Tuesday, July 30, 2013

WW: last night's sunset

How to Survive International Travel with a Toddler

One thing I've learned through my post-baby travels is that flying with a little one is quite different at every age. If you read my blog you know that I just returned from a trip from Tanzania to Texas ALONE with my 15-month old. The trip included one 5.5 hour flight, one 16 hour flight, and another 1 hour flight--- and that was just the way there. Aside from the obvious issues like passports and vaccinations (some countries will not let you in and/or out of them without them), I thought I'd put together a little post with tips that I have from my experience this time around.

Booking the Flight

-It's worth spending a little extra money for less layovers/time in the airport. If you have a super energetic walker sprinter like I do, the most difficult part about flying with a toddler is the time spent in the airport. It is much harder to control a child when you can't create boundaries, etc. Evita is not one to sit still in a stroller or even my baby carrier if we aren't moving around. She spent our layovers running around everywhere, peeking into other people's luggage and just being a terrorist in general. It was awful. At least I only had two layovers to deal with, unlike the 4 or so I had on the way to Tanzania.
-It's worth spending money on an extra seat. Evita is not 2-years old yet, so I had the option of keeping her on my lap during our travels. No way. She weighs 25lbs now and my legs cannot handle her being on my lap for 16+ hours at a time. It was much better having her own seat, with her own tray table to play on, etc. When she wanted to to go sleep, she easily laid down with her head on my lap and I was able to get sleep as well. We couldn't afford to purchase an extra seat for Eva on our trip to Italy next month, but those flights are only 5 hours a piece so I'm hoping it won't be that bad. I might even have my husband on the same plane as me this time.
-Book your toddler's seat next to the window. I remember being concerned about this when my toddler was a baby, but at this point the window is the only option in my opinion. That way she isn't seated next to anyone but you and she can't take off running down the isles at a moment's notice.

What to Bring

1. iPad. The iPad was a must for me. I would have bought one just for this trip if I knew how much it would help and didn't already have one. Evita is not yet at an age where a movie or T.V. show can entertain her for very long, but the endless capabilities of the iPad made up for it. An awesome accessory for the iPad is the Laugh & Learn Apptivity Case. It weathered the storm of traveling and eased my worry of dropping it or scratching the screen. I'd like to invest in the Lifeproof case for the iPad eventually, though, because Eva is not the only one prone to dropping things. ;) Here are the apps we used:
  • Basically all the free Fisher Price apps.
  • Dr. Suess collection #1 and the Dr. Suess ABC book.
  • Elmo Calls
  • Kids Doodle (this one is free and awesome)
  • Phone4Kids
  • Toddler Teasers Shapes
  • Tiny Hands Sorting Game and Tiny Hands Building Game
  • and a bunch of different flashcard type of apps
2. Stickers. What is it about kids and stickers? Evita is definitely not too young for sticker fever. She will never turn down a sticker. For this reason, I kept a stash of stickers for when she became especially antsy. They were my secret weapon. When all else failed, I busted out the stickers and I bought myself at least 20 minutes.

3. Snacks. I don't mean to insult your intelligence, but don't forget the snacks. Puffs are my daughter's favorite snacks, so I brought a huge ziploc bag full of them.

4. Disposable Diapers. I'm a cloth diaperer, and really had no clue how many disposable diapers I needed for the trip. I ended up bringing 40, which was WAAAY too many and took up way too much room in my carry-on. Sorry for you, but I forgot to count how many I actually used. They were the "Extra Protection" kind, and I want to say I used about 15 in about 36 hours. I know I used less than half of the 40 I brought. On the way back, I brought 1 diaper for every 2 hours of traveling.

5. Wipes. I brought one pack of wipes. I didn't use the whole thing, but they don't take up all that much space and it's always great to have extra wipes.

6. Hand Sanitizer. There will be on-the-seat diaper changes and other yucky situations you'll need it for.

7. Extra Ziplocks and/or Plastic Bags. You can put the dirty clothes, etc. in them.

8. A travel-size bottle of Dishwashing Liquid and a Sponge. I brought this so that I could wash Evita's sippy cups.

Things I Brought but didn't Use:
  • Books- I wish I wouldn't have brought these, because they add quite a bit of weight to the carry-on and the iPad is an acceptable substitute in this situation.
  • Toys- I read somewhere that I should bring a new toy on the plane to entertain Eva, but she wasn't really interested in toys on the plane. She was way too intrigued with the remote control for the built-in TV, the seat belts, the magazines, the paper cups, etc.... I ended up buying her one toy in the Dubai airport just because she loved it and I thought it'd be a cute souvenir, but she ignored it the entire time we were on the plane.
  • Baby Tylenol- This is something I really thought I'd use but never did. I've heard of giving toddlers Benadryl but I have never given her that before so did without it on the flight as well.

Other Issues

Stroller or Baby Carrier?
This was the first trip I didn't bring the stroller on. Since I was traveling alone with my toddler, it was much easier to wear her so that my hands were free to pull my suitcases, carry-on, etc. It was also much easier to go through security and board the plane. There were times when my back was tired and I wished I had it, though. If I let Evita walk on her own she'd run all over the place. If you'll need a stroller at your destination, you might as well take it on the plane, I guess. I think that's what I'll do on our trip to Italy next month.

Car seat or no car seat?
I did NOT bring a car seat on the plane with us. There is nothing Eva hates worse than a car seat; instead, I checked it under the plane. All toddlers are different, though. There was one 23-month old a few rows ahead of us that did alright staying in the car seat for the entire 16-hour flight. It just depends on your child's demeanor, I guess.


  • I brought one big carry-on and one diaper bag. Right before boarding each plane, I reloaded my diaper bag with everything I thought I'd need on that flight, that way I didn't have to hassle with getting things out of the carry-on overhead. 
  • If you do have a layover, wear your baby out at this point. I chased mine in circles around the seats until it was time to board the plane. It was tiresome, but worth getting all her energy out.

I feel like I'm leaving stuff out at this point, but if you have any tips to add or questions to ask, the comment section is below!

Saturday, July 27, 2013


This week was a mostly quiet one for us. We spent it trying to get back to our sleep schedule and routine. We did go out a couple of times, once for a bleated Independence Day party at the Ambassador's house and once for a barbecue with friends. Eva started saying "please" and "up" and even pointed at herself and said, "I'm dirty." Hah. I'm looking forward to next week when I'll likely feel a bit more rested.

Friday, July 26, 2013

last few from Texas...

Sorry there hasn't been much to actually read on this blog in the last couple of weeks. It's not that I don't have anything to write about, it's just that I can't find the words. Maybe it's the jet lag. Maybe a case of writer's block. I've noticed the same on a few of the other blogs I read, so maybe it's July-itis. I could write about how much I miss Texas. I could write about how coming back to Tanzania wasn't as weird (as in another round of culture shock) as I thought it'd be. I could write about how excited I am for my upcoming trip. But I can't write. Not today. I'm just in one of those phases. But I'll be back. For now, here are some last few pictures from back home...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Worldly Dress...

I received quite a few comments on Facebook and my blog after posting Eva's 29/52 portrait last week. People seem to really love the dress she's wearing, and I can't blame them. It's my current favorite, and it happens to have been specially made for Eva by my real-life and blogger friend Ashlee from From Small Beginnings. I've introduced Ashlee on my blog before, but in case you forgot, she's from my hometown and graduated from the same high school as me. Ashlee makes the most beautiful custom dresses for her twin girls, and recently started selling them on her Etsy shop, Little Pink Carousel. Aside from the map, which I obviously love, I adore the little details of the dress like the lace and buttons. Ashlee's dresses are all gorgeous, and she's currently working on adorable Disney dresses for dress-up or Halloween. She'll be hosting a giveaway for them on her Facebook page soon, so you should probably go "like" it if you have a baby girl or a friend with one. ;) Meanwhile, check out these photos of Eva I took at Ashlee and I's home beach back on South Padre Island...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

WW: The Dubai Mall

I decided to make this a Wordless Wednesday post because I don't really have anything notable to say about the Dubai Mall. It's basically just a mall. With stores. Stores that I had no interest shopping in since I just returned from Texas, where all the same stores had all the same products for a much lower price. I don't even know if this post is Wordless-Wednesdayworthy. The pictures were taken with my iPhone since I didn't think a DSLR was necessary for pictures of a mall. But there were a few cool things about it, such as a kind of weird waterfall and a so-so aquarium with a few poor sharks. Eva loved that, at least. To tell you the truth, I was pretty miserable lugging her around along with the diaper bag for that long. Anyway, this post is become not-so-wordless so I'll shut up and share the few pics I got of that place...
Oh, one thing I found interesting is that there is a sign when you're entering the mall that says to wear respectful clothing- covering your knees and shoulders. There were tons of people wearing shorts and sleeveless tops, and I was a bit jealous, because Dubai is hot. At least I didn't offend anyone for once, I guess.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Burj Khalifa: The Tallest Building in the World

On our way back to Dar, Evita and I spent another night in Dubai. While we were there, we went up the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. Unfortunately, I didn't take many pictures of it. We had just finished a 15-hour flight, which followed another 1-hour flight and a hectic airline transfer in the Houston airport. To add to that, I had been wearing my 25-pound baby for a couple of hours at that point. I knew I'd regret not snapping pictures of everything I saw, but at least I have a few to commemorate the trip...
The height didn't seem to faze Eva:
The view looking down into downtown Dubai:
Sorry for the terrible picture below. It was taken with the front side of my iPhone, which had a Lifeproof case on. Oh well.
One thing that sort of disappointed me is that the tour is called, "At the Top," when you're really only at the 124th floor (of a building that is 163 stories tall). I was never really at the top. In fact, this was my view looking up:
But I found this cool chart on Wikipedia comparing the Burj Khalifa to other structures, so I guess we were still pretty high up.
And here are a couple of pictures from inside:

Tips for Seeing the Burj Khalifa on a Layover:

If you're headed there any time soon, I recommend purchasing tickets in advance, which is what I did here. I actually reserved my ticket for 11pm, but after wandering around the mall for a while and getting pretty tired I decided to ask if I could go up early, and they totally let me. 

If you want to see the Burj Khalifa on a layover, here are some other technical details:
-It took me about an hour from the time I landed to collect my visa and go through customs.
-A cab from the airport hotel to the Burj Khalifa cost around 40 dirhams (about $10), so I'm assuming it would be around the same price from the actual airport.
-The cab ride took about 15 minutes.
-I spent about an hour total at the Burj Khalifa. I don't think this is possible without reservations, though, because there was a wait for people without them.
-Getting back through security and stuff at the Dubai airport is relatively easy, and I think as long as you're back at the airport about 1.5 hours in advance (with no bags to check) you'll be fine.

My layover in Dubai was around 17 hours, but I think if you have at least 5 you can probably make it there and back in time.

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