Travelling with kids: It's enough to drive you to drink

It's no wonder a whopping 70 per cent of parents head to the airport bar, for some mild sedation before their flight.
It's no wonder a whopping 70 per cent of parents head to the airport bar, for some mild sedation before their flight. Photo: iStock

Dragging kids through airports is enough to drive you to drink.

Let's start with the security section, which increasingly resembles a burlesque bar.

"Madam, remove your shoes. Sir, your belt, please. Kids, those hats and jackets have to come off."

Travelling with children is not easy, which is why many parents turn to alcohol to de-stress.
Travelling with children is not easy, which is why many parents turn to alcohol to de-stress.  Photo: iStock

Hell, why not go all the way and strip back to our birthday suits?

Then there are the interminable questions about what to put in the plastic trays. "Mum, do I need to unpack my Surface Pro? What about the iPad? iPod? Coins? Phone?"

At the international terminal, one of the kids often forgets about the bottle of water in their backpack, leading to its contents being disgorged. "Grace, why are you bringing five stuffed toys to Thailand? And Taj, I think the resort already has plenty of tennis balls on site. Are those underpants even clean…?"

Not to mention the high-tech customs area, where parents have to go through before children. "Darling, put your passport in the machine the other way," I yell across the yellow line. "No, not that way. Upside down. Or sideways."

There isn't enough space on this page to detail the stress associated with queues, lost tickets, and the endless array of shops selling everything except what you really need. (Where's the children's clothing store, with cheap socks and undies?)

It's no wonder a whopping 70 per cent of parents head to the airport bar, for some mild sedation before their flight.

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A survey commissioned by cheapflights.com.au showed one in two parents admits to a tipple before midday. (Yes, it is cocktail hour somewhere in the world, but this excuse doesn't fly at domestic airports.)

"While the lead-up to a holiday is exciting, it can also be quite difficult for parents," Nathan Graham from Cheapflights ANZ says, in the understatement of the year. "From the research, the top three reasons for a tipple are to start the holiday on the right foot (50 per cent), to kill some time before boarding (53 per cent) and to help de-stress after getting through check-in and security with their brood (42 per cent). Thirteen per cent also admit it makes coping with the kids on the flight easier."

Almost three in four parents are back on the alcohol once on board, which is a higher percentage than the general population.

It numbs the pain of the nagging – from children and other passengers.

Let's be frank: Flying with children is a hideous experience, regardless of how well behaved they are.

Very few airlines – such as Etihad with its Flying Nanny service and Air New Zealand with its Economy Skycouch – truly cater to children.

On a recent overnight flight, one family handed out Haribo sweets, accompanied by a note from the baby: "Hello. My name is Emma and I'm four months old. This is my first international flight. So please excuse me if I cry at all."

tracey.spicer@fairfaxmedia.com.au