I love travelling, but hate airports. It's not the queues and security checks. It's juggling the collection of hand luggage belonging to our family of five. My seven-year-old insists on travelling with his giant plastic dinosaur, but refuses to carry it, developing a condition he calls 'tired arm'. I've ended up staggering along with small bags of toys hanging off me like an oversized Christmas tree, while my partner scuttles off in search of change for a trolley.
I've learnt the important thing is not only what we've packed in our hand luggage, but what we've packed it in. If my kids don't consider their hand luggage cool, it ends up on my back. Once it's stowed in the overhead lockers and we're all strapped in our seats, we're fine. And the longer we're on board, the better. With long haul, there's a decent period of time between the agony of boarding and disembarking. There's also a meal, and aeroplane food in tiny plastic trays and lots of little cellophane packets amuses my family for a few minutes. The meal usually contains a mini-cheese to unwrap with nothing more than a bendy plastic knife - a greater mental and physical challenge than a rhombic cube. That's why I never pre-order kid's meals, as they tend to arrive in a cardboard carton which can be opened far too quickly and is never eaten. On long-haul, there'll also be a seat-back screen, which is essential for travelling with children. I've found a good dose of Toy Story is a far better soother than any amount of lavender oil.
But sometimes you have to change planes, and hand luggage becomes an encumbrance again. We had to disembark at Doha on our way to Colombo. It's a clean, modern airport, but it was still a bit of a battle. I was carrying the Rough Guide to Sri Lanka to read en route. But what I required was a guide to airports. I wanted to know which cafe was closest to the toilets. (If you've heard of such an airport guide, get in touch.)
At least I no longer wanted to know if we needed change for a trolley, as we've discovered the Trunki (@email:www.trunki.co.uk). Brilliant UK-based designer Rob Law noticed how navigating a busy airport with young children and luggage tested even the most tolerant parent. So he invented the Trunki - 'the world's only ride-on suitcase for globe-trotting toddlers'. They have four wheels on the base and are self-propelled by a child riding astride; if a child develops 'tired leg', the case can be towed by a parent. They're also cool, coming in vivid pink, lime green and Friesian cow pattern. Just two years after their launch, over 150,000 have been sold worldwide. We played 'spot the Trunki' in transit. My kids met other Trunki-riding kids in the Doha lounge, comparing colours. They even had a Trunki race.
I only wish they came in grown-up size. When I'm suffering 'tired leg, I could sit astride and be pulled along by my partner. But thankfully I no longer have to carry the dinosaur.