Why hideous big 'family' resorts make sense

My friend Mike splutters, almost spilling his tea. "You're joking, right?"

"No," I reply, a bit surprised. "People come from all over the world to see Loch Ness. Makes sense that you, a proper Scot, would have taken your kids up there to see it."

Mike smiles. "So let me get this straight. What you're asking is, 'Have I got my three infant children dressed and prepared for travel, then stuffed them into a car and driven them 3½ hours to look at a featureless body of water that most definitely does not contain a monster, and then attempted to feed them and clean them and pack them back in a car and drive them another 3½ hours to get them home?' That's what you're asking, right?"

I have to laugh. "So, is that a no?"

"That's a no," he says. "No. Chance."

Mike's got three kids under five and a puppy under 12 weeks. I don't know if "handful" really does his situation justice.

His house is mental. Toddlers throw themselves at you from the settee clutching books that need reading and DVDs that need watching, and pots from the kitchen that need banging on something. The puppy bounces around in confused delight, pawing at tiny humans as they scream past in search of something else to make noise with.

Mike and his wife are somehow unfazed by it all, moving deftly through the carnage, picking things up and wiping things down.

Mike's got a point, of course. Why would he go through the pain of getting this infant household into a car and up the road from Edinburgh to Inverness to look at a lake when they'll be just as happy sticking their heads in cardboard boxes or eating cheese? It's not worth the hassle.

And that, as far as I can tell, is the big question you have to ask yourself before you go travelling with children: is it worth the hassle?

Mike has always been an avid traveller. South America is the only continent he hasn't knocked off. He's lived in a few different countries. Slept on a lot of different couches.

Now, however, you ask him about his travel plans and he's all cagey. "Maybe a trip over to Europe," he mumbles, then says something about a caravan park. He perks up for a second. "Or Disneyland! It might not sound cool to you, but the kids would love Disneyland."

It's all about the kids. Kids, without doubt, change your travelling life, just as they change the rest of your life. Anyone who says they don't is probably not doing it right (the travelling or the child-rearing - take your pick).

Add children to the mix and suddenly the simplest task becomes a nightmare. I've spent plenty of time in airports and I've watched hundreds of parents struggling through security lines and check-in queues with their strollers and toys and mobiles and blankets and I've done a little mental tipping of my cap to them all, because it looks hard.

They can't just swan off to the bar and neck a few expensive beers while they wait for the flight. There are babies that need changing, or feeding, or burping, or whatever else it is people do with their young ones.

I don't have kids, obviously, but my friends certainly do. (I know this because Facebook tells me so. And look how cute they are! And one of them just ate something weird! And one said something funny! Sigh. Unfriend.)

So I'm now witnessing those friends not only coming to grips with home life as parents, but with travelling life as well. And certain things suddenly make sense to me now.

Hideous, big "family" resorts suddenly make sense. There's no cultural element to them and no sense of adventure, which has always put me off (disregarding, for a moment, the fact they're also filled with kids), but during the past few weeks I've begun to understand their attraction. Everything's made so easy. People understand.

Hotels that spruik kids' clubs suddenly make sense. You go away somewhere nice and someone else will take these crazed infants off your hands, even just for an hour or so, while you have a small sliver of proper holiday. And the best thing is the kids actually enjoy this.

Theme parks make sense. Hideous, big family resorts that spruik kids' clubs and adjoin theme parks make complete sense.

This isn't to say there aren't new parents out there heading off the beaten track the same way they always did - it's just to say I completely understand the ones who don't. Even those who used to love that sort of thing.

Because while the kids are young, as Mike long ago figured out, it's probably not worth the hassle.