Here at home, my wife and I bend over backward to make sure L and R are tubbed, brushed and in bed by 7:30 p.m., at the latest every night. On the road, however, “bedtime” in this family becomes a much more relative term.
This is entirely by design; when we travel, the entire endeavor is about allowing our kids to experience the wonder of a new place, whatever that might mean.
Before you call me a slacker, I assure you—we are *not* letting our daughters stay up until 10 p.m., every night of vacation. But some nights, if there’s a particularly spectacular sunset, a too-amazing-to-be-real starry sky, an enthralling local cultural performance or just a really engaging new book, we are inclined to let things slide.
Our thinking behind this approach is simple. It amounts to: Why the heck not?
The kids have their entire lifetimes to follow routines and stick to sleep schedules, and on vacation, when the overarching objective is to embrace the unknown, allowing them to get caught up in certain moments is better for everybody—for us and for them.
Perhaps the best example of this was in June 2012, on one magical night during our two-week stay at Puakea Ranch on Hawaii Island.
The baby went down early (around 5:30 p.m.) in the midst of a torrential rain shower that sounded like marbles on the corrugated metal roof of our cottage. Then, suddenly, around 6:30 p.m., the skies cleared. And the most beautiful rainbow appeared. Right outside our front door.
L, Powerwoman and I rushed out front for a closer look, huddling up near a rope swing that hung from the gnarled guava tree. We looked skyward and stood motionless, necks craned, mouths agape.
None of us spoke for at least five minutes.
Of course L’s interest in the rainbow disappeared before the rainbow itself. Taking its place was interest in a new first: the swing. And so, for the last 30 minutes of sunlight on that warm Hawaii evening, Powerwoman pushed our Big Girl on the rope swing, singing songs, telling stories and marveling at the peacefulness of tropical dusk.
The three of us stayed out for a while after dark, pointing out constellations and listening to horses whinny in a pasture around the bend.
To be honest, I have no idea what time my older daughter went to bed that night. But I know she still talks about it all today. I’m willing to bet the kid remembers that night for a long, long while. I know I will.