As any parent can attest, holidays with children are an oxymoron. There's the packing, the flight and often more travel at the other end before you arrive, tired and worn out at the place where you relinquish your life savings for a week or so of rare, work-free downtime.
So where can frazzled parents go on holiday where they'll get a break, too? I have but one answer: Fiji.
Here are 10 reasons why Fiji's the ultimate destination for your next family holiday.
Fijians love kids
Fijians hold family dear, and absolutely adore children. And the feeling's mutual. Children are naturally drawn to Fijians with their warm nature, big friendly grins and ready laugh.
World-class family friendly resorts
Many of Fiji's resorts, ranging from relaxed barefoot properties through to luxe five star digs, offer kid's clubs and other facilities, which are often complimentary or included in the tariff. Activities range from coral reef exploration, Fijian arts, crafts and culture, necklace making, t-shirt printing, basket and coconut leaf weaving, visits to local villages and farmers market, a myriad of water based activities, coconut bowling, crab hunting and story telling. It's not uncommon for tears to be shed at the end of the week as nannies say goodbye to their charges.
Relaxed old school fun
Fiji's islands are a dream escape, a place where you can snooze in a hammock under coconut trees or snorkel to your heart's content. Before you know it, you'll have slowed down a notch or two, have started hollering "Bula" back at friendly passers-by and are moving on "Fiji time". Kids can collect hermit crabs, make friends with other children in kids club, build sandcastles and enjoy old school holiday fun where days seemingly stretch forever.
Pristine islands and beaches
Fiji's islands are made up of a thousand miles of unspoiled white sand beaches, coral gardens and azure lagoons. In total, there are more than 330 islands, many uninhabited. Think soothing guitar melodies, romantic dinners by lantern light, incredible snorkelling and diving, and swimming at safe, kid friendly beaches.
The Mamanuca Islands west of Nadi boast a string of tropical resorts, local villages and deserted islands. The first to be developed for tourism, the islands are special for many Australian travellers who return year after year. If you're not staying on the outer islands, be sure to book an island-hopping cruise where you can swim and snorkel in tropical fish-filled waters, visit an island village and experience a different side to Fiji. You can visit the uninhabited Modriki Island where the Tom Hanks blockbuster Castaway was filmed on a South Sea Cruises' day trip aboard the classic schooner Seaspray to see various locations where the movie was filmed. The 83-foot schooner anchors off Modriki so passengers can go ashore to explore and snorkel.
In Fiji, adventurous kids can run barefoot; ride billi billi rafts down a river and explore caves used by cannibals. See the remains of a fortified village at the Tavuni Hill Fort at Sigatoka. Sitting atop a 100m ridge, it features remnants of ancient house foundations, a sacrificial stone and even human remains. Cross the road to the Kula Eco Park to see Fijian iguanas, native birds and turtles, or go sand boarding at the Sigatoka Sand Dunes. Alternatively, sign up for the half-day Sigatoka River Safari and travel aboard a custom-built safari jet to visit authentic Fijian villages, take part in a kava ceremony and feast on a traditional Fijian lunch.
A dose of culture
One of the best things to do as a family is visit a traditional village. Most hotels and resorts offer this experience. Many of the staff from your hotel or resort will actually come from one of these villages. See how the local people live, where Fijian children go to school and learn about local traditions and history. You can usually buy handmade jewellery, wood carvings and other souvenirs too. See the tour desk at your hotel.
Reconnect with each other
With the kids in good hands, be seduced by pool or beachside dining, sand between your toes, or head to one of Fiji's many fantastic spas where you can be massaged in bures as the waves lap the shore. If you're travelling with babies and toddlers help is at hand with excellent nanny's and babysitters who can play with your child, even rocking them to sleep in hammocks slung between coconut trees.
Play Robinson Crusoe
Play Robinson Crusoe on your private island. Many resorts will pack you off with a substantial picnic, snorkeling and kayak gear and deliver you to your own private atoll. Take a siesta in a hammock or snorkel the shallow reefs. The kids will love having the island, and you, all to themselves.
Explore the underwater world
Many resorts throughout Fiji offer Padi Dive Courses and experiences for kids 10 years and over, while those aged eight years and over can learn fun bubble making in the pool. Otherwise grab a snorkel and head out for your own aquatic adventure.
Sheriden Rhodes is a travel writer and photographer who travels the globe with her 'frequent small flyer', Ella. You can follow their adventures and pick up family travel tips on the Frequent Small Flyer Facebook page.
Brought to you by Tourism Fiji