Barry Kaufman | October 19, 2015 11:26 AM ET
Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.
One thing makes me — and I imagine a lot of dads out there — kind of a pain to vacation with: I’m a planner.
I recently returned from a meticulously calculated family vacation at Universal Orlando, three days honed with careful precision to maximize fun and minimize wait times. Maps were consulted, wait times were watched and analyzed via the Universal Orlando app, and nary a moment was wasted in pursuit of glorious fun.
Or at least that was the plan.
The strategy on day three began thusly: our initial incursion would begin at Islands of Adventure, spreading to the right flank to draw the family into Seuss Landing. From there we would advance through the Lost Continent into Hogsmeade, pausing for chow at the Three Broomsticks before hitching a ride on the Hogwart’s Express to Diagon Alley. Phase two would call for a possible stop on The Simpsons ride depending on wait times before landing at Feivel’s Playland.
It was perfect, it was carefully organized and it was doomed from the start. As soon as we reached Seuss Landing, we hit our first snag. My youngest daughter was too short to ride The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride by a smidge, but the rest of the family was determined to check it out.
Being the good dad that I am, I volunteered to sit this one out and take the 2 year old into “If I Ran the Zoo.” Naturally, my gracious acceptance of missing a ride masked a maelstrom of paternal teeth-gritting over the change to my carefully crafted plan.
I was willing to improvise, adapt and overcome, as they say in the Marine Corps. But I didn’t have to like it. Then, something amazing happened.
If I Ran the Zoo was not on the itinerary. Nowhere in my plans did I include time spent going down the slides of Zomba-ma-tant or coaxing a tizzle topped tufted Mazurka out of hiding. Turns out my 2 year old didn’t care much about my plans. In this simple park full of fantastic creatures, she found everything she’d been looking for in her vacation.
Up and down she went on Zomba-ma-tant (which I tried to fit on, but sadly I can’t). In a maze full of wonders and creatures and sounds, my 2 year old ran around and around.
It came without strategy. It came without maps. It came without timetables, planning or apps. And what happened next? Well in Seuss Landing they say, dad’s whole schedule was thrown quickly away.
OK, I’ll stop.
The point is, in that moment I saw why we had planned this vacation in the first place. It was just my youngest and me, crawling and sliding and hopping and exploring something we’d never seen before. My schedule melted away, my plans all but forgotten. In that brief sun-kissed period of time, I was able to simply enjoy spending time with my daughter, sharing in her wonder.
I was able to enjoy a vacation, bask in that sublime moment of perfection outside the daily life that only travel provides.
If we had been able to stick to our schedule, who knows. That moment may have come, or it may have been lost in a flurry of looking for the even better moment.
And if my plans were standing in the way of that moment, I’m happy to see them dashed.
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