OPINION: As the southerly blizzard sets in again I cannot help but be mentally teleported back to my recent overseas holiday.
We have had a couple of practice runs as a family. We have gone to Timaru and even to Northland on holidays and, it would be fair to say, they have been less than satisfying, especially in the transit period.
Travelling with our kids has generally been a very stressful time.
This is what one of my favourite comedians, Frank Skinner, calls a First World problem.
Whilst people are living in poverty, disease and war-torn countries we wonder about things like what to have for dinner, whether to add another channel to our Sky subscriptions or where we might jet off to for the next holiday.
Admittedly it is remarkably more affordable to travel nowadays than it ever has been before.
Airline competition and a suite of options has kept the travel prices down, especially if you pack extra light and make some cheese and marmite sandwiches for the flight. If you have a tablet or smartphone then you can also download a movie or two beforehand and you are effectively travelling in the same style as those paying extra cash for the added comforts.
Those of us that are au fait with the internet sites can secure even better deals.
I trawled the travel sites looking at review after review of the different resorts and once my wife and I had identified a preferred location, I could then monitor the different web sale sites until the price dropped to an appropriate level.
It is no wonder travel agencies are struggling as this is a much more satisfying experience as it gears you up for the holiday as well. The mind-set starts a few weeks out as you select the country, the airline, the resort and the room preference. You can share the decision, including added video and pictures, with the whole family getting everyone excited in advance.
We decided on Fiji because of the kids' clubs, good weather, great prices and close proximity. And it was the perfect choice.
I have to say, though, we were terribly judgmental about certain things.
Firstly grumpy Australians. It was a bit like taking a step back in time, or a surreal jaunt to Benidorm.
One woman with five kids that we counted took to beating one of them by the pool. Smacking is apparently still legal in Australia, and maybe Fiji as well, but if I was one of her kids I would probably get out of the pool when I was told to or suffer the shame and humiliation of a public thrashing and the subsequent welts.
Another Australian woman was loudly relaying that the entire family had a gastro bug. Meanwhile all of the children were in the pool supposedly between bouts of spewing and diarrhoea despite the enormous sign stating that anyone with a communicable bug must not get in.
Meanwhile, an Australian man was talking about how the resort was all right but, "the food was sheet!" I swear he said "the food was sheet", about 20 times. We thought the food was perfect for kids. Pizza, sushi, lots of fruit, sausages and chips as well as a themed dinner every night.
We also judged the Japanese tourists as well, many of who don't appear to like the sun or the sea. I have to say they were seriously in the wrong place then. This is a knob of sun-drenched sand in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
There is only sand, sea and quite a few coconuts. I hope they liked to drink or they will have been pretty disappointed with their holiday choice.
We also encountered the remarkably annoying towel phenomenon that is supposed to equate to a universally recognised means of securing your reservation upon a poolside lounger.
We automatically assumed it was the Western Europeans who were attempting to secure the best seats simply by virtue of laying a towel they did not own upon a chair that many did not return to all day.
It was marvellous to watch a Kiwi couple walk in the pool enclosure throw the towels aside and colonise the recliners for themselves without a moment's hesitation.
There were several Kiwi families and English people who were there to make the most of what was on offer.
The days of dragging mums and dads up to wiggle in a grass skirt, drink kava or walk on hot coals appear to be over.
The entertainment was much less contrived and targeted at the kids having a memorable experience.
Since returning home son number one has been continually talking about the holiday and how much he misses Fiji.
The kids have filled their memory buckets with something that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
- The Press