In my youth, I loved festivals. They were absolutely the highlight of each summer. Freedom, fun, friends and most importantly – an amazing music line up. If I’m honest, in my twenties I was a bit judgemental about people bringing kids to festivals – we were clearly up to no good, as was the majority of the crowd, so it was very much something I did not think I would do with my own kids. But we’ve now hit the tweens stage. My girls love music. So, when the opportunity presented to check out Camp Bestival Dorset, we thought we would take a look.
On reflection, I think I probably expected it to be more music festival. What I guess I hadn’t appreciated was how much time we would spend actually ‘festivalling’ and camping at Camp Bestival. My memories of festivals are lazy days snoozing in the sun to all of my music heroes. We would swing between stages, picking up new bands and new mates on the way. Camp Bestival with two kids was definitely a much less music experience.
The music line up was a real mix of DJs and some live bands – Rag ‘N’ Bone Man was probably our highlight, but in some ways the live music didn’t feel like the main event. We missed Razorlight as we hadn’t clocked that the timings had changed. My oldest was made up to spot Orla Gartland on the bill. Jo Whiley’s 90’s classics and Sophie Ellis Bexter’s Kitchen Disco made for a cool background soundtrack to our evening people watching. In reality, you could go to Camp Bestival, feel like it was great value and not see any live music – in that sense it really is a family festival that will work for kids of all ages.
The line up for kids is without doubt amazing – I wasn’t sure if it would be too young, there are trolleys and tots everywhere, but it worked for my two. It felt safe, friendly and a great starting point. With good planning, and a strategic approach, you can fill the days with workshops, face painting, blowing bubbles, browsing in shops and eat some amazing food – Poor Boys and Oatopia, you were both incredible. My girls loved the Skate Workshop – the gentlest, kindest, most positive mindset teaching I have seen in a long time – it made my heart warm to watch and every kid came away with a fuller feeling of self-confidence. We missed the trapeze workshops as they booked up really quickly – but if you have kids who love gymnastics etc, this is worth being on the ball with. There is a good mix of free and paid for stuff to do. Although you do need to think in advance about how much you are comfortable to spend on this sort of thing and have the conversation with the kids so you can manage expectations.
We had time to get henna tattoos – beautifully done, although we did see some slightly dodgy versions done with stencils. We checked out hair braiding, eco glitter, nail art, party disco wings. My oldest wasn’t into the traditional face painting, so she had a super cool geometric design that could easily have featured in GLOW UP which lasted all day and all night without the usual smudging and sliding. You could arrive with just the basics and leave looking 100% on brand Camp Bestival. Again, expect to spend a fair quantity of cash if you want to get these things done – and factor in time to book for some and definitely queue for others. Fancy dress was in its element, my personal favourites, the family of four, all dressed as lobsters and the most squidgy baby lion who entertained us chasing bubbles for easily an hour. I have never seen so many sequins, it was awesome. You can easily bring all of this with you – plan ahead and you will save a big amount of cash, but for us, this was definitely a big part of the festival experience the girls both wanted and I’m not sure they would have been as chuffed with my amateur attempts.
We were surprised about some of the things we enjoyed the most – bingo in the Literary Institute was brilliant, making pom poms, the board game café gave us a very chilled hour out of the heat of the mid-afternoon sun and introduced us to an awesome game that all our pal’s kids will be getting for Christmas. Horrible Histories taught us something new – again, how did we miss all this important stuff in school. We also found a useful chill out tent which was great when we needed some time to decompress.
I hadn’t really expected eating to be so good. My festival food memories are largely noodle based. Camp Bestival was a brilliant dining experience – again, not cheap and can involve a lot of queuing, but the food was all great. We ate paella, gyros, churros, waffles, salt and pepper squid, Cajun shrimp, crepes with cherries, porridge with blueberries, corn on the cob, fruit and even salad. The emergency pot noodles I’d brought came home with us. You are however easily looking at between £10 and £15 per head for each meal so this adds up fast. We’d brought drinks and snacks, but unless you leave the arena to cook a meal, prepare to spend.
We stayed in the Camping Plus section – the facilities were fine. I’m not sure it felt massively ‘plus.’ We had listened to the online advice, and packed as little as possible. Climbing the hill to enter the camping area, I can admit I was feeling pretty smug. When our tent was up and we were chilling out less than half an hour after arriving I was feeling even more smug. And for the most part, it still felt like a good decision at the end. However, next time, there is definitely a balance to be had with some of the usual camping chill out stuff – more books, a pack of cards and more pillows. We didn’t regret not bringing our big camping stove, but that is very much a personal choice and depends on how fussy your kids are. It was definitely a bonus to have a dedicated pitch and it made it much easier to negotiate the site knowing that we were on a grid and allowed the kids much more freedom than would have been possible without.
Toilets were cleaned regularly – but let’s be honest, nobody leaves a festival toilet without feeling a little bit violated. My one and only complaint of the facilities was that there were no handwashing sinks. I’m pretty sure this is a big deal at any event, never mind that we have spent the past two years teaching our kids to sing happy birthday twice, always use soap and hoping that we won’t get covid. This seemed like it was pretty unforgivable and should have been considered. No amount of hand sanitiser feels right to wash away the feeling of using a festival loo -as my youngest said regularly, ‘don’t breathe and definitely don’t look down…’
We loved our first family festival experience at Camp Bestival Dorset. A proper sense of freedom, a chance to live outdoors for a few more days and start the summer in style. Perhaps the start of handing on our love of live music and dancing under the stars to our kids? I very much hope so.
Camp Bestival 2023 Tickets on sale 10am, Friday 5th August.
Weekend Camping (2023 Early Bird prices):
Adult Weekend – £180 (+booking fee)
Age 13 to 17 Weekend – £137.50 (+booking fee)
Age 10 to 12 Weekend – £112.50 (+booking fee)
Age 5 to 9 Weekend – £92.50 (+booking fee)
Age 2 to 4 Weekend – £72.50 (+booking fee)
Babes In Arms (1 & Under) – FREE (but ticket required)
Karen Beddow founded Mini Travellers in 2014 while doing what she loves most...going on holiday!
Mini Travellers is for parents looking for holiday ideas, destination reviews, days out and things to do with the kids. We also have family travel tips, activity ideas and all other things family holiday related. Take a look at some of our latest reviews for holidays and day trips in the UK.