We have always been the type of parents to take our kids everywhere with us and negotiate & balance our expectations. If you want to know more about how we communicate with our kids, read this post. So how can you take your kids to a music festival and have fun? This post is all about kids at festivals.
I think it’s important to state that not all festivals are kid friendly and there are some festivals I wouldn’t take my kids to. That being said, I think the majority of festivals are welcoming to families and that most festivals can be made fun for kids.
We started taking our kids to festivals when they were tiny! Our expectation was that we would balance our time between kid-friendly & less kid-friendly things and when they wanted to sleep, they got into the pushchair and slept. Some of the festivals we went to, we haven’t documented because we didn’t blog back then, but if you’d like to read our guide to Glastonbury, you can here.
As they’ve got older (they’re now teens), the challenges are different. They can have a bit more freedom and they can be left alone but their presence isn’t always welcome and you have to be aware of that!
This post is specifically written about Defected Croatia and how we go most years with an array of kids and sometimes a dog too. All photos were taken with my phone as Windows 10 update wiped my hard drive!
Why Did You Take The Kids and A Dog?!
If you’ve just come across this post and us, you might be wondering why on earth we went to a house music festival with our kids and ridiculously enormous, big dog.
When we started going to Defected, we didn’t have a fixed home base and none of the array of local family who could babysit. So unless we could find and pay for a magical Mary Poppins, it was either not go or go and take the entourage with us. We chose the latter and it’s the way we live our lives.
We now have a fixed abode in the UK but we choose to still take our (now) teens because we can turn it into a holiday & they actually enjoy coming.
Booking Defected Croatia Tickets
You can check on the Defected Croatia Website to see whether there are still tickets. They go on sale usually in August although on-site accommodation is not available to book until October onwards.
Don’t fall for ticket touts or people selling tickets in the comments of Instagram posts. These are usually fakes although some people do sell their tickets on the door to the festival. You might also be able to purchase late tickets from places like Twickets.
The Garden Tisno: On-site Accommodation
Defected Croatia is held a The Garden Tisno which is dog friendly. They ask that you take your dog to reception for a meet & greet so they can see the dog is friendly.
The Garden have a range of accommodation; funky silver airstreams; glamping; camping; mobile homes & apartments. We opt for the apartments because it’s easiest to have our kids on-site & we can come and go as we want.
Accommodation comprised a bedroom (with 3 beds), a diner-kitchen, a bathroom & an outdoor seating area. You get a fridge-freezer, a 2-ring electric hob, some pans to cook with, actual bread and chopping knives that work (slightly gobsmacked!) a chopping board, grater and colander.
I’d describe it as better than budget accommodation but nothing fancy; although there was air-conditioning and frequent fresh towels. You do get some toilet paper but only enough for the first day or so.
As the accommodation is self-catering you’re allowed to take in food but strictly no alcohol.
Our bags were not checked on arrival but they were checked after we’d been to the supermarket. We were probably the only people on-site cooking and as our normal routine was a bit hit & miss we tried to maintain at least two normal meals a day.
Tisno The Town
Tisno town is delightful and you don’t have to stay on-site if you don’t want to. You’re given wristbands so you can come and go. The town is divided into two by the bridge and there’s a number of supermarkets, bakeries, chemists, restaurants and more. You can even go hiking up to the top of the hill overlooking the bay which is hot but incredibly peaceful. It has secluded groves and is part of a church.
The town has a number of shingle beaches, there are boats to rent, a short quayside to walk around and is just really really pleasant!
If you want local accommodation, you can use the interactive map below to search.
Restaurants & Bars On Site At The Garden
The site is now cash-free and you must top up an electronic wristband to buy food & drinks.
The main restaurant, Magnolia, is a bit pricey (average 75kn) but the portion sizes were a good size. They offered a couple of vegan options and happily made us a pizza with no cheese.
There’s also a small shop on site which sells a few kinds of cereal, chocolate bars, drinks and crisps etc. I would not rely on the shop for anything other than emergencies.
During the festival, there was also a smoothie and waffle place and a vegan burger van which was amazing! They offered five different types of burgers for 50kn and they were ginormous portions and very flavoursome. The food stalls change every year so it’s difficult to predict what there’ll be.
To Note: Croatia will be entering the euro January 2023 so prices won’t be in kuna. I’d expect some fluctuation in prices.
Kids At Festivals: The Garden Parking
I am convinced that I booked on-site parking but nevertheless, there was none when we arrived. Apparently it’s a physical first come first served basis; check-in opens at 2pm and we arrived at 6pm!
The car was allowed onto the site to be emptied but then had to be parked in town, roughly 400m away. It was no big deal and there were probably 500 other cars parked off-site too.
Security & Kids At Festivals
There is constant security on both the front and the rear gate (although this now seems permanently locked) as well as security guys patrolling the accommodation blocks.
They did a great job and were very friendly. We never felt intimidated on site or as if there was ever any risk.
The total limit of people is 6,000 which is a good number as the site is never too busy. During the day it’s fairly empty with just a few hundred people and it starts to fill up after 4-5pm. The first weekend was the busiest and after that it seems to dwindle down. In my opinion, it’s much more pleasant after the first weekend and more intimate.
WiFi & Phone Reception
There is WiFi on-site but you need to sign up and pay 149kn for 7 days. The mobile reception was good though and we used our UK VOXI sims with no problem.
There Were Other Families
There were actually other families there too and a couple of the DJs took their kids. If you’re taking small kids I’d recommend investing in ear defenders and Rich and I also took earbuds as there are speakers everywhere!
Let’s Talk About Expectations & Daily Routine
I previously wrote about how to get your kids to behave whilst on holiday and we stuck to exactly the same principles here as we always do. Our kids have been aged between 8 and 17 years when we’ve been to Defected Croatia.
We explained to the kids the first year we went that:
- We might not get up very early (neither do they) and they’d be expected to make their own breakfast and entertain themselves for a bit until we came to see them.
- Our days would be lacking proper structure for the duration of the festival. If they could be understanding and patient we’d reward them in some way during the day.
- They couldn’t leave the accommodation after dark without either us or our eldest daughter knowing.
- They couldn’t leave the site at any time alone.
These rules have changed over time as they’ve become older and more responsible. We now allow them to take the SUP board out alone, they can go swimming or to the shop.
Our routine might look something like this:
- We’d be awake, up and dressed by 10 am. We’d go and see the kids, have breakfast and start getting ready to go out.
- We’d spend the day out either in the coves swimming or on day trips (with the dog).
- We would be back in the accommodation to make dinner for about 5-6 pm.
- The kids would come out after dinner, they loved to get their glitter done, chat to the ladies on the smoothie bar and dance at the smaller, outside stages.
- We’d usually take them back up to the apartment around 10 pm & we’d go dancing.
- The GlitterBox usually stayed open til about 2 am and then we’d go back to check on the kids, collect the dog and take him out for a little walk before going to bed.
We no longer have a dog so that isn’t an issue but our routine tends to be similar most years.
How Were The (Younger) Kids Treated?
All of the kids were welcomed by everybody and up to about 10 pm they were treated with respect and compassion. People were happy to chat and dance with them and just generally include them in a friendly manner.
One night, for some reason, they came out after 10 pm and we started to get some sneery looks (as if to say ‘come on, they shouldn’t be out‘) although no one actually said anything directly to us. After that we made a decision they wouldn’t come out again after 10 pm and everything was fine.
Are There Drugs There?
Of course, there are drugs, it’s a house music festival. I am very open-minded about drugs and am raising my kids to be the same. Drugs can be a hell of a lot safer than alcohol but I’m digressing…
The only problem had been not with the kids but with the dog and nitrous oxide canisters, which are everywhere! He was very curious in the beginning about these tiny shiny containers but lost interest when he realised he couldn’t eat them.
Drugs are not openly taken but balloons are very prevalent.
What Could You Do During The Day
During the day we hung out in the coves nearby with the SUP boards, swimming & snorkelling. I’d recommend taking beach towels, a picnic blanket, snorkelling stuff, inflatables, paddle boards, hammocks etc. The coves around The Garden are perfect for exploring and spending the afternoon being lazy. You could even take a portable BBQ and eat in style. They’re mostly shaded with shingle-type beaches.
We also explored the local towns and villages and went to a water park near Zadar; Fun Park Beograd.
There are local boats (and skippers) to rent too as well as some small hikes.
Side Note: There are lots of spikey urchins in the water, so make sure to take footwear to swim in.
The Party Boat & Nightclub Barbarellas
The part boat is an additional cost but it’s loads of fun!! There are at least 2 a day that you can book. The queue to the bar on the boat is ridiculously long, so I’d recommend taking drinks aboard with you.
There’s also an after-party at Barbarellas which is included in the ticket. Barbarellas is in an adjacent cove and there are free buses there from the resort. I haven’t yet been to Barbarellas because I’d end up not going to bed! Taking kids to festivals is always going to present a compromise and although I’d be happy to get wasted every night and dance until sunrise, it wouldn’t make me an effective parent the next day. Sad but true…
Kids At Festivals: How To Survive & Thrive
Some of our top tips are:
- Prioritise nutrition (We took our blender with us to make smoothies too). Many people looked thoroughly depleted after the weekend and I guess this is because they didn’t eat well alongside drinking too much lol.
- Embrace downtime
- Be grateful for what you can do
- Actively set bedtime & try to stick to it
- Lay out your expectations, listen to your kid’s expectations, negotiate & plan with them but also be prepared to be flexible
- Find some good day trips for you all to do
- Take devices
- Take earplugs (shown above)
- Reward your kids for their good behaviour. We took ours to the bakery every day to get cherry slices when they were younger.