1, Do your research and do it early.
It really does pay to research the family festivals that are out there, and have a good look at their websites to see if what's on offer appeals to you. Different festivals will have different selling points so it's always worth having a good look before committing. Sites like Festival Kidz are a good place to start. The earlier you start looking, the better as most festivals offer early bird tickets which are sometimes half the price of the normal ticket price. These are usually limited so it pays to get in there early.
2, Use social media
Once you have decided on what festival you would like to go to, it is always worth subscribing to their newsletter and following their social media channels. Many festivals will alert you to special offers, competitions and early bird ticket prices via their newsletters and social media channels.
3, Be realistic
Personally, for me, the musical line up is not the most important thing for me, but years ago it was. I have learnt that realistically your children will be more interested in doing other things rather than sitting listening to music all day. You may be able to catch a few bands but the chances are, you won't catch as many as you may have wanted too. I would just focus on the main ones you want to see, and any others you see are a bonus.
3, If possible share babysitting duties
If there is more than one adult going, I would try and share the babysitting duties so you do get to catch a few of your favourite bands, and also get to have some adult only fun. There is nothing worse than seeing drunk adults dragging toddlers around in tow in the early hours of the morning. Young kids need their sleep, especially if they are going to get the best out of their time at the festival, so its unfair and selfish to expect them to stay up all hours just to indulge their parents need to party. Sometimes it's not possible but if there is a group of you going, this has worked really well for me in the past.
4, An easily accessible family camp site is crucial.
There is nothing like trekking miles across fields with a mountain of stuff and 2 young children in tow, to get your family festival experience off to a bad start. The best family festivals such as Wychwood festival and Lakefest will let you either drive straight onto the camp site to unload your stuff or the family campsite is right next to the car parking. This just makes life so much easier because inevitably you will need to take a lot of stuff with you. We always end up taking loads and without doubt this is one of the most important factors for us.
5, Take your own food and drink
I always seem to be on a budget so know that we can't really afford to live on takeaway food from the food vans although this can be a nice treat. Also the food on offer is not always the most healthy so we tend to take our own food with us. Drink (non alcoholic and alcoholic) also tends to be expensive so we try and take as much as we can. Some camp sites have a ban on disposable BBQ's but I don't think this has been a problem for us. We also invested in a small gas stove which has been a godsend, as we can heat up tinned food etc really quickly and easily. Obviously taking your own food and drink will add to how much stuff you need to carry but it's worth it. Many festivals do prevent you taking your own alcohol but you can't really drink much in the day anyway as you will have your kids to look after. We usually have a bit of a drink once the kids are tucked up in bed back at the tent, and build a bit of a camp fire. Its good fun!
6, Be prepared!
It really pays to plan your festival experience to make sure you get the best out of it, and also so you take everything you need. I will always check out the programme of workshops and events to highlight anything that looks really appealing, so I can make sure me and the kids check it out. Having said that, it is also really fun to go with the flow and discover new things by surprise. I would highlight a couple of things that you really want to do and then go with the flow for the rest of the time.
I also really plan what I think we will need. Things like wet wipes, towels for the shower, toilet roll, food, camping accessories, wellies, wet weather gear are all important. We have a camping toilet and toilet tent which we have found really useful with the kids as they don't have to walk far to use the toilet.
7, Embrace fancy dress
Most family festivals will have a fancy dress theme. If you check out the festival website and social media channels you will usually find this out. Whilst fancy dress may not be everyone's cup of tea, I really do think it adds a bit of fun to the whole experience, and the kids really enjoy it.
8, Invest in a good tent
A few years ago we invested in a 4 meter Soulpad bell tent and this turned out to be a really good investment. The amount of space it gives you and the cool canvas means you can get a good nights sleep. Last year we upgraded to a 5m 'Boutique Camping' bell tent, and this gave us even more space. You really do feel like you are 'glamping' in comfort so I would highly recommend getting one, especially if you think you will be doing a decent amount of camping. A small 4 person tent will be ok, but it's unlikely you will be particularly comfortable.
9, Give the kids freedom
Part of the magic for children in family festivals is giving them a little bit more freedom than they usually have. This can be simply letting them run around freely around your area of the camp site with newly acquired friends, or letting them get involved in workshops with minimal supervision. Children really enjoy the sense of freedom and I think it helps them grow.
10, Try new things
I can be quite a shy person but I have got involved in trying lots of new things at festivals and I have found it has really broadened my horizons. I have got on stage and recited a poetry rap that I had just written, got involved in writing a song, made pottery and clay models, played drums in a drumming workshop and got involved in dancing in a dancing workshop. Some of these things have definitely taken me out of my comfort zone but it feels great to do this once in a while. I would say, 'just do it!'