Running away together to Fiji
When it comes to family holidays I sometimes feel like comedian Louis CK, who says the only relaxation time he gets on holiday is the few moments after closing his wife's car door when he walks round to the driver's side.
It's not that I don't enjoy my three girls (one big, two little), it's just that life is stressful enough at home, where we have everything we need. Why would we go somewhere else?
When you add plane journeys, broken sleep, heat exhaustion and foreign insects, the thought of a week in Fiji sounds like hell, not paradise.
But look, if there's one thing being in a relationship has taught me, it's that I'm a monster. Normal people like holidays and my wife is a normal person. She's also a scary person, and so it was that I found myself on the internet, shopping for luxury family resorts in Fiji.
My reasoning was thus: I can't be the only dad who gets terrified by a week in the tropics. I know for a fact that there are a lot of other people in the world who are even more naturally anxious than I am - they're called Americans. And if they can do it so can I.
Jean-Michel Cousteau is the resort I chose. Perfect for Americans and me, it's set up to remove the horror of holidaying with kids, but keep all the good stuff that brings people to Fiji in the first place. Online reviews promised that while holidaying at JMC, you will miss your children. I love my children, but I see a lot of them. Would you judge me if I told you that a bit of missing sounded like fun?
The list of resort features you receive on arrival reads like fantasy. Every child under 5 gets a nanny from 8.30am until 9.30pm. Kids over 5 share, but they're unlikely to notice given that they spend their days at a sort of multi-pool rec centre, with beach trips, snorkelling expeditions and forest walks.
Children are fed separately, too - choose from the changing daily menu or just tell them what you want. Even babies get fresh savoury and sweet mush to order three times a day. Your nanny will sterilise bottles, apply sunscreen/repellent and carry your kids' stuff. They'll put your baby down and get her up while you drink cocktails.
While the kids are getting to know their new friends and learning to love life with a servant, mum and dad can do as much or as little as they like. One day we did snorkelling, paddleboarding, kayaking and shark spotting. Another day we lay in the sun and replaced the word "love" with "lunch" in pop songs.
It's romantic. We ate at a candlelit table on the end of a 50 metre pier. We spent a morning at a deserted private island sharing a picnic by the water. It really is a great place to remember what lunch is. Sorry, I mean love. That game is hard to stop playing.
You can do all this stuff with or without your kids, with or without their nannies. Having been to a few island resorts without children, the most striking thing for me about JMC is that the answer to just about any question you throw at them is "yes of course", not "sorry, rules are rules".
The food is very good - international quality but local ingredients. Beer is expensive but wine is reasonable, with a list to rival any bistro back home. Aside from alcohol, the four-figure nightly rate is all-inclusive, so if money is one of your stress triggers, you can work through that particular panic attack at home and relax when you get there.
Once you're on their property, the resort caters to every desire or whim you could possibly have, though you should know it's a bit of a trek to get there. Fiji is just three hours away, with no time difference (from Auckland that's like driving to Taupo), but you'll need a connecting flight from Nadi to the resort's island, Vanua Levu. You won't have much choice as to time or cost here, so include this stuff in your planning.
But once you're there, it's postcard stuff. Sorry, do young people know what a postcard is anymore? It's Instagram stuff, how about that? I found things to stress out about, sure, but nothing the resort could possibly control.
That's the problem of course. As Alain De Botton observed in his excellent The Art of Travel, you can leave life at home behind and journey to the most beautiful beach in the world, but no matter how far you fly, you still can't escape yourself.
Once you've made your way to Nadi airport in Fiji, the Pacific Sun domestic airline operates twice-daily flights to Savusavu on Vanua Levu.
Allow about $265 for a return adult fare. The resort offers vehicle transfers from Savusavu airport.
All inclusive accommodation for two adults starts at $1135 a night (including taxes) for a garden view bure, ranging up to $3175 a night for the luxury villa. Up to two children aged under 12 can stay for no additional charge.
Resort activities including fishing, diving, snorkelling, guided walks, kayaking, tennis.
See fijiresort.com for full details.
Sunday Star Times