A couple of years ago, my husband and I moved our family from Honduras to Australia. Although we were experienced international travelers, we considered the 16-hour flight to Sydney with kids to be the family travel equivalent of scaling Mount Everest. Before embarking on the journey, my husband and I reached out to our broad network of expatriate families on Facebook to ask for recommendations for iPad games to occupy our 3-year-old while our newborn slept.
My husband and I doubled over laughing after reading one woman’s answer: “Just give him books.” Books?! Now, we share our love of literature with both of our children on a daily basis, but this wasn’t our bedroom routine we were filling up. It was an entire day in a glorified tuna can with small children.
Within minutes others trolled the woman asking whether Proust or Dostoyevsky might be a better fit for our 3-year-old. Clearly, this wasn’t her audience (or she had never taken an extended flight with two children under three). I still look back on that exchange and smile. Books, ha! Yet, there was some wisdom hidden in her social media snarkiness. Some of the simplest things have occupied my children on our world travels. While most of them were not books, we didn’t need to chain them to the iPad either.
Our kids will be exploring country number 13 this year, and after countless hours keeping them engaged and (relatively!) quiet on planes, trains and automobiles, we have learned a thing or two. Here are some strategies and activities to keep your little ones busy as you make your way to your dream destination, grandma’s house or a medical appointment a few hours away.