When you’re planning a family holiday overseas – especially when you haven’t been on one for a very long time and you know you won’t be doing it again for at least another two years – it’s imperative you choose the most perfect location to suit you, your other half and the kids.
With the kids tagging along, there’s a lot more to consider than just what landmarks to see, what beaches are the best and whether or not they serve Pina Colada’s straight to your hotel room. You also need to have a think about what kind of holiday you want it to be; do you want it to be relaxing (well as relaxing as you can get with kids!), do you want a cultural holiday, do you want to go sight seeing, or do you want it to be educational, adventurous, all of the above?
For us, the past year had been exhausting for the whole family, with renovating the house, Hubby busy at work, school and kinder pick ups and a high maintenance one-year-old who spent the first six months of his life crying for reasons we still aren’t sure about. Therefore, we knew we wanted nothing more than to RELAX!! Heck, the only activity I had on my list was to read a whole book, something I rarely get to do at home thanks to the endless list of chores! We wanted a holiday where we didn’t have to cook, clean or even get out of bed if we didn’t have to.
With a seven-year-old, a four-year-old and a one-year-old, we knew we were going to have to spend a little more to ensure the experience was just right. After-all, convenience, at this stage of our lives, was more important than saving a few hundred dollars (ok so we probably spent around $1000 more than we had to, purely to make things easier but we will get to that later!).
This is why we chose FIJI! #notsponsored #justpurelove
We had been to Fiji for our honeymoon in 2009 and knew we loved it and the kids would too. Obviously, we also knew this trip was not going to be as relaxing as the last time we visited seeming we had three kids with us but that’s #parentlife for ‘ya’!
For this blog, I have decided to leave out the part where we all came down with acute gastro (four our out of the five of us – both ends!!) on the second day of the trip, because; 1. It was absolutely horrendous and I’d rather forget the “shit” spewnami, and 2. It wasn’t Fiji’s fault our four-year-old picked up a bug from kinder before we left! #kidsandtheirgerms!
BULA FIJI! Here’s why we love Fiji for a family holiday:
It was the end of Winter in Melbourne so it had been months since we had breathed any fresh warm air or felt the sunshine on our faces – we longed for some warm, humid weather, instead of the stale dusty ducted heating air. Fiji’s beautiful weather is pretty constant for most of the year with temperatures sitting between 22 and 30. It’s usually dry right up until September/October too but from November to April the tropical storms start to roll in.
While we were there (September 5, 2018, to September 13, 2018) there was one rainy day and one overcast day but for every other day the temperature was warm but not too hot and hovered around 27, 28, 29 with gorgeous blue skies and sunshine. The night’s provided a beautiful light breeze too.
One of the main we reasons we chose Fiji instead of a holiday in the north of Australia for example was the all-inclusive packages available. These are the deals you see in the paper, online and on TV, where you can pre-purchase your flights, transfers, accomodation, food, drinks, activities, massages, kids club etc, all in one package. This means you never have to get out your wallet once when you arrive at your hotel!
While it’s probably not the cheapest option, it is certainly the easiest and most efficient for those of us who are time poor and don’t want to book it all ourselves! You can contact the travel companies individually for quotes, we booked with Flight Centre who did the research for us based on our needs and wants. They then booked with infinity holidays.com.au and pacificdestinations.com.fj.
Our package included, flights, accommodation, kids club, breakfast and dinner. We didn’t bother getting drinks included (alcoholic and non alcoholic) as we knew we probably wouldn’t drink too much with the kids around. We also believe there isn’t any point getting lunch included in the package as the breakfast and dinner are buffet, all you can eat!! Kids eat free.
Our package, including return flights from Melbourne, cost us almost $8000 for eight nights. A little more than you need to spend but we had three kids with us.
TIP: Take your own bottled water to dinner because when you order water for your table they will bring you more bottled water which is quite expensive. The hotel supplies bottled water to your room everyday as a part of your stay so we just grabbed that and took to dinner with us. I might add its recommended to drink bottled water in Fiji but apparently the tap water isn’t as bad as somewhere like Bali for example.
Just four hours and fifteen minutes there and five-and-a-half hours back (head wind makes it longer on the way back) the quick flight was a big tick for us. We knew the two older kids would be fine (thank you LOL dolls, iPads and lollies!) but, being it was his first flight and he barely likes to sit still in the car seat and pram, we had no idea how the one-year-old was going to travel stuck in a confined space for hours on end. Turns out he ended up sleeping two hours and was an absolute angel, go figure!!
When I think about the Fijian’s I get tears in my eyes. They are THE happiest, warmest, most loving people IN THE WORLD (well, I’ve not been around the world but I have travelled to parts of Asia and have been to Europe twice so that kind of counts doesn’t it?). They welcome you with giant smiles, and greet you every single time they walk past with those same smiles and a big “BULA!!”.
They also LOVE kids and are known to just come up and take your children away for a walk and a cuddle – I say go for it! We met some lovely people on our trip who treated our children as though they were their own – Jacob particularly took a liking to a jolly man named Alfred while Penny was smitten with a man named Peni too! Although he had “Ben” written on his name tag so he didn’t confuse the Westerners! Stuff that, I told him, you be proud of your birth name Peni, don’t change it for us!
Music is a big part of the Fijian culture too and almost every day you will enjoy a performance with Fijian dancers, singers and drums. We were farewelled on our last night by the waiters and waitresses who sung us a beautiful Fijian farewell song. I was overwhelmed with emotion as five people stood in front of us and sung this special song just for us.
During our transfer on the way back to the airport we had a lovely Fijian driver who chatted to us about his family, two daughters, same ages as ours. He thanked us for choosing Fiji as our holiday destination and told us that our visit made a huge impact financially to the Fijian people – we provided them with jobs so that they could feed their family.
He said without tourists (mainly Australians and New Zealanders) things could get pretty dire. He also told us that the recent earthquakes (which happened while we were there but knew nothing about!) had scared off many tourists (19,000 in fact!) who cancelled their trip; a detrimental impact on the Fijian economy. As I said, we were not impacted AT ALL, and we were there when the earthquake hit further abroad.
In Nadi, Fiji, there’s generally three places you can visit or stay, a remote island (heaven, but not very practical when you have kids), Nadi, the main town (apparently ok to visit during the day but not so safe at night or to stay) and the resorts. We wanted to stay in Denarau Island because we knew it was safe, had everything we needed and was only a 20 minute drive from the airport. Denarau Island is a large manmade island just off the village of Nadi made only for a number of resorts. Most of the resorts are generally the same, four star accomodation, buffet and restaurant options at each, access to the beach, shops, a big pool etc etc.
We found, having three kids, most resort options only allowed for us to either stay and sleep in the one room or get two adjoining rooms. But Flight Centre helped us find “family” style rooms in the Sofitel which had a little nook bedroom for the kids with bunk beds and a play station, no door but a curtain and a wall separating it from the main room. I mentioned earlier we spent around $1000 more than we needed to and this is why. We HAD to have this room, it was perfect for our family. Jacob slept in a cot next to our double bed and the girls had their own little space. It was perfect.
It also had a little decked area outside and because we were on the ground floor we had a backyard of lush green, soft grass for the kids to play on too! The bar wasn’t too far from our room either – bonus!
The pool at the Sofitel is spectacular, complete with a little water slide for the kids (I swear one day they went down the slide 50 times each!), day beds and sun loungers with shade, toddler pools, deep pools and poolside service! Yep, you can literally laze by the pool all day and raise a green flag when you want something to eat or drink, bliss!
The rooms are spotless and cleaned daily and the grounds of the resorts are immaculately groomed too. You really do feel like you’re a celebrity staying in paradise!
There’s also water sports, massages, boat hire, extreme adventures like parasailing, hang gliding etc, available to book via the resort. Because we were all sick most days with gastro (again, thank you Penny for bringing that with you from cold infested Melbourne!) we didn’t do as many activities as we would have liked (I was keen for a massage and Hubby wanted to go on a speed boat) but we did hire a canoe for a couple of hours one day which was fun.
This is just like a little daycare room with a playground and child care workers where you can pop your kids in for two hours at a time between 8am and 9pm every single day if you want! They put movies on, play games, sing, go for walks, do arts and crafts and other activities. One night the girls went crab hunting down at the beach and then came back for crab racing! Another day they made bookmarks and learnt a Fijian dance. There was also an outdoor cinema at the resort which provided many nights of entertainment for the kids and for us! The kids club is for kids aged between 3 and 12.
You can also hire a babysitter at any time to either take the kids swimming, take them to the shops, for a walk, watch movies, or in our case to sit at the hotel room while the baby sleeps! It’s about $25 for two hours, two kids.
As well as kids club there are also activities held daily around the resort such coconut throwing, ice-cream eating competitions, kite making, basket weaving and so much more! There was even an excursion to the local school where proceeds from the ticket purchase went to the school.
Every night the kids can participate in the torch lighting ceremony too where a Fijian warrior dresses them up in traditional Fijian clothing and takes them around the resort to light all the torches! Too cute!!
Last but not least, when you choose a destination to holiday you have to think about the food and drink situation. The all inclusive packages include food from just the main restaurant, which is buffet, all-you-can-eat. And my gawd, it’s a culinary treat for your eyes and your tummy! Most nights and mornings it’s the same cuisines (stations), sometimes the mains change a little. So, don’t bother trying everything in one night, there’s PLENTY of food and plenty of time to try everything.
The kids especially loved choosing their own ingredients for the pasta and mini souvlaki’s but I was a big fan of the Fijian mains. We snuck a few bread rolls and some cakes for our lunches sometimes too – yes I felt guilty but I later found out that everyone does it and means there’s less wastage, that’s a good enough reason to nick the food if ever I heard one! But shhhhh maybe don’t tell anyone none-the-less in case this is frowned upon!
There’s other restaurants you can eat at too, either in your own resort, the nearby resort, Nadi or the Marina which is just a short five to ten minute Bula Bus ride away. We often went down to the Marina because the food (take away, cafes, bars and a few restaurants) is much cheaper than the resort eateries.
A good option for food, snacks and lunch is to head down to Nadi, shortly after you arrive, and do some grocery shopping. Our room didn’t have a kitchenette so we just bought some noodles, bread, chips and lots of fruit. We did have a bar fridge so we also bought cheese and ham. Our room also didn’t have many utensils or plates, so we bought some paper plates and some cutlery. Try not to buy food from the hotel shop unless you really have to! It’s not cheap!
When in Fiji you’ve just got to have a poolside cocktail, or three, or ten, as they are DELISH! For me, there was nothing more relaxing than the days when I was relaxing on the sun lounge by the pool, watching the girls swim. It really was lovely. The Pina Colada was divine! Even Penny thought so when she had a sneaky sip without me knowing! Not my finest mum hour that’s for sure!
The drinks aren’t cheap either, so we bought a large bottle of Vodka at the airport duty free shop and then bought soda and limes from Nadi to have drinks in our room. Again, another way to save a little $$.
Overall, and ignoring the fact that we were violently ill with gastro (Oh btw there was a doctor and a little medical clinic at Denarau, thank goodness!), we really loved Fiji as a family holiday. It is VERY family orientated, it had everything we needed, it’s comfortable, clean, blissful, the kids were in heaven and it is a place to relax, rejuvenate and unwind.
We will definitely go back soon… and by soon I mean in a five years time when the kids are old enough to wash their hands properly and not spread feral gastro germs from day care and kinder…
Vinaka Fiji, we’ll be back!