Between school, organization, and community events, there’s a good chance you’ll be sucked into attending a Halloween/Fall/Harvest festival this season. My first few of these chaotic mash-ups of families felt like a nightmare. I learned through experience and watching other parents that there’s an easier way to navigate the day. Here are 5 tips that might help you enjoy the time rather than dread it!

Plan Their Wardrobe

Most of these festivals include costumes, which is great. The kids have fun and you feel good that they’ll use it at least twice. But before you put all of our hard work on display, remember that your kids will be running around with friends, eating candy, and maybe even doing crafts. This might not be the venue for an all-white goddess gown or that delicately glued prop. They will get dirty. You will end up holding anything that is detachable, or worse they’ll just shove it in a bag. Anything that drags will probably be demolished. You should also consider their footwear. If they would normally wear cowboy boots or sandals, this might be the time to switch them out for tennis shoes.

Plan for all the Stuff

You are going to want to have a big bag of some sort. I already mentioned that any removable costume piece would be coming off. Add massive amounts of candy, crafts, prizes, and advertisements to that number. Plus, if the festival goes past dark, you will probably need sweaters for the chillier temperatures.

Eat Before You Go

Sure, the flier says they’ll have taco trucks, turkey dinner, and caviar but there are only two possibilities. First, the food is amazing, everyone there wants to eat it, and you wait for three hours to get a bite. Or the other option, the vendors are terrible and you end up paying $5 for a cold hot dog. If your family comes already fed, you eliminate grumpy sugar crashes, waiting in line, and begging for money for every edible thing in sight. You can always splurge on a treat later in the evening when some of the crowds have thinned out.

Go for the All-Inclusive

Every year I cringe when paying for the wristbands our school offers. I just paid $20 for what? But on the night of the festival, I am so glad I don’t have to dig up money, worry about lost tickets, or my kids running out then coming back to beg for more. It gives both of us freedom. I just chalk the cost up to helping the school and keeping my sanity.

Buddy Up!

If your child is under school aged, you’re probably stuck trailing behind them while they flit from activity to activity. But if your kids are school-aged, make it easy on yourself and plan ahead for them to buddy up with friends to explore the festival on their own. Then you and the other parents can find a central location to wait. This gives you company and everyone knows where to find you. Some parents ask their children to come check-in periodically or whenever they switch general areas. From my experience, my kids change directions so fast, I see them more as they pass me than if I asked them to tell me where they’re going!

Now that I’ve gathered some tips and experience, our school’s festival is more enjoyable. It has become a time to visit with other parents and see my kids’ friends in another setting. No one would choose to hang out in the middle of chaos, but you can make it bearable!