When children first encounter a hotel buffet, writes Rob Cox, the noise and mess could match seagulls at a picnic fare.
The most underrated travel hot spot for children would have to be the breakfast buffet. The location of your holiday is irrelevant. In fact, your holiday can be in Auckland for all they care, as long as there is a buffet breakfast they can wake up to and spend the next two hours devouring.
For my family, this obsession began in Rotorua several years ago. After another terrible sleep we took the kids down to the hotel's buffet breakfast, and it was like watching them unwrap presents on Christmas morning.
We normally struggle to get our twin boys to eat breakfast, but not that day. They wanted the works. Cooked breakfast, toast with assorted spreads, croissants, juices, smoothies, even boring old cereal became a must-have on the top-10 list of things to consume before they'd start feeling sick.
You have to explain the basics to them first, such as that you don't need to completely load your plate and spill its entire contents on the way back to the table. Just take what you like and, if you need more, go back when you need to. My greediest son pointed out that there really was no need to leave the hotel that day, or the next, for that matter.
Eventually, I left the boys to it and went up to sort out my own breakfast. When I got back to the table, there was a group of tourists lining up to have their photo taken with my boys, like they had never seen twins before. I thought that was a bit weird. The boys thought it was hilarious and not one bit dodgy.
Another holiday, another buffet: My four-year-old daughter was so excited by the stage in the eating hall we were in that she got up and did an appalling version of the hit song from Frozen. That was one of the quickest breakfasts I ever had.
I stayed in a hotel in Jakarta where the highlight was definitely the buffet breakfast. The variety of food was so incredible, I had to take photos for my kids to document the experience for them. Later that day I found myself planning my breakfast for the following morning.
When I woke and dashed down to start my marathon buffet, a guest speaker from the conference asked me to join him at his table and, though I appreciated the company, I really wanted to focus all my attention on the buffet. I didn't have time for idle chit-chat.
The most memorable buffet would have to be here in New Zealand, at the Chateau, when my wife and I desperately wanted to enjoy breakfast by ourselves, just this once.
I sent the kids down to the in-house theatre movie and gave them some coins to use on those ridiculous claw-arm arcade games that have children believing they actually stand a chance of winning something. That should keep them busy for a while, we figured.
Just as we sat down, and commented on how wonderful it was to spend breakfast in peace and quite, in roared the children screaming, "WE WON! WE WON!" with Flynn waving his soft toy proudly for all eyes to see.
Then they all went and grabbed another round of breakfast treats and came back and asked us why on earth we had chosen to sit at a table for two.
Probably the most relaxing buffet we had was when we were the only people in the entire resort, there for breakfast, bloody brilliant, no pressure, no embarrassing moments to apologise for, nothing but buffet.
Our greatest conundrum will be in a fortnight, when we head off for a road trip to Taranaki.
This will be a no-breakfast-buffet holiday. Should we simply cancel the entire thing? Or risk taking our children into a public cafe and hope for the best?
My wife, Kate, was even thinking maybe we should provide our children with breakfast ... what kind of a holiday is that?