Escorted General-Interest Tours
Escorted tours are structured group tours, with a group leader (I prefer the old-fashion term "tour guide"). The price usually includes everything from airfare to hotels, meals, tours, admission costs, and local transportation.
Escorted tours are not a big part of the business in Fiji, where it's easy to find your way around and book local tours and activities. Most of the travel agents I mention will have someone meet and greet you at the airport upon arrival, take you to your hotel, and make sure you get on any prearranged tours and activities; but you will not have a tour guide.
Some tour companies add a short stopover in Fiji to their escorted tours of Australia and New Zealand, but these may not include a guide for the island portion. Leaders in this add-on feature include Tauck Tours (tel. 800/788-7885; www.tauck.com), Qantas Vacations (tel. 800/641-8772; www.qantasvacations.com), Australia Escorted Tours (tel. 888/333-6607; www.australia-escorted-tours.com), and Abercrombie & Kent (tel. 800/652-7986; www.abercrombiekent.com), which adds Fiji to its high-end escorted tours. Otherwise, I recommend getting a travel agent to track down an escorted tour.
Despite the fact that escorted tours require big deposits and predetermine hotels, restaurants, and itineraries, many people derive security and peace of mind from the structure they offer. Escorted tours let travelers sit back and enjoy the trip without having to drive or worry about details. They're particularly convenient for people with limited mobility, and they can be a great way to make new friends.
On the downside, you'll have little opportunity for serendipitous interactions with locals. The tours can be jampacked with activities, leaving little room for individual sightseeing, whim, or adventure -- plus they often focus on the heavily touristed sites, so you miss out on many a lesser-known gem.
Ask Before You Go -- Before you invest in a package deal or an escorted tour:
- Always ask about the cancellation policy. Can you get your money back? Is a deposit required?
- Ask about the accommodations choices and prices for each. Then look up the hotels' reviews in a Frommer's guide and check their rates online for your specific dates of travel. Also find out what types of rooms are offered.
- Request a complete schedule. (Escorted tours only.)
- Ask about the size and demographics of the group. (Escorted tours only.)
- Discuss what is included in the price (transportation, meals, tips, airport transfers, and so on). (Escorted tours only.)
- Finally, look for hidden expenses. Ask whether airport departure fees and taxes, for example, are included in the total cost -- they rarely are.
Packages for the Independent Traveler
In addition to searching for the lowest airfare, you may want to consider booking your flight as part of a travel package. Buying a package tour is simply a way to get the airfare, accommodations, and other elements of your trip (such as car rentals, airport transfers, and sometimes even meals and activities) at the same time and often at discounted prices -- kind of like one-stop shopping. In fact, package tours usually provide the best bargains available.
Package tours are not the same thing as escorted tours, which are structured tours with a group leader. Scant few escorted tours go to Fiji except as add-ons to tours primarily of Australia and New Zealand.
The costs are kept down because wholesale tour operators (known as wholesalers in the travel industry) can make volume bookings on the airlines and at the hotels. Packages traditionally were then sold through retail travel agents, but many wholesalers now deal directly with the public, thus passing savings along to you, rather than part of their commissions to retail agents.
Travel packages are listed in the travel section of many Sunday newspapers. Or check ads in magazines such as Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel Magazine, Travel + Leisure, National Geographic Traveler, and Conde Nast Traveler.
Airlines frequently offer air-and-hotel packages, so be sure to check the websites of Air New Zealand (www.airnewzealand.com/vacations) and Air Pacific (www.airpacific.com).
Following in alphabetical order are some reputable companies selling package tours. Some will discount air tickets and hotel rooms separately; that is, not as part of a package. Be sure to shop for the best deal among them.
- Brendan Worldwide Vacations (tel. 800/421-8446 or 818/785-9696; www.brendanvacations.com) provides packages to Fiji.
- Costco Travel (tel. 877/849-2730; www.costco.com) sells island packages to Costco members. The agency was a South Pacific specialist before Costco bought it.
- Go-Today (tel. 800/227-3235; www.go-today.com), based in Washington State, offers discount-priced packages to Fiji.
- Impulse Fiji (tel. 800/953-7595 in the U.S.; www.impulsefiji.com) is a Nadi-based firm owned by American Dick Beaulieu, who has lived in Fiji since 1980. He and his staff arrange personalized travel to Fiji, including money-saving last-minute deals.
- Islands in the Sun (tel. 800/828-6877 or 310/536-0051; www.islandsinthesun.com), the largest and oldest South Pacific specialist, offers packages to Fiji.
- Jetabout Island Vacations (tel. 800/348-8145; www.jetabouttahitivacations.com) of El Segundo, California, offers a wide variety of packages to Fiji. It's the U.S. representative of Qantas Vacations, an arm of the Australian airline.
- Journey Pacific (tel. 800/704-7094; www.journeypacific.com) is a Las Vegas-based agency offering Fiji packages.
- Newmans South Pacific Vacations (tel. 800/421-3326; www.newmansvacations.com) offers packages to Fiji. It's a long-established New Zealand company.
- Pacific Destination Center (tel. 800/227-5317; www.pacific-destinations.com) is owned and operated by Australian-born Janette Ryan, who offers some good deals to the islands.
- Pacific for Less (tel. 800/915-2776; www.pacific-for-less.com), based in Hawaii, specializes in high-end honeymoons.
- Pleasant Holidays (tel. 800/742-9244; www.pleasantholidays.com), a huge company best known for its Pleasant Hawaiian and Pleasant Mexico operations, offers packages to Fiji.
- South Pacific Direct (www.southpacificdirect.com) is an Internet-only firm offering deals to Fiji.
- South Seas Adventures (tel. 800/576-7327; www.south-seas-adventures.com) has adventure travel packages to Fiji.
- Sunspots International (tel. 800/334-5623 or 503/666-3893; www.sunspotsintl.com), based in Portland, Oregon, has trips specifically tailored to Fiji.
- Swain Tahiti Tours (tel. 800/22-SWAIN (227-9246); www.swaintours.com) obviously knows a lot about Tahiti and French Polynesia but it also sells packages to Fiji.
- Travel Arrangements Ltd. (tel. 800/392-8213; www.southpacificreservations.com) is operated by Fiji-born Ron Hunt, a veteran South Pacific travel agent who now lives in California. He sells packages and specializes in designing itineraries (and weddings) to suit your whims and pocketbook.
Travelwizard (tel. 800/330-8220; www.travelwizard.com) specializes in designing luxury travel packages but also has less expensive offerings. Among its offerings are adventure, diving, and surfing trips to Fiji.
Other companies have adventure travel packages combining outdoor activities with accommodations.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.