Little Luminaries: Top Tips for Attending Festivals With Young Kids

By Georgia Todd

Attending a seven-day festival with a 1.5-year-old and a 3.5-year-old is daunting to say the least. As we began to prepare our tribe for the adventure – a good month beforehand – we came across comments from friends and family, such as “You’re brave!” and “Seven days of camping with little kids…” We shrugged them all off and assured ourselves we knew what we were doing. Besides, I reasoned that whatever challenges came our way would be far outweighed by the memories we would create.

Luminate is New Zealand’s premier, much loved and celebrated alternative and sustainability focused festival atop a crystal mountain between Nelson and Takaka. This was our first time and it had been a dream of mine for years; more so since having kids. I had always thought how incredible it would be for them to experience such a community.

We reside in Queenstown, so the distance meant a lot more time off and travel. With two little ones, this was hard. We did have fun though and real fruit ice cream stops became a daily thing. We headed up the West Coast, spending a night then continuing to the Riverside Community in Motueka where we met our friends who we would be “festivaling” with. 

As we hit the top end of the South Island, peppered in pretty valleys and rushing rivers – a smothering heat wave slammed into us and it was no fun putting up our tent at 10pm in the muggy night, after the pre-schooler had chundered all over herself and the car (hence the extra time it took). And we hadn’t even gotten to the gates of the festival yet! We greeted our friends the next morning and everyone got themselves organised. A supermarket trip was executed, it felt like we spent a lot and I still fretted over “Would we have enough food for eight days?” A smart friend shared that she had picked up some rehydration pills from the pharmacy to have on hand for her baby girl. We followed suit and then headed back to Riverside. Later, we finally set off in a convoy for the hills.

The drive up was stunning. Everyone was winding up that grand ol’ mountain in a twisting, colourful and merry column of cars. Slowly, we left cellphone range and the feeling of “crossing over” was permeating the atmosphere instead of radio waves. The kids were conked out in the back. It was to be our last experience of tolerable temperature with our fancy air con.

Top tips for attending festivals with little ones:

1: Plan according to the weather

…but know that these days we are experiencing more extremes and therefore you can’t rely on weather staying within a normal range. Due to the extreme heat and, as we later found out, plunging temperatures at night – a lot of the festival experience centred around this aspect with being prepared and making sure our small children weren’t badly affected. It was difficult to keep them sun smart and safe the entire time with hats being ripped off and sunblock not being reapplied enough. Even the choice to use sunblock was a topic discussed between us parents. We had bought some nifty spray bottles to use and these were a great life-hack as we danced up dustclouds on burnt grass dancefloors and then rested in shady spots on the outskirts of the festival. The kids ran wild and free everywhere, in minimal clothing and eating everything in sight.

2: Pack for four seasons

And make sure you have extras for unexpected cold temps – we were caught out on this front and needed to borrow blankets which we couldn’t really do without. But as we had limited room in our car, we had mistakenly skimped on the extra blankets as it was high 20 degree temps during the day. During Luminate, temps plunged as low as -2 degrees overnight. One morning I couldn’t even operate the zip to get out of the tent as it frozen solid. Hours later it was 25 degrees and climbing to over 30 degrees.

3: We used a mixture of cloth nappies and composting disposables.

We didn’t really find the time to deal with the cloth nappies and they added to the pile of very stinky rubbish we took out with us. This was an eye opener. All festival goers had to take every bit of rubbish out with them, which they had created. We had a huge bag plus dirty nappies and clothing and to be honest it was a huge wake up to how wasteful we can be as a small family.

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