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Why Flexibility Is the Key to Family Travel

Matt Villano

We’re in the midst of a vacation in Tofino, British Columbia, this week, and L, our three-year-old, continues to remind my wife and me that flexibility is the key to family travel.

Monday’s lesson revolved around a pre-scheduled interpretive nature walk. The plan was to walk down Chesterman Beach to meet a naturalist affiliated with a local resort at 4 p.m. From there, we’d walk to some tidal pools and marvel at sea stars, sea anemones and a bunch of other little critters.

L talked about the walk all day. She drew pictures of sea stars at lunch. To say she was excited would be the understatement of the month.

Yet, not surprisingly, she and I never made our appointment.

We made the initial motions to leave around 3:30. First it was the books; she wasn’t ready to put down the Eloise. Next it was the snack; she didn’t want to have her Fruit Chews while walking on the beach. Then it was the potty; she resisted going pee, then she went pee, then she had to make poop, but it was a false alarm (which netted her two more Eloise books).

By this time, it was just about 4. I knew we’d be late. So I called the front desk. No rush, they said.

Which was good, because when I hung up, L was playing with her favorite puzzle—a process that took another five minutes. Finally, I made some progress. On went her socks (2 minutes), sneakers (3 minutes), sweatshirt (3 minutes; I have no idea why this garment always takes so long to get on), and raincoat (4 minutes).

We left the house at about 4:15 pm. We managed to get about halfway to the tide pools when she stepped in the surf. Her feet were soaked. We had to head back.

By now—especially if you’re a parent—you get the picture. L and I never actually made it to the tide pools Monday, and as a result ended up totally flaking on our guided walk. Lucky for us, the naturalist was more than happy to reschedule. Still, the experience reminded me of a valuable lesson: No amount of scheduling on the road can prepare you for one of those days when your kids simply aren’t capable of sticking to a plan.