March 2013, Monteverde, Costa Rica. We had driven the death-defying mountain pass after spending several fabulous days in the rainforests of Fortuna and were now ready to start exploring the Monteverde Cloud Forest. Matthew and I were excited to see the lovely, ethereal fog floating through the woods and do some hiking along the skywalks spread through the reserve. The boys, however, had other priorities. They were rainforest-ed out. After three days of hiking they wanted the beach and they wanted it now. (And can you blame them? Look at that beach!)
What to do? Sure, the grown-ups could drag them through another day in the rainforest if we insisted. But after a brief discussion, we decided to invoke another of the 80 Diapers Rules for Successful Travel: It’s Not Worth It.
At least once in every vacation, your well-laid plans are going to come up against the Will of Your Offspring. And most of the time, it’s not worth the battle. Had we insisted on going to the cloud forest I’m pretty sure nobody would have had a good time. Three whining, grumbling kids can ruin a peaceful nature experience pretty dang fast.
So while there are plenty of times when our wishes override those of the kids, this was not one of them. We packed up quickly, piled in the SUV, white-knuckled it down the road out of town and we were at the beach by three. And you know what? I’d do it again. It turned out to be a wonderful day.
This is an important concept to know going in. You have to be willing to adapt. Even the most travel-hardened kids are occasionally going to declare their independence, and you need to know how to pick your battles.
You’re going to want the authentic French restaurant. Your kids are going to beg for McDonalds.
You’re going to want to hike to the top of the active volcano. Your kids are going to want the street fair.
You’re going to want to see one more museum your last day in Beijing. Your kids just want to ride the pedal boats again.
It happens. It’s okay.
When my parents took my much-younger siblings (we call them Family B) on a road trip from North Carolina to New York, they stuck to a mile-a-minute schedule. By the end everyone was burned out and the kids ended up begging to spend the whole day watching TV in the hotel room. My mom told me that next time they would build in some “down days” and be more able to be flexible with the schedule.
And she did, too. When the family visited my sister in England a few years later, they built in some flexibility for days when my youngest brother asked to just sit around doing nothing. It was exactly what he needed, and he was allowed to have it, without guilt or pressure.
Sometimes your kids are just not going to want to do what you want to do. So be prepared and don’t insist on everything going according to plan. What’s wrong with an extra beach day, after all? And donuts for breakfast instead of authentic palmettas is not worth an argument. Happy kids make a much better experience for everyone.
Pick your battles.
Let it go.
It’s not worth it.