This time last week, the kids and I embarked on our first big family holiday as a single parent family: Fiji.
Oh sure, we've travelled and flown by ourselves before. We've been on holidays and getaways too.
But this was the first time we'd done the full-on package deal involving an overseas flight that was typically aimed at families, honeymooners and groups.
I chose Fiji because:
It was close enough to Australia - about 3/1/2 hours flying time - to not be a drain on the kids and I either physically or financially.
Despite the short flying time, I knew we'd be immediately immersed in a different culture and way of life, which to me is one of the joys of travelling. I wanted my children to experience that too.
One of my BFFs was going at the same time, and I impulsively bought an internet deal so we'd be able to hang out together occasionally. Turned out we were even on the same flights, even though we booked separately!
It was affordable, even for me! Kids stay, play and eat free deals are popular, and all-inclusive deals mean there are no surprises at check-out time. Prices for souvinirs, food, drink and experiences are generally cheap compared to Australia.
I'd never been. Having spent a lot of time in Far North Queensland and Asia in my younger days, I guess I figured Fiji could wait. Silly me.
I knew from those who had gone before me that kids are treated well in Fiji. As a single Mum, I wanted to go somewhere where I'd get a bit of a break but the kids would have fun at the same time. Fiji fitted the bill perfectly.
I'm still taking it all in, so for now here are a few of my favourite memories of our holiday:
- Being greeted with a huge genuine Bula!, a firm handshake, and the words, 'Welcome home', when we arrived at the Shangri La's Fijian Resort and Spa.
At the Shangri La, guests are treated like family and therefore welcomed home like family.
In my past life as a travel journalist and world-traveller-sans-children I have stayed at more exclusive and expensive establishments. (Don't get me wrong ... the Fijian is pretty fantastic, and you can't beat the location). But never have I been made to feel more special and important than I did here. The kids rapidly grew accustomed to being treated like VIPS, and were practically in tears when the time came to leave.
- The Fijian's dedicated Children's Lounge. Just for kids when adults are checking in, out, waiting for tour pick-ups or any manner of tiresome holiday details that kids find tiresome. Chase and Harmonie were even served their welcome fruit punch here, and our porter Bill kept them company, checking out the latest iPad apps, while I finished the paperwork. (PS, Check out Bill's uniform, isn't it cool? He remembered the kids' names from that day forward and made a fuss of them every time he saw them too.)
Bula! The kids totally get into the spirit of our holiday. Harmonie is holding a box of her temporary pets, hermit crabs she has collected from the beach. (Yes, even on holiday we collect temporary pets.) That's a favourite one she is showing off to the camera. Bitey. They all had names. She also slept with a favourite coconut, and was really upset that she couldn't bring them all back into Australia.
This sign immediately caught Mr 10's eye.
He wanted to take them up on their offer for a free scuba dive lesson in the pool, but he missed the cut by 1 1/2 years. Well, that's a good excuse to come back I guess!
No Mummas allowed at the Little Chief's Club (AKA Kid's Club.) Chase looks like he's plotting all kinds of mischief ...
Fish-feeding anyone? Or fishing? Nature vs Nurture? (The waters and reef surrounding Yanuca Island is a marine park so you can't fish here. However, staff will take keen fishermen/women to good local spots by boat).
The activities weren't just fun, they were educational. Here, Harmonie learns how to tie dye her own t-shirt!
These are just a few tastes of our trip to Fiji. I can't begin to say how lovely it is and how much we long to be back on Fiji Time.
I asked the kids what they liked most about Fiji and Chase said:
'Everything. Just the whole way of life. The way they live their lives, how they don't have to lock their doors and windows or even have doors, how they look after each other and take care of children. That in the villages, everyone looks after each other. The food, the culture, the nature. I love it all."
Harmonie: "The beach, the rivers, and the hermit crabs."
For me, it was the beauty of nature and the friendly people.
Readers, have you ever been to Fiji? Would you like to go?