just in case you get one)

 

FUN STUFF:

Now you’ve got the practicalities sorted, its time for the fun bits- none of which is STRICTLY essential, but may give you some fun ideas.

Fancy dress/ dressing up gear

Face paints

Temporary tattoos

Flag and telescopic flag pole. Put this by your tent so you/ the kids can find it easily in the crowded campsite.

Solar fairy lights- for the same reason.

Fake flowers/ bunting for decorating the camp/ buggy/ yourself.

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Glow sticks (for night times)

 

And last but by no means least, don’t forget the quiet games/ activities.  However much fun you are having, it can get overwhelming. Sensory overload IS A THING, so make sure you have a few activities for the tent. Drawing stuff, Uno, activity books and a few bits of lego usually does it for us. Also if you have space take a football. Last Nozstock, the children of the family field had a massive football match whilst the adults all kicked back with a nice (warm!?) beer… it was sweet joy to behold.

 

So now you’re set.  Remember though, whatever you forget someone onsite will probably be selling it, so don’t get too stressed out or bogged down by the ‘stuff’. Most of what you need is normal everyday things- don’t let the fact it is a ‘festival’ send you into a panic.

 

Hopefully with this list though, you should be all set. All you need now is to throw off the shackles of daily life, grab your dancing shoes and you’re good to go.

 

See you in a field somewhere, we’ll be to the right of the mixing desk, yeah?

 

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Anticlimax

I know, I’ve skipped a bit.

I haven’t written about the whirlwind and excitement of getting home, seeing family and friends and being swept away with all the reunions and 'welcome home' drinks.  

Nor have I talked about building our yurt (a post on this is coming soon, believe me, it deserves it)

I’ve gone straight to the moany bit because it's real and writing is therapy. Also, I was too busy having fun to stop and write about it (and our laptop needed a service...)  

Having been ‘home’ for two weeks the main questions are:

1. "What was your favourite country?"  

and

2. "What’s it like to be back?"  

Well, there is no concise answer to question number 1 and the answer to number 2 is complicated.

Welcome Home

Initially, being back was immense. Having just been us four for fourteen months, being metaphorically cuddled by a huge community of people was like lots of Christmases coming at once.

The warmth of our welcome was overwhelming- places we knew well seemed comforting and familiar. BUT we weren't stopping. We were just passing through before bounding onto our next adventure! Yay!

 Rams head at the corner of our field in Wales  

Rams head at the corner of our field in Wales  

As you can probably guess, those initial feelings have subsided.

The yurt is built but not not yet habitable.

Mike is in Wales, digging drainage trenches and sanding the floor- whilst friends are installing water, electricity and a composting toilet.  

I know I was overly optimistic to think that we’d have a home almost as soon as we got back. Of COURSE infrastructure takes time! I know that!  Things take longer than you think they will especially when you are building a home in a muddy field!

It's like my optimism has rendered my years of festival work useless.

We’ll get there, I know.  

For now though, I am with the children in my parents' warm and welcoming flat in a suburb of Bristol, trying not to think about where we were 3 weeks- or 3 months ago. The thought makes me feel sad, like the anniversary of a loved one that has passed away.

Simultaneously I am outraged that it slipped by so fast and racked with shame that I am in the thick of something that COULDN'T BE MORE of a First World Problem.

A travel hangover after a 14 month round the world trip with your family? Darling, It's a cross we must all bear. Like Bi-fold doors and babysitters being late. 

 Our yurt- erected after a satisfying hard days slog.  

Our yurt- erected after a satisfying hard days slog.  

We are safe and warm which is more than most people in this world. We have options, beautiful memories and shelter- we know we are lucky.

This new life we want to build for ourselves in Wales is like nectar though, magically subduing our wanderlust. Then I remember Finn's new allergy and the realisation that my gorgeous dog might not be able to join us. This tars the picture I had in my mind and feels like a kick in the guts. 

I am jealous of Mike grafting in Wales whilst I stay here, impotent and looking after the boys. I am crocheting baskets for the yurt in a bid to feel ‘useful’.

Between shouting at the boys to stop fighting/ jumping/ playing on their iPad and writing lists to occupy myself- I remind myself that they are missing their Daddy too and we all feel unsettled so should be kinder to each other.

Just have the Ipad, boys. 

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The children are bored.

I’m bored.

A walk to the local park seems pointless and laughable after the places we have been. It doesn’t even seem worth going when we know it won’t hold our interest.  

That's not the attitude though, is it?

Despite everyone telling me that coming home would feel shit, I was so excited about seeing our people and building our yurt, that I didn't believe them.

So I kick myself up the arse and take the boys out in the sunshine to cycle around the old airfield. Our yurt will be ready soon and if it isn't, I might accidentally book us all something on EasyJet. 

 

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What next?

We’re nearing the end of our round the world trip. We are sad, of course we are. But we are something else too.  

We are grateful for the incredible amount of time we have had, relishing our children’s childhoods and seeing the world through their eyes. We are proud too, that we have shown them that another way is possible to live. Actually an infinite number of ways are possible- Who knew?! 

 Sunrise on our field. Thanks to Nicky for taking these pictures for us! 

Sunrise on our field. Thanks to Nicky for taking these pictures for us! 

This part is coming to an end. The part where we live out of backpacks and have no responsibilities apart from to eachother.  

Mike starts work at the beginning of December. He was lucky and talented enough to be offered a job whilst we were in Guatemala. But not in Bristol- in Powys, Wales.   

Part of the reason that we sold everything when we left the UK was so we could re-evaluate our life and make decisions about how we want it to be.   

 The existing platform on our friends’ land, waiting for our yurt. 

The existing platform on our friends’ land, waiting for our yurt. 

Since hitting the road and living out of 2 (large!) backpacks, we have realised that we need much less stuff. We haven’t missed anything that we have kept in storage- so why bother trying to recreate our old life, buying a house just to fill it up with all that stuff we already got rid of? We want to live small and buy only what we need- our carbon footprint whilst travelling on this beautiful planet has been huge. We’re keen to address this by living a more environmentally conscious life. 

We love being outdoors and desperately want our children to have the sort of childhoods that we had. Childhoods where children were always grubby with grazed knees, where they are free to test their boundaries and explore the world pretty much as we did. 

 The frame of our wonderful yurt.

The frame of our wonderful yurt.

 Our finished yurt, waiting to be transported to our field in Wales.  

Our finished yurt, waiting to be transported to our field in Wales.  

An urban setting makes this hard, so we decided a few months ago try something completely different. We have friends with a patch of land with a yurt platform already on it in a secluded valley in mid Wales  

We ordered a yurt from Spirits Intent and they have crafted it with love, ready for our return. 

So how do we feel?  

Sad that we will no longer go where the wind takes us, but pleased to be able to nurture those relationships we have neglected for the past year.  

 Someone left a tree inside the yurt.  

Someone left a tree inside the yurt.  

Rural Wales is so completely different from our life in urban Bristol so it will be just another chapter and that makes it exciting. I can’t wait to get my hands dirty, learning new skills as we build our home.

As an added bonus, our rent will be low so we can save for our next foreign adventure. Everyone is a winner! 

I hope you stay with us as we embark on this next chapter.  

 

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