fun for all the fam­ily in Raro­tonga

When it comes to an en­joy­able hol­i­day with young chil­dren, a week in trop­i­cal Raro­tonga ex­ceeds ex­pec­ta­tions for Carly Flynn.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

Trav­el­ling with young kids can be any­thing but a fam­ily “hol­i­day”. In fact, in the early par­ent­ing years I reckon the term is some­thing of an oxy­moron. A “change in rou­tine” might be a more ac­cu­rate de­scrip­tion, or per­haps “let’s do the same stuff in a dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tion with less sleep be­cause they don’t like shar­ing a room/sleep­ing in a for­eign bed/the heat/the cold/the food and so on”.

Gone are the far-flung di­ve­ori­en­tated des­ti­na­tions, and the danc­ing till the wee hours af­ter cock­tails on the beach ones (ac­tu­ally I was al­ways more of a res­tau­rant and bot­tle of wine in the cor­ner kind of girl). A hol­i­day for our Flynn-five right now is re­ally just a break from our nor­mal daily rou­tine.

I al­ways ap­proach these trips with low ex­pec­ta­tions. You see, for our seven- and five-year-olds – and we also have an eight-month-old in tow – they are the cen­tres of their own uni­verse. And they be­lieve they should be the cen­tre of ours as well. Which of course for the most part they are, but that doesn’t re­ally con­sti­tute re­lax­ation for the par­ents who are look­ing for a lit­tle “me time” does it?

Which is why our des­ti­na­tions with kids have hugely dif­fer­ent cri­te­ria to those pre-chil­dren. Namely: a short flight, sun­shine, the abil­ity to pur­chase nap­pies, baby food and Pamol at short no­tice, min­i­mal time dif­fer­ence, ac­cess to trust­wor­thy babysit­ters, beau­ti­ful beaches, fresh fruit and seafood and

de­cent but not over­priced cock­tails. It’s a sim­ple list re­ally!

Hands down, there is one place that for us keeps ticking these boxes time and time again. The beau­ti­ful Raro­tonga, in the Cook Is­lands.

Our older chil­dren are well enough trav­elled to know that the hol­i­day starts the minute they step on the plane. Raro­tonga is a short 3½-hour flight away, and the kids are un­able to be­lieve their luck at the ac­cess to un­lim­ited movies and plane food for the du­ra­tion.

The baby doesn’t yet have the same en­thu­si­asm or un­der­stand­ing, but he proved to be a rel­a­tively good trav­eller, thanks in part to the many empathetic adults on board who kept play­ing peek-a-boo when I was try­ing to eat my meal in 30 sec­onds while he was bounc­ing on my knee/pulling my hair/ spilling my drink. You were life­savers.

Trav­el­ling and be­ing with kids 24/7 is full-on, but the idea of not hav­ing to make school lunches and race out the door to var­i­ous things (like school and work) is as good as it gets. And let’s be hon­est, one of the most mun­dane as­pects of day-to-day par­ent­ing can be the con­stant food prepa­ra­tion, cook­ing, wran­gling and wash­ing. It never stops!

Twenty-eight years ago when I was lucky enough to live in Raro­tonga for a few years, it was a sleepy place, quiet and idyl­lic, largely un­known to those out­side of the Pa­cific, but there were def­i­nitely some things we young teenagers missed.

These days it’s ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a tourism boom like never be­fore. There are vis­i­tors from all over the globe, do­ing all sorts of ac­tiv­i­ties and ad­ven­tures. The is­land that is af­fec­tion­ately known to lo­cals as “the Rock”, is a hap­pen­ing wee place and there’s now noth­ing you can’t get.

It’s so well set up for fam­i­lies. When you first ar­rive at Cus­toms there’s a spe­cial queue for those with young chil­dren to speed on through so you avoid any im­pend­ing melt­down about be­ing hot/thirsty/need­ing a swim/ an­noyed the movie hadn’t fin­ished when the plane landed. Be­fore any of that can hap­pen, we’re hus­tled through and sit­ting in our rental car, smugly driv­ing our­selves out the air­port gates and turn­ing left to­wards our des­ti­na­tion.

It’s Sun­day when we ar­rive and the streets are quiet. In the Cooks, Sun­day is truly a day of rest. Our first stop is a road­side stall in Ti­tikaveka where the Mama in charge is hav­ing a snooze sur­rounded by her is­land pro­duce. We quickly pay for our first stash of prized Cook Is­land dough­nuts and a cool, freshly opened nu (young co­conut). Ahhh, it’s nice to be here.

We dump our bags in the gor­geous Pa­cific Re­sort villa that’s to be our home for the next seven days, and head for the pool. Within an hour of

The is­land that is af­fec­tion­ately known to lo­cals as “the Rock” is a hap­pen­ing wee place and there’s now noth­ing you can’t get.

land­ing, the kids are do­ing bombs and I’m con­tem­plat­ing a cock­tail.

Such is the ease of the Cook Is­land life­style. Same money, same time zone (less 24 hours), same road rules, no chores and a bet­ter cli­mate than home!

The Pa­cific Re­sort is on beau­ti­ful Muri Beach, a tourist hotspot for kite-surfers, kayak­ers, sailors, beach­go­ers and snorkellers.

We weren’t ex­pect­ing our villa to have self-cater­ing fa­cil­i­ties, but it has a full kitchen, and the two bed­rooms plus lounge mean there’s enough space for all. It’s a fan­tas­tic base, an easy place to hang out at, with its com­pli­men­tary kids club and de­li­cious food, but it’s also lo­cated on one of the best beaches, close to the pop­u­lar Night Mar­kets and cen­tral to some of Raro’s best ac­tiv­i­ties.

While many trop­i­cal des­ti­na­tions of­fer burg­ers, pizza, bat­tered fish and chips as sta­ples, Raro­tonga has be­come a real foodie haven. Ika

OP­PO­SITE: The Flynn-five on the beach; a fruit stall at the Satur­day mar­ket; blue on white tra­di­tional tivae­vae ap­pliqué quilt­ing; la­goon fish; “bombs away” in the re­sort pool.

FROM LEFT: Carly and fam­ily with the Koka La­goon Cruise boat; a stun­ning is­land sun­set; Muri Beach and la­goon from the air. CEN­TRE: The older chil­dren on their kayak ad­ven­ture; Carly and the lit­tlest Flynn, Fred­die.

Pa­cific Re­sort, where the fam­ily stayed, and (right) Carly’s favourite dish, ika mata.

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