I often remind my husband I have the best ideas. And I do. I am also a world-class booker of holidays. Seriously, if it was a competitive sport I would be a gold medalist (except for this one trip involving a roadside tub of oysters and a Gisborne holiday park). In fact, my only weak spot is I’m so good at booking holidays that I have a hard time not repeating them. And so it is that we have holidayed many, many times in Fiji with our children.
The year my father-in-law died, we wanted to cancel Christmas; it just felt too hard. Being festive felt wrong. We didn’t feel we wanted to celebrate with either of our respective families, so we looked around for a bach but seemingly nothing was available. We were exhausted.
But then a stroke of genius befell me: we could go to Fiji. I cautiously got some quotes and was pleasantly surprised. It really wasn’t too much more than renting a decent bach in peak season. And, no traffic delays, stressful supermarket shopping, cleaning or cooking. Also? Kids club.
So, instead of battling Farro at 8am on Christmas Eve, we casually Ubered to the airport, and by that afternoon my children were happily ensconced in the kids club, while my husband and I drank mojitos with a lovely family from Brisbane while we all congratulated ourselves on being so clever and so relaxed.
Santa visited our bure that night, bringing with him sunblock, books and a pack of cards. We were woken by local villagers singing Christmas carols on the glorious beach at dawn and as we all stood to watch, the big man himself flew past on a jet ski.
It wasn’t the first time we’d taken our incredibly privileged children to Fiji, but it was the first time we’d felt them old enough to travel to an island (Treasure) and the whole experience was just true bliss.
I stand by my claim that Fiji is truly the only relaxing holiday a parent of young children can have. A short flight, no time difference or jet lag, and most importantly a nation that genuinely adores and dotes upon young children.
I discovered this during our first family holiday, at the Radisson on Denarau with a 23-month-old and a 3-month-old. There is seemingly no tantrum that a smiling Fijian can’t cajole out of your child at the dinner table. No one flicking a judgemental side eye, and numerous hands wanting to cuddle a baby, no matter how foul they may seem to you at the time.
The purposefully built swimming pools (they gently slope, like a beach), self-contained rooms with laundry and kitchenette, and ever-exciting Bula Bus excursion to the well-stocked supermarket all make Denarau the ultimate holiday destination with pre-schoolers.
Embarrassingly, I holidayed with my children on Denarau on two occasions without my husband while he was away on business, while I was parenting through the lonely, snotty, dark days of winter solo. I enjoy my children more now as young adults who will hike, snorkel, fish, and paddleboard alongside me - but the best part of pre-schoolers is being able to holiday off-peak.
One of my strongest childhood memories is me, sobbing like my heart would break, as I said goodbye to my new BFF Elizabeth, who ran the kids club on Plantation Island, back in 1986.
My children have met several Elizabeths in their lives; most of them ball-toting, rash shirt-wearing young men who truly understand how to actively engage with boys. No passive babysitters scrolling their phones here!
I’ve often marvelled that there are no resorts in Aotearoa where you can safely offload your children and enjoy a mojito in peace. But after visiting many other tropical countries, I suspect the secret to Fiji’s success is that they genuinely love and adore all children. And let’s be honest, that’s not everyone. It’s certainly not me.
As the summer school holidays trickle to an exhausted and harried conclusion, my chaotic working mother existence stretched beyond usual capacity, I dream of that time in the hopefully near future where people will joyfully play with my children while others will make my bed, my dinner and fix me a mojito.
A time where I will not only pick up a book, I will also finish it. Until then, I am forever dreaming of Fiji.
This content was created in paid partnership with Tourism Fiji.