Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Do love still love the transport you loved as a kid?

Car travel as a child

As a kid there were times I enjoyed car travel, and times I did not.  I enjoyed playing car games with my sister, and my parents.  Mainly with my mother as it was often us as a trio heading off on our normal everyday activities, on a day out somewhere or off to the coast.  My dad would often take me to out at weekends, and I enjoyed his 'faster' driving.  But even as a creative family unit there were times car journeys were boring, and I'd get sick from reading, or berated for teasing my sister for entertainment.

Car travel as a parent

When Max was a toddler car travel was always something requiring seemingly epic preparation.  Whether I really needed them or not, for longer journeys, I would load the car with all sorts of toys, a goodie bag of food stuffs, a portable DVD player and - most importantly - an emergency toilet.  I instantly grew respect for my own parents, and in particular for my mother's tale of how she once managed to pacify me on a three-hour car journey with a packet of dolly mixtures and a toy car with a bonnet.  Yep, not much changes, conceal a sweet in something, hand it to me, and repeat as necessary.

Coach travel as a child

My first memory of coach travel is regularly taking one with my junior school classmates to the swimming baths.  And thereafter on longer school trips, and adventure holidays.  These experiences were mixed.  Good fun on occasion, and irritating long on others.

Coach travel as a parent

I've accompanied my son on a few of his school trips, and if I thought coach journeys were laborious as a child, that's because they are.  Add to that the responsibility of the sick bucket.  Not fun.

Air travel as a child

I used to say I enjoyed flying, but I'm not sure how true that is.  I have memories of really nasty earache as an older child, and growing discomfort whilst being a gangly teenager.    However being younger than that I have memories of enjoying the novelty of the air plane food, the special treatment and freebies afforded to kids.  And when we were lucky - and posh - enough to get on a plane with in-flight entertainment, well, that was awesome.

Air travel as a parent

With some reluctance, and under great pressure from my holiday loving wife, I booked a foreign holiday with my parents scheduled for once my boy was about nine months old.  The flight times were actually condusive to his sleep times, and it passed off pretty well (All parents of new borns daft enough to fly should know you can fit a car seat if you've booked a seat for your child).  We've flown since, and it wasn't that bad.  But it was a case of getting away from it, and being stressed even if that worry was justified.  I've grown increasingly grumpy about air travel, I just can't understand why there is so much waiting and queuing.  As a customer there doesn't appear to have been any improvement in these service aspects in the last 25 years.

In it's defence, air travel did afford me this lovely picture in the baggage reclaim area.

Train travel as a child

We didn't spend that much time on trains in my childhood.  As a summer treat we would annually take a train along the Welsh coast, day tripping to the delights of Barmouth.  I loved it.  Even if that train was a smidge primitive and uncomfortable.  I loved being able to roam.  And having a table to play cards on, and the option to travel backwards, was immense.

Train travel as a parent

There's one thing I note immediately about taking trains with my boy, is I'm not stressed.  I don't know why, sometimes I've had a lot of luggage with me, and only had a few minutes to spare, but still I'm yet to get a train that has stressed me out.  Even when I've been delayed or had to get around engineering works, I've not been downbeat about train travel.  We got the Eurostar to Disneyland last November, and due to the fact we were headed to Mickey's European HQ you could argue that our new found adulation of  Eurostar travel was a little influenced, but I've been on it again, and I can confirm my initial findings.  I love Eurostar.  It's nothing short of superb.  Check-in and security is not even comparable with that to which you 'suffer' at an airport.  No less rigorous, but all done in ten minutes or so, even at busy times.  I was sat at St Pancras International Station, waiting the twenty minutes (yes 20) for my train to Paris, a tiny bit envious of the folks who were getting the night train to the ski resorts of France.  That is absolutely ridiculous, but true.  I think I'd rather travel that way, than via the stop-start-wait-boom-600mph-stand-queue nature of air travel.

So in summary, if I could afford myself a complex rail network that stopped conveniently at all the locations I like to frequent, those on my own adventures, or those with my wonderful son, I would.

And travelling further into Europe with Eurostar is something I am definitely going to be considering very seriously.