Many thanks to Joy from Victoria, who sent in the fabulous account of her experience as a single parent traveller. Joy, for your time and efforts, we are sending your daughter a Sesame Street Elmo suitcase and the lovely How to be a Princess book. Single parents, keep on writing!
Recently I, a single mum of one, took my four-year-old daughter to Fiji with me. We cannot afford the luxury of any of those expensive hotels on Denarau Island, or the islands themselves, so we stayed at Nomads Skylodge, 10 mins out of Nadi, where, for AU$80 a night we had two double beds, a small en suite, TV (though I suggest you take a portable DVD player) and all the amenities you could want. This is kind of more a backpackers but believe me, they welcomed my daughter with open arms, and she had the run of the place! She was their little princess and they were thrilled to see a child there. And so were the backpackers who spent hours with her in the pool.
The pool was fantastic, with a toddlers area set aside, and clam shells spouting water at every turn. The staff welcomed my child and myself with open arms - in fact, in Fiji there is a great deal of respect for the single parent and single parents taking their kids on holidays. In fact, we got eight nights for the price of seven.
We then did day tours from Nomads, getting picked up each time, and because my daughter was under 5 she was free for everything - this made things extraordinarily cheap! Never mind that things are cheap there anyway!
We went to Treasure Island twice, for day tours, where she was able to join the kids’ club both times, and I was able to sun and relax for almost six hours! A buffet lunch is included in the day tour and I thoroughly recommend it - there is access to everything non motor water sport, plus a huge mini putt putt, plus handfeeding the fish and iguanas, seeing the turtles, a giant playground etc.
Back at Nomads, there is not only the pool but also a playground, and a beautiful park right opposite the reception area, on the same grounds, to explore. The bar is open all day and the food is available right through the day from brekky. Cheap cheap cheap. We ate triple decker chicken sandwiches with (a huge amount of) chips for F$10 (about AU$7).
I did Fiji with my child, on $3000 for 11 days including airfare. Next time will be even cheaper as I know which tours to do.
Nadi itself, only 10 mins by bus away from where we stayed, is a bit dirty and "pushy" but food is cheap. Without fail Jack's is one of the best places to shop. I did a lot of research so knew what was what.
Bus fare into Nadi was 50 cents (about 30 Australian cents). There is one trip well worth doing that may cost around AU$140, but children again under five are free - the Jewel of Fiji tour, without doubt the best ever tour I have done (and I have been everywhere!) A bus trip down the Coral Coast, a longboat up a river to a village which welcomes you with songs and conch shell blowing, lava lunch and buffet (excellent), then long boat up the river to the second highest waterfall in Fiji, swimming under the waterfall and then a bili bili ride back down the river. My four-year-old loved it, absolutely loved it.
On our last day in Fiji I wanted to do some extra shopping, so I organised a babysitter, one of the staff from the lodge; Gabby was rapt (she didn't like Nadi).
And the cost? F$5 an hour (AU$3.50) - of course I gave her a tip! (She took her to Macca's, one of only three in Fiji, and to the movies. My kid had a GREAT last day in Fiji!)
I should also add though that all reception staff (did I say this already) are notorious for not passing on messages, so you need to book tours in advance via Sun Vacations (my suggested booking agency) on the internet. All tours are pick up at hotel which is great (very handy). I'd suggest the Jewel of Fiji tour and a day trip or two to Treasure Island (Henry said they can join the kids club).
Shopping: Jack's of Fiji is great for clothes and souvenirs, Prouds (has everything from souvenirs to books to jewellery - and a fantastic shop also at the duty free at the airport, so if you can wait, wait till then - you can get bulk Fijian souvenirs for the kids back home, packs of 10 pencils for F$5.85 or AU$3.00) etc.
Other shops I'd recommend - Victoria's Cafe, the cafe next to Proud's, and for the best Indian food in town, I recommend a restaurant called Saffron (I think) - not cheap even by Aussie standards at around AU$40 - BUT AU$15.00 of that was a cocktail for me - and believe me, you WANT a cocktail!
I recommend Fiji on a budget!