We paid $4500 for an inclusive deal at a five-star white-sand beach hotel, the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa, for four people. The package included return flights, seven nights’ accommodation in a double suite, and daily buffet breakfast. (Pre-COVID-19, that would cost about 50 per cent more).
We spent another $2700 on meals, drinks and activities while there, but hey, we hadn’t been overseas in years.
With hindsight, it seems we weren’t alone. Fiji was the number one international destination for Australians to holiday in December, ahead of the United States and the United Kingdom, according to the most recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
A few things contributed to our trip’s low stress levels – firstly, good preparation. Our family self-isolated for two weeks before leaving, to stave off any chances of catching the dreaded virus. Mum: I can see my friends anytime. But Fiji – that’s something else!” exclaimed our 13-year-old son when prompted.
Good travel insurance will cover some of the costs associated with self-isolation, should you test positive while there.
That is, if you were among the 4-6 per cent of travellers unlucky enough to test COVID-positive in December and January, according to Tourism Fiji. About 45,000 Australians visited more than 50 resorts during that period, and luckily, we were fine.
We chose Qantas travel insurance, which offered $2500 in accommodation costs if we were to get sick. In other words, enough to take the sting out.
Work commitments are another obvious risk. We work for ourselves and rarely take leave, so the prospect of being holed up in five-star digs for an extra week sounded quite appealing. We took our laptops in case of any delays. Our calendars revealed we’d be able to work remotely on any assignments within 14 days of our scheduled return.
As for our teenage kids? Positively agog at the thought of missing a week or two of school.
We were admittedly careful to minimise contact with other guests. We sanitised after touching public surfaces, and wore face masks in communal areas such as the breakfast buffet (something we wished more guests did).
Having teenagers also minimised our contact with the under-12 set. This age group is not required to show COVID-free test results before or after travelling, an issue that’s caused a fair bit of complaint among travellers.
Importantly, we also adjusted our mindset. We promised not to panic or blame each other, the government, life, Godzilla or anyone else if we did get sick.
Another factor making for a smooth stay was the hotel’s meticulous approach to hygiene. The hotel staff wore masks 24/7, regularly cleaned surfaces, and kept their distance from guests.
The resort was less than 40 per cent full when we visited (told you there were pros in the era of COVID-19 travel). The 17 cases reported that week at our hotel were isolated in a beautiful but remote wing, away from other guests. We did hear of other hotels where this degree of distance was not possible.
Finally, we also had some old-fashioned good luck. Few overseas trips in my lifetime have been entirely problem-free. Cancelled flights, missed transfers, lost paperwork, death-defying bus rides, rental breakdowns, skiing sprains and giardia outbreaks have all their part played.
But on this occasion, the sun shone, the volcano behaved itself, and the COVID-19 cases were nowhere to be seen.
The day before we left, Australia shortened the quarantine period from 14 days to seven, and agreed to accept supervised rapid antigen tests instead of PCRs for returning travellers. That instantly saved us about $800, which the four PCR tests would have cost in Fiji. The rules continue to relax, very much favoring travellers.
Now that we’re back in the world of deadlines and school routines, I’m grateful we didn’t listen to the online trolls or scaremongers who nearly caused us to cancel our trip. Travel has its risks and costs at this time, but nothing can detract from a magical week of reconnecting with family.
NEED TO KNOW
Fiji Airways has Sydney-Nadi return flights priced from $549.
The InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa is at Maro Road, Natadola Bay, Natadola, Fiji. For room types, rates and booking, tel: +679 673 3300.