The Sydney Royal Easter Show is one of Australia's largest annual events, with up to one million people passing through its gates every year. If you're planning to attend the event with a litter of rug rats in tow, here are some tips I learned during my own Show adventure. With a little luck, they should help you to get through the day without boring the kids or going broke.
Pack a lunch
Bit of a no-brainer really. If you're looking to save some cash, take a few sandwiches and bottled drinks in a backpack. This will significantly reduce the cost of your outing; especially if you're staying for lunch and dinner. To appease the kids, you can always grab a punnet of chips to supplement their homemade sammies: it'll still be overpriced, but at least it won't cost you an arm and a leg.
Attach your mobile number to small children
The Easter Show is an extremely large and crowded place. It only takes a few seconds to completely lose sight of children even if you're being diligent. (Case in point: my seven-year old daughter accidentally walked off in the wrong direction after disposing of rubbish just a few feet away from us - if I hadn't been carefully watching her she would have disappeared.) For added peace of mind, attach an identity bracelet to your tot that includes your contact number. This will make it much easier for officials to reunite you with your missing sprog.
Bypass the boring stuff
There's only so much you can fit into a single day at the show: so it pays to schedule your time wisely. If you don't have a special fondness for tanned leather or vegetables, do you really need to see an exhibition of the stuff? Remember -- the more bored your kids become, the more likely they'll be to complain and act up. Only drag them to stuff you really care about.
Take plenty of cash
ATMs are in relatively short supply at the show, which means the lines are always huge. Work out your estimated budget and bring it with you -- along with an extra $50 as a bare minimum. You might also want to split the notes between you and your partner or keep some in a separate bag to insure against theft.
Don't get sucked into buying ride tickets in bulk
Like most large-scale carnivals, the Sydney Easter Show uses a ticket system for its rides instead of cash. These need to purchased from booths which offer special deals when you buy in bulk. For instance, purchasing 20 tickets at once will set you back $22, whereas a batch of 50 costs $50; a saving of ten cents per ticket.
Naturally, the system is geared towards making you spend as much as possible, but I found you're better off ignoring the so-called incentives and sticking to a conservative number. This forces you to choose your rides wisely and frees up extra time for other show pursuits. In any event, you're not actually losing that much money if you decide to purchase more tickets later on - we're only talking about a few extra dollars here.
Make your way to seated events at least one hour prior
When it comes to seated events and exhibitions, the Easter Show is always over capacity. If you don't arrive at least one hour before an event starts, you'll probably be forced to stand at the back where you can't see anything. If you want your kid to be chosen as an audience participant, get there even earlier and claim a plum seat near the main row's exit.
Spend ages at the Nursery Farm
The nursery farm section is what heaven must be like for children: it's filled with free-roaming cute baby animals that can be patted and fed at leisure. Crucially, entry is free and there's no time limit on how long you can spend in there. (Just remember to wash your kids' hands after leaving!)
Stay after dusk
There's something magical about the show once the stars come out: the farmyard atmosphere shifts into a full-tilt carnival. If you're planning to go on some rides, this is the time to do it. The abundance of dazzling lights definitely add a layer of excitement to the air that your kids will love.
Buy show bags at closing time
Only an unusually cruel parent would take their kids to the Easter Show and refuse to buy a show bag - it's the equivalent of going to McDonald's and requesting no toy in their Happy Meal. On the other hand, they're invariably filled with worthless tat that will break within minutes and cost up to $30 per bag. To make matters worse, the main showbag pavilion is a nightmarish maze of human congestion that can take over an hour to navigate.
To save time and money, I recommend bypassing the showbag pavilion entirely. Instead, wait until closing time and head to one of the smaller show bag stalls near the main exits. While the overall selection is smaller, these stalls have all the best-selling bags. As an added bonus, you won't have to carry them around all day and can keep your kids in line with some good ol' fashioned blackmail. (e.g. - "If you two don't stop fighting, you won't get any show bags!")