Soap Box is a chance for others to use the Whitelines platform to express their views, have a rant or just scream SNOWBOARDING into the eternal void of the internet. These opinions are not necessarily those of the WL editorial staff.
Snowboard holidays are great. Getting there sucks. But getting there with young children is the most God-forsaken ball-breakingly difficult hell-on-earth experience that even Beelzebub himself would not wish upon his greatest enemy.
In the process of trying to transport my family to the Alps, I have openly wept in public and used words to describe my children that would make even an Australian prison warden blush.
In the process of trying to transport my family to the Alps, I have openly wept in public, used words to describe my children that would make even an Australian prison warden blush, and broken just about every rule of positive parenting that has ever been committed to print by American people without children who know better than me.
If you are considering taking your oh-so-cute little rosie-cheeked sweetie-pie butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-their-nappies offspring to the mountains this winter, here are some travel options and their pros and cons. Well, mainly cons.
Hit the left and right arrows to scroll.
Fly and Transfer
Walking to the North pole without any motorised transport. Climbing Everest without any oxygen. Swimming across the Atlantic with just a thin coating of chip fat for warmth. Crawling, using only your lips, from Southern Spain to the eastern-most tip of China, carrying a fridge full of frozen concentrated orange juice cartons on your back, in just a singlet and underpants, whilst being shouted at sarcastically by your boss all the way.
These are all a piece of piss when compared with trying to get a young family to the Alps via Geneva airport for a snowboard holiday during half term.
To use some maths, family happiness = airport to the power of minus 1. As in, it is the total opposite. As in, only the most misanthropic twisted mind of a he-devil who hasn’t had any coffee that day could come close to conceiving an experience less pleasant than kids + airport.
Let’s assume that you have somehow managed to get everything you need for a week’s snowboarding into a single vehicle with fewer than 8 wheels. Unlikely I know, but please go with it. Let’s also assume that you have managed to get yourself from the car (or taxi) to the airport terminal without anyone being run over by another stressed-out family trying to reverse into a parking space that is too narrow.
When you arrive at the terminal what you then see is thousands of potential Jimmy Savilles, kidnappers, terrorists and richer people in the fast lane who are going to stop you getting to your plane on time. What your kids see is a massive playground full of shiny things. And they will also instantly become deaf.
I could write a whole book on this topic, but peak misery in an airport arrives somewhere around the security gate.
I could write a whole book on this topic, but peak misery in an airport arrives somewhere around the security gate. The kids by this time will be fighting, screaming, frothing at the mouth, undoing all those fabric belt barrier things, be dripping in sweat and bright red, licking the floor and have a full nappy that is about to leave a trail of nuclear waste on the security guard’s shoes. Old people wearing blazers are shaking their heads at you, and you are trying with all your might not to call them c*nts.
Then you have to take your belt off to get through security, and your “age inappropriate" low slung jeans fall to the floor. You have to unpack all the electronics, which the kids had forgotten about…but then see…and start crying because you won’t let them play on the iPad. You want to shout at the top of your voice and smash something to make the pain go away, but then you see your kids disappearing off through the security gate and running away into the arms of a strange man in a shell suit who is most likely flying to an eastern bloc country to sell them as slave babies. You immediately blame your spouse. He/she shouts at you. More shaking of heads, more tutting by old people…and this is all before you have actually got on the plane.
Fucking hell, I hate airports.
And I hate planes. Or “really shit and cramped flying buses" as I prefer to call them.
My darling children, my sweet, ever so beautiful children also hate planes. I know this, because they have always puked up on me, or spent all flight wailing like rabid banshees or grabbing the ears of the person in front, knocking over my free tomato juice and dropping all their colouring pencils underneath the seat and then crying.
And once you’ve arrived at the other side, cleaned off the puke, changed a fully loaded nappy on the floor at baggage reclaim and somehow managed to stop your children losing an arm in the rotating luggage belt, you have to walk about two miles to get to the transfer bus with your 120kg of baggage, which is being driven by someone who is still drunk and/or is the most boring self-righteous person you have ever met who assumes you know nothing about anything and spends the next 2 hours talking utter gob-shite about mountain life when in reality all they do get pissed all week and do about 1 hour of skiing per day.
So, Fly + Transfer sucks.
Fly and Drive
The plane bit is equally shit, and whilst you cut out the mind-numbing transfer, you instead have the joy of hiring a car. Oh dear.
Firstly, why does it take at least 45 minutes to sort out your hire car at the airport? It should go like this:
“Hello, my name is John Smith. I have hired a VW Touran for a week."
“Hello John, please can I see your driving licence and your booking reference."
“Yes. Here you go."
“Thank you, here are you keys. Please return the car before 10am next Saturday. Have a nice holiday."
It takes for EVER…during which time your kids have once again decided to disappear with drug-dealing Nazi sympathiser child-labour agents and eaten something poisonous off the floor.
Instead, it seems as if the guy behind the counter is programming (from scratch) in COBOL a computer programme that allows him to view and issue the booking, waiting until the factory has hand-built the car to order, and then whittling out of plastic with his bare hands a set of keys which he then hands to you (having tried to sell you all sorts of pointless upgrades / additional insurance in the meantime). It takes for EVER…during which time your kids have once again decided to disappear with drug-dealing Nazi sympathiser child-labour agents and eaten something poisonous off the floor.
They will then tell you that there are no child seats available, and the kids will have to hold onto the roof rack / go in the roof box. Your wife will cry. Your kids will cheer.
Once you have the car, you then face the challenge of getting to the resort, dealing with 780 hairpin bends, crazy Johnny-foreigner drivers who will undertake you on a blind corner without a moment’s thought, snow and ice on the roads, more puking from car-sick kids and a near-hysterical spouse who can’t read a map for shit.
Assuming you make it to the resort without killing your family, you then spend all week shitting yourself that you are going to ding the hire car and end up paying 5000 Euros and regretting that you didn’t take out that extra insurance, or that you are going to put the wrong petrol in or that you are going to die because you weren’t sure whether you asked for winter tyres of not.
Too much stress. Not fun. Bad idea.
What could be better than speeding to your destination whilst reading the latest edition of Whitelines, as the kids quietly play a game of travel Connect 4 and your spouse lies with their head in your lap as you calmly stroke their silken hair?
Sounds perfect really. Trouble is, that’s not what it is like.
On a train, you are locked in a place that your children will hate (or even worse, absolutely love – in the way that they love airports) for many more hours. So your kids either sit with you, grumpy, fighting over who gets the colouring book and who gets the Justin Bieber magazine then wee in their pants, or they will run up and down the isle as if they were doing a bleep test for 9 hours, then wee in their pants.
People will smile initially (unless your kids are ugly, in which case they will hate them immediately) but after 20 minutes of having their leg rubbed every 30 seconds by an infant covered in biscuit crumbs, their saccharine grins turn to demonic stares and they will want to garrotte your child using the spork they got with their packaged salad.
Your kids, even if they are the world’s best sleepers, are really sleepy and doped up to their eyeballs on Calpol, will be wide awake at 2am.
You might consider, as mitigation, taking the overnight train to the Alps as the majority of the journey will be undertaken whilst your kids are asleep. A strategy which is theoretically sound, but ultimately flawed.
Your kids, even if they are the world’s best sleepers, are really sleepy and doped up to their eyeballs on Calpol, will be wide awake at 2am, along with the hordes of ruddy-faced folk who are shit-faced on Kronenburg/cheap vodka, wearing rugby shirts with the collars turned up and trying to get laid in a toilet with the first person they find who has sufficiently low self-esteem to oblige. It is not inconceivable that you could be in a loo, changing a nappy, smelling of shit, and still have some rugger bugger wearing sunglasses (like a dick, at night) trying to rub their boner on your thigh, erroneously believing you were “presenting".
So train - fraught with danger. Also a no.
This is anti-yoga.
In fact, a coach trip to the Alps is guaranteed to shorten your hamstrings by 8%. It is also impossible to do a poo on a coach, so you will arrive at your destination (which, given it is a trip to the Alps will be at least a month after you set off) with 8kg of granite-like shit in your bowels.
If that wasn’t bad enough, your children will be growing spores and most likely stuck to their seat through a combination of liquidised haribo and sherbet (or a wattle and dorb type mixture of hummus and carrot batons, if you are posh).
Whilst the resultant infant inertia may sound quite appealing when compared to the likely alternative (namely that your children will have run up and down the isle for hours, then puked on a mint-sucking granny), you should consider that by the end of the journey they will have asked “are we there yet" 74,000 times, and will have been right next to you the whole way.
It's impossible to do a poo on a coach - so you will arrive at your destination with 8kg of granite-like shit in your bowels.
Oh, and watch out for “drives" nodding off / reading Autotrader / masturbating through his pocket whilst still at the wheel.
And bus weirdos. These are like normal weirdos except they have much more patience, and can talk to you for days without asking a single question. A bit like transfer drivers.
The coach should only really be considered if you are homeless and / or are a bus weirdo yourself.
Drive / Ferry / Drive
“Hell is other people" as Jean-Paul Sartre is reputed to have said when he was waiting for speedyboarding on an easyjet flight in Geneva airport, and it was following that experience that he also said “driving is better than flying to the alps".
Portable DVD players - with headphones. These devices were sent from heaven by Argos, the god of car journeys.
Yes, you may have to actually drive if you are driving, but using your own car to get the mountains has the following advantages:
- There are no people other than your family inside your car. This way, you can shout all you like and call your kids whatever you want, and no-one will know (except their counsellors in 15 years’ time)
- Your kids are legally required to be strapped in and cannot move.
- You can stop to let them puke outside.
- You only have one deadline to make – check in for your channel crossing
- Portable DVD players - with headphones. These devices were sent from heaven by Argos, the god of car journeys. DVD players thankfully restrict arguments between the kids to every 90 minutes - when they have to choose a new movie (as opposed to every 19 seconds otherwise), but without headphones you are subjected to at least 12 hours of Disney songs in your ear whilst you try and concentrate on the road – which is like chewing a mouthful of lovehearts laced with acid and white spirit. However, if the kids have headphones, you can enjoy hours of perfect silence, the like of which you are unlikely to experience in any other familial situation. You may even be able to talk to your spouse/partner. Or listen to a 9 test match special podcasts in a row. Up to you.
There are some downsides to driving (the below excludes any downsides relating to absence of DVD player + headphones):
- Belgians – Belgians have a pretty bad reputation on a number of fronts, but it is less well known (other than to people who drive to the Alps) that they are shocking drivers. A Belgian driver is seemingly not comfortable if they are further than 10 feet away from another car. Try dealing with that kind of shit for hundreds of miles at a time. It is stressful.
- Maps – pretty much everyone has satnav these days, but if you do need to use a map, it will cause an argument. Satnavs can cause arguments too (as I recently found when my wife had entered the wrong destination and nearly took us 200 miles off course)
- Snow chains – You will be hoping for snow, but at no stage will you have ever thought to practice putting on your snow chains. As a result, if you are driving and need snow-chain based traction, you are guaranteed an hour of frozen hands, ruined pipe gloves and dirty knees. Kind of like a giving a blow-job to the chalet chef round the back of Dicks T-Bar.
- Motorway toilets in France – the only word I can think of to describe the typical roadside French bog is “medieval". My kids still have nightmares about falling into acrid holes in the ground, as a result of a particularly bad experience in a lay-by shitter.
- Traffic jams – if the pope and mother Teresa had been travelling to the Alps and got stuck in a traffic jam, even they would have started telling each other to fuck off. Moving slowly in a car will accelerate your divorce by 17%.
Taking the ferry to get over the watery bit between us and the continent seems pretty stupid to me. Kids spend their whole lives puking as it is, why exacerbate the situation by introducing the factor of sea-sickness? Also, your children will want to go out on deck. Do not let them do this unless they are on a leash or are attached to you with Velcro. Unless you have a strange desire to be on the news, crying in front of millions of people.
So driving is a good idea, ferry less so.
Drive / Chunnel / Drive
Chunnel is a far better option than the ferry, except when there is a fire in the tunnel, people queue-jump and you therefore miss your scheduled train, your kids need a piss 1 minute into the journey (the one loo on a chunnel train somehow predates medieval despite having been built in the 1980s) or you forget that you are a “high vehicle" when you have a roofbox on and hold up the whole train for 20 minutes.
Notwithstanding the above, and even though we live in West Wales, we go Drive / Chunnel / Drive all the way to the Alps. It is a brutal 17 hour journey, but the benefits of infant silence (thanks to DVD/Headphones), lack of multiple deadlines, avoiding airports and having our own wheels in resort make up for the downsides.
In fact, I think my kids even look forward to the 17 hours they can spend watching Disney movies and eating kitkats (a rare treat in our anti-screen /anti-packaged food fascist household).
Having control over your travelling environment is the key. Being subjected to the unfamiliar constraints of an airport / plane / train / coach is inherently stressful when you have kids, but the inside of your car is a familiar place where you can at least mitigate the risk of the children contracting pneumonia or being kidnapped.
The one loo on a chunnel train somehow predates medieval despite having been built in the 1980s.
For these reasons, my considered advice is for you to drive, take the chunnel, then drive on to the Alps if you have kids.
However, there are some alternatives that can be considered.
- Walk / hitch hike: Great adventure, higher likelihood to get an axe in your head, could be difficult to get back in time for the start of the new school term.
- Google car: Awesome. Can’t wait. Until my car runs over a Frenchman and I get sued by the EU / attacked by Gallic peasants with pitch-forks who don’t like technology / modern things.
- Private jet / helicopter: Perfect, but you will have to act like a dick in every other aspect of your life in order for this to become a reality.
- Teleportation: Works perfectly, until someone gets the settings wrong and you arrive at your destination with your wife’s head and your son’s penis is attached to your elbow.