Our 2013 family holiday to Destination Relaxing

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My husband and I have always made it our thing to go on one holiday a year. And as the last 5 years have involved a fair whack of baby making and moving houses, that one holiday is a God Send. Actually, this time it’s been a space of two years because in that time we moved states twice and I gave birth in the off season (holiday time) so it just wasn’t going to happen. So this year was MUCH ANTICIPATED.

Choosing the destination is always exciting. Our last trip was Los Angeles and that was just amazeballs. We only had one child then and we galavanted around town in our hire car like it was nobody’s business. We drove through the Hollywood Hills like we owned a place there (although we obviously didn’t in our oldish Toyota Camry) and we latte’d in Beverly Hills like Real Housewives (and Husbands) only the missing Louis Vuitton bag probably gave us away to be imposters.

And Disneyland! All my daughter Sienna’s fairy dreams of Tinkerbell came alive and she just couldn’t get enough (and just quietly, neither could we! Another Tea Cup ride, please?)

So again, this forthcoming, overdue getaway with now two girls just HAD to be good. It had a lot to live up to.

So where to? We started brainstorming. How did we feel? Exhausted! Yes, exhausted! Baby making and growing is hard and taxing work. I lost many a brain cell in the wee hours of the night. And toilet training, well, that’s another story. I am surprised I can still even function after that experience. The amount of wee I wiped off the floor…

And so it was settled, it was off to Destination Relaxing.

Hawaii? Sounded gorgeous but we didn’t want to take a double pram and could Sienna put up with the walking?

Maldives? We needed a few extra 00’s on the end of our holiday budget for that one.

Fiji? Great for kids, affordable, tropical, cocktail friendly, everything you need in ONE resort? Signed and sealed, get us there!

And not long after we booked Fiji, we thought just HOW NICE it would be if we arranged for our little one Vida’s Christening to be in Cairns (where hubby grew up), for all the family to be able to go and have a nice break from the cold weather. And so that was booked as well and now we had two back to back tropical holidays planned for what was going to be a total of 16 days of ULTIMATE RELAXATION.

The lead up to the holiday(s) was eventful. We moved from Adelaide to Newcastle in the transfer window and if that wasn’t enough to send me to Fiji with a big fat smile then nothing was. And after a busy few months in our new city, the day finally came where we packed the car with our luggage and drove the 2+ hour drive to Sydney for a next day flight to sunny Fiji!

The first plane ride

It started off bad from the minute we got on the plane.

Vida, my darling Vida, on a failed sleeping transfer from pram to arms, had been woken from a 10 minute nap she had in the airport and was now overtired after her 5am start. When I tell you she was crying for 4 hours straight I mean it. I am pretty sure my husband and I came close to a nervous breakdown each on that flight, with him and I taking turns to settle her so that the evil stares from other Holiday Makers would stop.

Which leads me to ask all you evil starers out there- where is your empathy? Do you realise how inconsiderate you are being when you can clearly see parents are under the pump as it is trying to settle their child and there is absolutely no point of exit for us to relieve your precious ears of the crying, which we would otherwise do?

But the crying finally did stop and we arrived in Nadi to the tropical warmth of the air and the sounds of the Fijian musicians greeting us on our arrival.

The one thing you notice instantly is just how friendly the Fijian people are. You rarely walk by someone without being greeted with a “Bula!” (meaning hello) and as if its contagious, you start to do it yourself, saying “Bula” to everyone you see, whether they are Fijian or not. 

Our resorts- Shangri La & Outrigger by the Lagoon

The one thing we found difficult about finding a resort in Fiji is there are just so many to choose from. We were torn between Denerau Island, where the beach isn’t pretty but the resorts are fabulous and the Coral Coast where the beaches are better but it can be quite a drive from the airport for the kiddies. Gosh, we booked and changed our minds 4 times and even after the fact we still don’t know if we made the right decision.

So after all the hoo-ha and 90 min coach ride we arrived at Shangri-La on the Coral Coast, where we booked a family suite in the Lagoon Wing. I deliberately booked this wing as it was in the centre of the resort and minutes walk from the main pool, kids area and restaurants. For anyone that knows this resort, it’s massive so it could take half an hour to walk from one end to the other- with a 3 year old in tow anyway- so being in this wing was IMPERITIVE.

“Unfortunately the lagoon wing is closed for maintenance so we have UPGRADED you to an OCEAN VIEW FAMILY SUITE. Your porter will walk you there”

My husband and I raised our eyebrows excitedly. “Ooooh! Ocean View! Upgrade! Lets get there and strip! (down to our cossies, that’s all!)”

And with the porter we walked. And walked. And walked. Until my 3 year old asked to sit on her father’s shoulders. And then we walked some more. This ‘upgrade’ turned into the Marathon from Hell.

We arrived at our Upgraded Ocean View, squishy ROOM, located on the other end of Fiji and immediately knew this place was not for us.

So after a lot of too-ing and fro-ing with the lovely Duty Manager who told us that oblivion (but handily located close to the ADULTS ONLY pool where being DRUNK was mandatory) was all there was left at this resort, we made a quick phone call to our travel agent who transferred us to the Outrigger on the Lagoon Fiji. Pronto.

A half an hour taxi ride later, we arrived at the Outrigger on the Lagoon welcomed with a boisterous BULA on what looked like a gorgeous day in Heaven.

And it was. It was a gorgeous day, at a beautiful resort. After a smooth check in, we stripped down into our cossies and headed to the pool. Vida was due for a sleep, Sienna was due for a swim, Zenon (hubby) was due to accompany her and I was due for a cocktail.

I will forever remember that day. It was perfect. A long afternoon by the pool was followed by a beautiful dinner at a restaurant by the beach. Ahhh, Welcome to Fiji.

And the next day it rained. And the rain continued all week until the day we left, when the Heavens put on a glorious day, sending us on our merry little way back home. Yeah, thanks for that.

But the resort itself was fantastic. The people were just magnificent, so incredibly friendly that you wonder if they ever have a bad day at work. The cocktails and food were so reasonably priced for the quality, it was no wonder Aussies chose Fiji as their Beachside destination of choice as opposed to going troppo in Australia.

Speaking of Aussies, here’s the thing.

Fiji is just bombarded with us Aussie Holiday Makers, to the point where you feel like you are in Australia. I mean literally EVERY PERSON at this resort was Australian, all braided up, saying Bula like the locals. If I can say there is a drawback with going to Fiji, it is this. Since most people spend 90% of the time in the resorts of Fiji (most have numerous restaurants, café’s, shopping, markets so there is no real reason to leave, especially if you have little kids) really the only true experience you have of Fiji is the staff, the occasional fire dance and the Fijian buffets but other than that, you could be in any resort in a tropical part of Australia. But it’s certainly cheaper in Fiji, that’s for sure.

$10 cocktails, $35 per head all you can eat gourmet buffets, and possibly the BEST Australian Steak I have had in years were culinary highlights of our trip. My kids ate like champions which is no mean feat especially for fussy Miss Sienna and this could possibly be because they both swam like little tadpoles the whole time, rain or no rain.

Which leads me to the Relaxation Factor.

Unless your kids are old enough to do their own thing unmonitored or you are happy to put them in the kids club or in the trusty care of the Mei Mei’s (Fijian Nannies- whom of which are absolute darlings FYI) then Relaxation will be that elusive act that got lost in transit somewhere on that coach ride from the Airport to your Resort.

Age is a big factor when taking your kids to Fiji. Our very active 3.5 and 14 month olds didn’t fancy sitting down and joining us for a mocktail while we drank our cocktails at all, and so I found myself either walking up and down stairs or pacing around the baby pool with the little one while Zenon was following Sienna in her floaties everywhere. He was her bodyguard, stealing back the boogie board the bigger kids stole from her, teaching her new swimming techniques, going on treasure hunts and just generally, literally, not stopping for 8 solid hours but to eat and have a sip of his warm cocktail.

I instagrammed heaps of photos of cocktails and family shots showing us having an awesome, tropical adventure in Fiji. You could even say that some of my serene happy snaps would give off the impression we truly were at Destination Relaxing. And while it definitely was a great holiday, relaxing it was not, especially when the sun was nowhere to be found!

Personally, the highlight of my trip was definitely the surprise birthday flowers Zenon organised and having Happy Birthday sung to me by the Fijian Musicians at our table. I felt like I was in Fiji then, and it was a beautiful memory.

But would I go again while the kiddies are this small? Probably not. Fiji is meant to be a place to relax and unfortunately when there is water involved you can’t let your little kids just run around like free range chickens.

We definitely needed a holiday away to relax from our holiday.

Next destination: Cairns

After 9 days in warm but rainy Fiji, we landed in freezing Sydney tan-less and ready for some actual sun rays so we couldn’t have thought of a better place to go then Cairns, the ever-warm and gorgeous home of the Barrier Reef and neighbour of tropical holiday spots such as Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation.

This plane ride, I am happy to report, was excellent. With a sleep in between, Vida spent the whole trip showing off to the friendly Germans sitting in the seats next to us. She flicked her hair, smiled when she knew they were talking about her- she was on her best behaviour.

This trip was beginning well… perhaps this was going to be the Destination Relaxing we so craved. All the ingredients were there; we had family in Cairns to help us out with the kids if we so desired a night out, the kids will have their cousins to play with and all you have to do is walk the Cairns Esplanade once to see how tranquil and relaxing the city is…

It took exactly 34 minutes for Destination Relaxing to become Destination Breakage in my sisters beautiful house when Vida picked up a glass bird and tried to make it fly. From then on all Hell Broke Loose; my sister in law arrived with her 3 kids under 4 and another expensive decorative candle was promptly swept and vaccummed up so that all the little feet stomping all around the joint were safe from shattered glass.

From there on, Destination Relaxing became Destination Mania. My poor sister, who shares a house with her husband, had at least 18 family members at her house every night for 3 days, with 6 kids under 4. And while she has a big backyard, 3 massive great dane mastiffs live there so it was off limits for the kids.

But while screaming and crying definitely overtook the sounds of civilised dinner discussion, it was actually pretty nice to see everyone at once and catch up.

Until the Bug Hit like an Atomic Bomb.

It was Day 4, the day after the big chicken Souvla (Greek style chicken on a spit) and we had heard at lunchtime that my sister-in-laws whole family of 5 had been struck down with a ferocious gastro-like bug. While we were sorry for them, we were thankful it wasn’t us as Vida’s baptism was the next day.

We weren’t thankful for long- Vida was sick at 6pm, followed by Sienna at 9pm. Zenon got hit at 1am, and it was my turn at 3am. My sister Jo miraculously escaped it while her husband Angelo had it the worst.

And then the morning of the baptism we got phone calls from the whole family- the bug had laid its evil eggs everywhere- to the point where those that did not attend the ‘Souvla’ (which we now refer to as Ground Zero) yet had some kind of contact with someone that did, now had the Bug. We had never seen anything so fast and furious.

So Zenon and I made a decision to cancel it. Everyone looked and felt like Death and so a Baptism just wasn’t happening at this stage.

Until the Godfather and very close friend of ours rang and said, “Guys, lets just do it. Its half an hour, lets GET THE JOB DONE. Who do we need there? The bare essential people- lets get them there, and LETS DO THIS”

So a few phone calls to Zenon’s cousins in the Pharmaceutical industry later, some random anti-nausea medication and some photos of those that were half ok to attend looking pale, green and poorly now means that Vida is a child of God.  Needless to say, there was no celebration dinner afterwards. We all headed home to sleep.

I’m sad to say that Cairns turned out to be Destination Disaster, with all the family coming up to spend what was supposed to be a lovely week in Cairns together. At least we got 3 days of crazy family mania, but there were no Reef trips, no scenic drives.

So there are lessons to be learnt when planning holidays with kids, and I write this with a box full of Codral next to me as we all got struck down with the flu on our arrival back in Newcastle. No, this is not a joke.

- Don’t go somewhere remote or near water with tiny kiddies if you want to just relax. Unless of course you use the kids club or babysitting service, which is always a great option.

- Do not stay with family or somewhere where you heap your child-rearing ways on happy and for now, childless people. I often heard myself asking “do you mind turning the volume down” and “who does washing at 9.30pm?” repeatedly to my poor sister who was the most gracious host in the world considering we all infested her house with a mass amount of germs. We know to stay in a hotel next time, at least to be sick in our own space if need be.

- Don’t think you are ever going to Destination Relaxing unless your kids are a) Old enough to take care of themselves or b) left at home.

- Learn to make cocktails at home!

This piece was first seen on motherpedia.com.au

 

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