The secret to a happy family holiday

"Mummy, can you go on a digital detox these holidays?"

There's a moment in most of our lives when the child becomes the parent. However, I didn't expect it to happen so soon. Grace, 10, is telling me I spend too much time on my devices.

And you know what? She's right.

We can talk until we're blue in the face about putting boundaries on technology time for our children. But until we walk the walk, as well as talk the talk, they're unlikely to listen.

Arriving at Sydney airport for our flight to Vanuatu, I realise I've missed a writing deadline.

"Darling, can my digital detox start once we're on the plane?" I plead. "Mummy has to deal with a minor crisis."

Gracie rolls her eyes. "Fine, Mum. But once we're on the plane, you have to turn everything off. And keep it off for the trip. It's only four days!"

I frantically type as she checks in, fills out the departure cards, and discards half-filled water bottles. Feeling like an errant child, I apologise profusely. "Almost done, hon. Then we can have special time together."

Arriving at Port Vila airport, I feel an immense sense of relief. No more Twitter, Facebook or Gmail. No more interminable notifications. And no more "I'll be finished in a minute" that becomes an hour.


Now, I'm not one of those junkies who has to hold the phone in my hand to feel whole. But it is different to be disconnected. The cyan of the sky is a little clearer, without the Instagram filter. The sapphire seas display more depth; the palm fronds bristle with life.

Sure, the deluxe villa at Iririki Resort is flush with mod cons, including cable TV and Wi-Fi. But there's a world of wonder outside these walls. The Cascades Waterfall thunders down 50 metres into a series of pools, where locals swim in the shallows. You can snorkel to the underwater post office off Hideaway Island, or haggle with craftsfolk in the marketplace. Water and land sports abound, alongside relaxing spa treatments.

I abstain from touching my phone. Instead, mother and daughter truly connect.

At the end of the trip, I ask Grace about her favourite experience. Usually, it's a pool or theme park.

"I loved the cultural village," she replies, "where they taught us how to make medicine from plants and catch fish using a paddle and spider webs!"

This was a rather intense bonding moment after actors in tribal dress leapt from the rainforest to threaten us with spears. It was exciting and educational, without a digital device in sight.

Over the past three years, I've written about hundreds of holiday ideas, and shared full and frank assessments of destinations, resorts and attractions.

But the best advice remains this: spend time with your children.

What they really want is to have you all to themselves, without the distractions of work or home duties.

This is the secret to a happy family holiday.