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6 Family-Focused Tips for Music Festival Season

Don't hit a sour note with your festival adventures — advice for kids, big and little

Published on: May 25, 2017

Music festival crowd

By most measures, I am too old to go to Sasquatch. The music festival held at the Gorge Amphitheatre every Memorial Day weekend caters to college students. I am not a college student. Nor am I a parent but whenever I attend Sasquatch, I spot a family or two in the crowd. Once I saw a couple not much older than I brave the Amphitheatre’s notoriously steep terraced seating with a stroller, toddler in tow. I don’t recommend the climb.

Still, challenging terrain shouldn’t keep your family from enjoying everything an outdoor music festival like Sasquatch has to offer. The same is true if it’s not you but your recently fledged college freshman who wants to test her wings at a multi-day music festival. Having observed my fair share of festival mishaps, here’s my advice.

Hydration is key. Whether you’re taking toddlers to Pickathon in Portland (August 3–6) or loaning the family van to your older teen for a weekend at the Gorge, stock up on water. Most venues offer some kind of free access to water but 1) it doesn’t always taste good and 2) it’s best to have more than you need. Dehydration is no joke at an outdoor space crammed with the sweaty, dancing masses. For extra credit, review how much water you need in certain temperatures and the symptoms of dehydration.

Figure out emergency measures. Most festivals post information online weeks, if not months, ahead of the actual event. Peruse those details as a family. Do you know if emergency services will be on site? What can’t you bring to the venue? Is there a store on-site or nearby in case you run out of basic goods? Are there lockers to store your things on the concert grounds? Asking these questions ahead of time — even if you don’t have complete answers — can avoid future stressful situations.

Pack for the unexpected. While many outdoor festivals offer some kind of on-site camping option, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill camping experience. You likely won’t be able to have a campfire (limiting food options). You’ll probably be thisclose to your neighbors (limiting privacy). And you’ll most certainly be disappointed by the facilities (expect port-a-potties and long lines for showers that you’ll probably have to pay for). To help make your stay more comfortable, think outside the box when you pack. Dry shampoo, umbrellas for shade, moist towelettes, ear plugs, portable chargers — they all help.

Talk about drugs. Sobering headlines accompany every festival season, and often they involve the use of drugs like ecstasy — particularly dangerous as it raises the body’s core temperature. If you haven’t talked about drug use, now’s the time, and if you have, a refresher won’t hurt. What’s your family’s policy on drugs? Which might be more dangerous in an outdoor setting? How would your child get medical help, if needed?

Set limits. If you’re going as a family, when will enough be enough? It’s important to establish a baseline before you pack up the car if only so you can make a more clear-headed decision later on. And if it’s your young adult embarking on his own, set ground rules. How often do you expect to hear from him, noting that cell phone reception is often poor at more remote destinations? What’s her plan for getting to and from the event? How will your child contact you in case of an emergency? (Bonus points if you look up your festival’s refund policy, if they have one.)

Make a plan! Review your chosen festival’s schedule before you head out and figure out which shows you must see, which you’re 50-50 on and which you’d rather skip. Not only will this get you and yours hyped for the event, it’ll give you a good idea of what to expect for each day. Because isn’t the point of any good festival to have a little fun?

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