So we've only just returned from Damp Bestival, sorry Camp Bestival in Dorset, so I thought it would be good to write a few words whilst things are still fresh (as fresh as they can be after a muddy festival) in my mind! I actually survived and enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would and Finn was a total legend. As for the husband - well we haven't even debriefed yet we are so tired... but I think he had a good time and embraced his inner Alice Cooper. I wanted to share a bit about my experience and also share tips on what I would do differently next time...and yes in summary I would love to go back again! It was a weekend of all the emotions, the worst weather ever but bloody amazing! I do feel broken and there is a mountain of wet muddy clothes to wash but it was so worth it! I'm still finding glitter as I write this.
I know lots of people who are still very nervous about taking their kids to a festival and if they would cope - me being one of them (see the blog post I wrote here before we went I Hate Camping and Festivals...Camp Bestival here we come!!). Like many I always have a romantic vision of camping with my kids but the harsh reality is you do need to be a patient, strong (or drunk) person to cope with the stress and pitfalls that come hand in hand with camping and festivals... so here is my honest account of Camp Bestival 2017...
Ok so first of all we cheated slightly, does this mean we didn't get the full real festival experience? Probably but all of these things did make our first experience much much easier....
1) NO BABIES!
We left Violet with my parents (she's 18 months) as we decided that the whole experience would be easier without having to deal with naps and the general demands that come hand in hand with a baby (a teething baby at that). On the first day we both turned to each other and said 'I'm so glad we haven't got Violet with us!'. It just would've been really hard work (when it was hard work even without her), so we just had Finn, who at 4 years old is the perfect age to enjoy and understand what was going on. Maybe next year she'll be at a better age for it.
2) TIPI'S WERE A SAVIOUR
We stayed in a tipi (Eve's Tipis) which meant we didn't have to put a tent up or take it down at the end of the festival and it came with all the beds and bedding. This made life much easier, plus it's located in the Boutique Camping area - where you get posher outdoor toilets, a coffee van and even a tent with power points so you can charge your phone, dry your hair etc if you need to. Plus its fairly close to the car park and not too far from the action. I have so much respect for those staying in tents and completely understand why some people left early! The tipi was damp and wet after raining for 2 days but it was a comfortable experience - but we warned it does come with a price tag (£500) and we did frequently discuss what we could have done with that money instead whilst we sat damp and huddled questioning what we were doing there... But if you can stay in a campervan or yurt or tipi - it is worth every penny!
3) A QUICKIE
We only stayed 2 nights (you can stay 4 nights). Staying in a tipi meant we didn't have to race there on the Thursday to find a good spot for the tent, we could rock up on the Friday and everything was already in place for us. Leaving Violet with my parents also meant we couldn't really be away too long and my husband double booked a boys golf away day/night so he had to rush off early Sunday morning. It did mean we missed the Sunday fun including the fireworks (gutted) but avoided the queues to leave the festival Monday morning. The drive took us 4 hours each way from North London in moderate traffic. The drive home was long and hard - make sure you stop for coffee!
4) INSTA HUSBAND
My husband was very supportive in coming along to Camp Bestival and help us experience it as a family (there was a point where it was just going to be me and Finn and I was actually worried about our marriage surviving this experience) and I am pleased he insisted on staying in a tipi over a tent (one of his conditions) and for insisting Violet didn't come with us this time. Also for funding the weekend as it was expensive with all the travel, food, drinks and treats. He also went back to the tent with Finn on both nights so I could party into the early hours with my Insta pals. Next time I would like all of us to be out partying together! I have to say we didn't argue once which was a miracle as the whole experience with the weather and tiredness was very testing - I did hear quite a few arguments with kids and adults out and about and I'm not surprised!!
OK so the next big thing to talk about was the weather. Yes, it was HORRID and really was not camping or festival weather - it rained for 2 days, was mega windy and turned into a mud bath. Camping is a damp experience anyway but when nothing can dry out it is all rather miserable. So what do you do? You drink my friend, you drink through it and just get on with it and have some fun!! Make sure you have proper wellies, waterproofs and an umbrella, plus plenty of changes of clothes, especially for the kids as they get cold so quickly (plus if they jump in the mud bath). We got absolutely SOAKED. There weren't that many covered, sheltered spots (especially as everyone was in them) so be prepared to just embrace it and get wet!! It was really hard work and testing with the weather and I felt like everyone who went should get a medal for enduring it!
The festival was truly AMAZING - really well organised with a good variety of things to see and do. It did take a little while to get our bearings and Im still convinced I didn't see all the areas though! Visually it looked incredible - the detail and style was really cool, plenty of amazing photo friendly areas, just sad that the sun wasn't out to show them off! The site is a little hilly (My body is aching from the amount of walking) so be prepared to do a lot of walking (and carrying kids on shoulders if you don't have a buggy) and remember how much harder it is to walk and how much longer it takes a) with a little one and b) with mud. Its not very easy to 'just pop back to the tent' (a 15 minute walk) so you will need to carry a big rucksack around with all your needs for the day unless you have a wagon. We didn't get one but they did look fun and perfect especially at the end when you need to lug your bags up the hill to the car park. But lugging them in the mud looked like hard work. Be prepared for moaning (kids and adults) but remember - you are making the most amazing memories!!! We weren't personally that into the music line up but it didn't matter as there was so much to see and do.
I would say my biggest regrets were:
1) Not having one of Finn's friends there - I think he would of enjoyed it more if he had someone he knew to play with (even his sister!)
2) Not getting to see too many activities - we did some exploring but the rain and mud was a hindrance to walking too much so we didn't get to see as many of the fun activities on offer for Finn as we would have liked
- Bring your own booze. It is expensive to drink there (think £7.50 for a glass of wine) and when the drinking starts at midday you are drinking a lot so fill up a hip flask or carry your box of wine around with you. You will save a tonne of money
- Get involved in the festival spirit of sparkle sequins, glitter and fancy dress - there are areas to help you get dressed up and glitter faced but they will be more expensive than bringing your own bits. Everyone gets into the theme (Posters and Rockstars) on the Saturday and this was a real highlight, there were some fantastic efforts made. But also please note there were a lot of people who didn't dress up - and thats fine too!!
- Bring ear plugs for noise (the music was really loud until 2am on the Friday night) and and an eye mask for the early morning light. Berocca and alka seltzer for the hangovers - and be prepared - the late nights and early starts are a killer but totally worth it!
- You don't have to bring a gas cooker (I felt I had to to make up for the lack of real tent by thinking this would make it into a more realistic camping experience) to cook all your food on. You can eat really well there in all the food tents, especially the Feast Collective area (but it does all add up) but there was a novelty factor to making your own toast in the morning...and we may have eaten a fair few toasted marshmallows for brekkie too!
- Bring ear defenders - we thought we wouldn't need them for Finn but we did. We ended up buying a pair there for £15 and they saved our life!
- Take toys/lego, sticker books, sweets, glowsticks, crafty activities to keep the kids entertained whilst you are dancing in the music tents and for after hours too.
- Favourite tent was the Bollywood tent (they also made a great Strawberry Daiquiri in the Bollywood bus next door) for some serious dancing but also really recommend the Caravanserai area, especially if you can get a seat in one of the old caravans. Dancing by the giant disco ball and the secret mummies wine club with the Scummy Mummies at the Literary Institute were also a highlight. I do have to credit the Scummy Mummies for coming up with the title to this post - Damp Bestival!
- Be prepared for a long and painful walk back to the car at the end of the weekend - when you are feeling broken and like you may cry - save some chocolate and have a set of clean clothes and shoes in the car ready and waiting. Oh and make sure you remember where you parked your car, I may have spent an extra 15 minutes trying to locate ours! Or consider hiring a trolley, if you didn't have one already, to cart everything to and from the car in!
- Go with an open mind - easier said than done with kids but if you can go with the flow and ignore your normal routine then you will have fun and get the most out of the whole experience!
I would love to go back to Camp Bestival again next year but with another friend or family so Finn can have someone to hang out and stay up late with. Now I know how it all works and have got my bearings I think next time will be an even better experience. I'm still buzzing from the fun we had despite the terrible British weather, soggy bums and muddy wellies we made some amazing family memories. Finn broke my heart with his Buddy Holly look.
It's the perfect stylish and cool family festival that has the right balance of entertainment for the adults and the kids - I highly recommend this family festival experience, but do pray for good weather as it really does make life much easier! Thanks Camp Bestival, you were awesome, I love you! x
Please note I did get a complimentary press pass for the weekend but paid extra to stay in a Tipi.