Travel Tips

What to Pack for an Outdoor Festival (with Kids)

It’s festival season here in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. We’ve got festivals of every stripe — berry festivals, Shakespeare festivals, folk festivals, medieval festivals, rose and rodeo festivals. Our family recently went to the Folklife Festival with our kids, and here’s a packing list I created. These items fit into one small backpack ( thankfully, we didn’t need any rain gear), which we slung over the stroller, along with the small cooler.

Festival essentials:

  • Cell phone
  • ID
  • Keys
  • Cash (more than you think you’ll need) and Credit/Debit card and pin
  • Tickets if necessary
  • Map or iPhone or Android event schedule/map
  • Camera w/extra battery or memory card

Festival packing for family health

  • Sunblock
  • Bug repellent
  • Sunglasses and sunhat
  • Chapstick
  • Water bottle (two big ones)
  • Tissues for well-used portapotties and for sad songs.
  • Mini-first aid kit w/bandaids, allergy med, 1-2 pain relievers, safety pins
  • Baby wipes
  • One or two plastic grocery bags or small Ziploc bags. Because.
  • Beach towel for grassy areas or a pashmina-style shawl – can be used for warmth, to sit on, last-minute cleanup, etc.
  • Ear plugs or ear coverage for kids
  • Thin thermal layer if it’s chilly
  • Poncho/raincoat if you expect rain

For the family blood sugar:

  • Shoulder/stroller-ready soft-sided cooler
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
  • Granola bars, trail mix, kids’ health bars
  • Oranges or other easy-peel fruit
  • Chocolate

Festival packing for the kids:

  • Paper and pencils/pens/crayons (think about whether these will get so hot they’ll melt)
  • Bubbles, stickers, other lightweight and keep-busy items
  • A chapter book you can read to them during slow times.
  • Disposable camera
  • $5-10 spending money per child for cotton candy, small toys, etc.
  • A method for transporting them when they’re tired (and whiny). Do not discount this aspect, even if you think your child is too old for a stroller. When the choice is A) leave early with a whining, unhappy child or B) let them nap/color/blow bubbles in the stroller despite the disapproving eyes of parental passerby (holding whiny kids) …yes, you should choose B. I’m not saying I would stuff my teen into a stroller, but a 5 year old? Yes. If you think the area will be uneven (think grassy fairgrounds), you may want to bring a child carrier instead. Baby jogger-style strollers can easily become too unwieldy.

Write your phone number your child’s arm or on a piece of paper they keep in a pocket; make sure they understand what to do if they get lost.

Lora Shinn writes about family travel, Pacific NW travel, grown-up travel...and travel in general. Her travel-related articles and essays have appeared in Family Fun, Parenting, AFAR, National Geographic Traveler, AAA magazines and Redbook, among others.


  • Jessica

    Where do you get those first aid kids? I need one! but seriously – I write my cell number on my son’s belly and he knows to show it to someone in uniform or a parent with kids.

  • Lora

    Haha, smarty pants. I fixed the typo. I think telling your child to show it to “someone in uniform” would be problematic at Folklife. You see lots of uniforms, but few of them belong to policemen. More like fairies, roaming bards, pretend nurses, and so on.. it’s difficult to tell a uniform from a costume, at least at that festival.
    (Jessica is a friend, just so you know — I don’t always tease my commenters)