How to take your kids to a music festival - and still have a good time

Rock'n'roll children: Priya, aged five, gets her face painted at Little Splendour.
Rock'n'roll children: Priya, aged five, gets her face painted at Little Splendour. Photo: Rachel Murdolo

Those were the days, right? Road-tripping to the country with a car full of friends. Yelling lyrics at the sky from the front row of your favourite band. Having long, deep and meaningful conversations under the stars. Waking up sweaty in the 40 Celsius heat of your shared tent. Yep, those were the days.

Times have changed since then, but thankfully not as much as vanquished-parent memes profess. Despite the existence of my two-year-old I'm not wanting for drinks and good conversation – thankfully both are very much in my life. So when some other parent friends suggested we all go to a music festival this summer, I thought to myself – yeah, we could do that! Then I thought – why in God's name would we do that?

In the search for answers I approached two of my old uni friends – music-industry mums with a few festivals under their belts. Claire Collins is a music lawyer and head of publicity at Laneway Festival as well as a mum of two kids under three. She is from the city and is very cynical. Tiffany Richmond is front woman of kids' band Poppy Galactic and the Beat and has three boys aged nine, seven and two. She is from the country and couldn't be more enthusiastic. 

Tiffany Richmond with son Ochre.
Tiffany Richmond with son Ochre. Photo: Supplied

Between them, they have some pretty sweet advice. Here goes.

Most importantly choose a festival that caters for kids.

Collins reckons Fairgrounds (Berry, NSW) is fabulous because it specifically caters for families. "There are only two stages so you don't have to rush around and there's loads of grass to chill out on," she explains.

Richmond's pick is is Little Splendour at Splendour in the Grass (Byron Bay, NSW). "They have created the ultimate family-friendly space with music, craft, games, circus, coffee, babysitting (so you can check out bands!) and a sweet silent disco. Most parents that go there say it's their favourite place to hang at the festival," she says.

But whichever festival you choose to take your little music lovers along to, there are some things festival-going parents can do to minimise the tears and maximise the fun - for everyone. 

Firstly, lower your expectations

Collins and Richmond both implore me to let the good old days live on in my memories and prepare for a different experience.

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"You are almost definitely not going to see all of your favourite bands," says Collins. "But you will take lots of cute pics of your toddler twerking, crowdsurfing and having the time of their life." 

Richmond says music festivals withs kids in tow have to be about  simply going with the flow. "It's the little wins – like when you go hoping to see a few songs and it works. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes you'll get 20 minutes and the kids will get feral and you'll need to abort mission. But we got such a thrill sharing the experience of that sea of people with our kids."

Get an Airbnb

Collins looks for accommodation within walking distance of the site "so it's easy to go back and forth for naps (mine, but also the kids')." Her bonus pro tip is this: share a place with friends with kids so you can take turns babysitting.

Or submit to the festival lords and camp out

Richmond loves doing the camping thing with her family. "They think it's great and get right into the festival vibe – shirts off, face-paint glittering, dance moves-a-plenty. There are family-friendly camp areas these days too, so no need to fear midnight megaphones or the constant slam of a Port-a-Loo door." 

Tag-team with your partner so you can see your favourite bands and have a bit of adult time

Collins recommends negotiating who sees what before you get there. "One of us would take our daughter home at around 7.30pm and the other one would stay out, then vice versa the next night."

Richmond agrees, but adds that she's also enjoyed taking her kids to see her favourite bands. "My husband and I stood right at the back with a kid on each of our shoulders and one dancing in front of us as we watched PNAU at Splendour, and it took nothing away from the radness of the music and vibe."

Take the right equipment

Both music industry mums swear by baby carriers and noise-cancelling earmuffs. They're divided on prams, however: Collins says, "forget it." Richmond says, "prams are good for naps. Use a dark wrap to block out the visual stimulation and find a quiet spot to chill."

Richmond also suggests two services offered at some festivals: babysitting (you heard right – book when you purchase your tickets), and rentable wagons. "You can plonk all your kids and stuff in them and wheel it around the festival. My baby even napped in it. They're often decked out in fairy lights too. Genius! Do this." 

Some solid final pointers

  • Have a base you can go to regroup and chill. 
  • Write your mobile in Sharpie on their arms.  
  • Take a big umbrella for some shade – it may be hard to come by.
  • Bring LED lights (for your pram and tent), costumes, snacks and water with you – you'll be thankful for dodging festival prices.

I'm a firm believer that where possible, kids shouldn't stop you from living your life the way you want to. Am I game enough to take this philosophy all the way to the moshpit? Well, with a road trip into the country with awesome mates to be had, lyrics to be yelled (albeit with a toddler on my shoulders) and hugely important, deep and meaningful conversations to be had, I don't see any reason to miss out. 

The pick of family friendly music festivals from parents who have been - and survived

Fairgrounds Festival - Berry, NSW. Dec 6 - 7 2019. Details www.fairgrounds.com.au

Fremantle Folk Festival - Fremantle, WA. December 1. Details @freo.folk.fest on Facebook. 

Woodford Folk Festival - Woodford, QLD. December 27 2019 to January 1, 2020. Details www.woodfordfolkfestival.com.au

MONA FOMA - Launceston, TAS. January 17 - 19 2020.  Details www.mofo.net.au

​WOMADelaide - Adelaide, SA. March 6 to 9, 2020. Details - www.womadelaide.com.au

Bluesfest -Byron Bay, NSW.  April 9 to 13, 2020. Details - www.bluesfest.com.au

Groovin' The Moo - Various locations in NSW, Vic, Qld and SA. During April and May, 2020. Details www.gtm.net.au 

The Gum Ball - Hunter Valley, NSW. April 25 to 28, 2019. Details - www.dashville.com.au/gumball/

A Day on the Green - Various dates and locations. Details - adayonthegreen.com.au

The Lost Lands - Werribee Mansion, VIC. November 2019. Details - www.thelostlands.com.au