So, you decided that you are taking your little to ACL Festival this year…now what?
Do yourself a favor — throw all your fairy tale expectations out of the window. The quicker you surrender the memories of the old days, which included you squeezing your way to the front of the stage to see Jack White, the quicker you will be ready to enjoy a new type of music festival experience. It’s not going to be easier, but you are creating some pretty amazing family memories that I promise (if you are prepared), you will not regret. Okay, here is how I survive ACL with my littles:
Have a Flexible Plan. I like to give the map to my bigger little (five years old) and let him know where we are going, who we are going to see, what we are going to eat and when we are going to leave. When the plan is in action, I will periodically check in to see if he is happy and if he starts slipping, I have an arsenal of back up plans. First, I bribe him with frozen lemonade (usually buys 1.5 hours). When the frozen lemonade wears off, I invite him to shop for Lego sets, which I am well aware we are not going to find ACL, but its a distraction and usually buys time. Every year, I give him an Emmy Award-winning performance on how shocked I am that ACL does not carry Lego sets. He is impressed and we (usually) move on.
Prepare for anything. You will read the “pro” concertgoers advise you to pack lightly, which makes total sense if you are not towing your littles. Trust your instinct and pack everything. I take our BOB stroller (transporter of everything), umbrella, chairs for everyone, water (two bottles per person) or empty water bottle, big blanket, sunblock, bug spray, snacks, charged cameras and phones, cash, sun hats for all, wipes, and most importantly, anti-bacterial gel.
Do your homework & know the bands. Go on ACL website and click on the bands that correspond with your schedule, and listen. It’s all about the vibe for me. I love most types of music and can recognize the “perfect for music festival type”. For every band you select be sure to have a back up in that same time slot. This works well if you can’t make it to the other stage.
Location, Location, Location. When claiming your spot for the show, identify the sweet spot. The sweet spot for our family is the area where the crowd becomes a crowd. I like that area because we can still hear the music without busting an eardrum, the pot smokers are usually far away and it’s a clear and easy exit route. Oh, and when setting up “camp”, your blanket (the bigger the better) is essential. This creates a boundary that most people respect. So, your blanket, stroller (which acts as an anchor) and chairs outline the perimeter.
Have Fun. I have been going to ACL since 2005, and I have a box of show momentos. I love this stuff. As long as you go in prepared with an open mind, you will have an amazing experience. Last year, we questioned our decision to take our then 4-year-old on the way to the festival and even while we were setting up camp. The minute Florence + the Machine started their set and our sweet bigger little lost himself in the music, we knew we made the right decision.
Co-owner of Riemer Residential, Shannan Riemer loves Austin living and is a bountiful source for all things Austin. When Shannan is not selling homes, you can find her perfecting her Jedi moves with her two little boys.