Port Vila is very expensive.....if you are after 5 star service and awesome beaches then you can get this cheaper in NZ or OZ.
Port Vila is an experience and is heaps of fun if you have nice accommodation to come back to at the end of the day. Choose accommodation wisely, read reviews as some places are pretty basic. We stayed at Poppy's on the lagoon and it was great.
My advice is:
Take as much pre packaged food as poss as food is very expensive here.
The only food items we were asked about at customs was 'did we have any cheese or nuts?'. I still was allowed to bring in heaps of other sealed food and even a bag of sealed peanuts.
The only cheap stuff was ice blocks and French Stick (baguettes?) bread. If I was going again I'd take heaps of tinned salmon and live off baguettes, local avocadoes, cucumber and tinned salmon. Meat was the most expensive! We found some cheap meatballs at 395 vatu for 500grams and lived of that for several days as that was fairly cheap. ...1kg of frozen fish portions worked out to be $40NZ!
Bring your own snorkelling gear (even on tours that supply gear), even if its just cheap payless plastics stuff as it makes life so much easier in the long run. We bought sets for $9 before we left thank goodness! Take aqua shoes as the coral is really sharp.
Always ask the price of the bus before you start the journey as bus prices can change if cruise ships are in town.....agree on the price per person first. Buses start with a letter 'B' on the licence plate and you can flag one down anywhere. They are normally just vans but are called buses....choose and empty one if you don't want to wait till everyone else is dropped off first.
Get advice about different tours from someone like Melanesian Tours. They are a kiwi couple based in Port Vila that give good honest advice and can understand what would suit Kiwi families.....I found it hard to decide which tours would be good when looking at pamphlets and booklets as some look like a bit of a have and at a costly price too. Although the local people are very happy and helpful sometimes you just want to talk to another Kiwi or Aussie about what’s good and what’s not from a Kiwi perspective! We talked to Melanesian Tours about what we were interested in and asked their advice and they were very good at suggesting tours that were interactive for kids etc. They even were happy to talk about how to do some of the tours on our own to save money (i.e. by using the local buses) and what bus fares should cost etc.
Take ear plugs for kids prone to ear infections as water in the ears from all the swimming and snorkelling can turn to ear infections in a few days with the tropical heat as we found out.
Take some cheap giveaways like $1 beach balls and $2 shop toys for the local kids...they are shy but love to interact with tourists.
Take insect repellent ...although in January the insects were no worse than in NZ but there is a small risk of Malaria if travelling to other islands.
The roads are really bumpy in places out of Port Vila and buses don’t drive very fast out of town due to the bumpy roads...if you like long drives then do the 'round the island' tour but I'd recommend doing tours that don't go too far away unless you enjoy a bumpy ride!
You often have to pay to go on some of the beaches outside of Port Vila so if you use buses to go places rather than pay for a tour then keep this in mind.
Take some juice sachets if you have kids as the local water was fine to drink (although we still boiled ours most of the time) but it tastes funny and has a high calcium content so can be a little gritty.
Places we enjoyed.
Mele cascade falls (bused there on our own)
Hideaway Island (entry fee of 1000 vatu) .....great food at a good price and awesome snorkelling spot.
Iririki Resort (great pools for kids and can claim the 1500 vatu entry fee back off any food purchased)
Lelepa Island day long tour (great beaches and snorkelling but gear provided not in great condition).