Keeping Your Toddler Busy When Traveling

Last week I hopped on a plane with my very active 13-month-old baby/toddler. Desmond and I took a 4.5 hour flight from San Francisco to Atlanta, just the two of us (well, and everyone else on the plane). We flew back home yesterday.

I will come out and say this for all to read – I was terrified to take this trip on my own. But that’s how most adventures in parenting start, right?

Airport baby wearing

Babywearing at the airport

To prepare, I scoured the internet for ideas for keeping small children occupied on airplanes. I found a lot of suggestions that work for kids over the age of 2 years – those kids that are less likely to eat the crayons or throw the blocks at other passengers. Dez is still not 100% accurate with putting food in his mouth – there is no way he would have luck drawing on a magnedoodle!

Having very little luck with my search on the internet, I proceeded to tear through my house looking for items that I wouldn’t normally let Dez play with but that also aren’t dangerous while supervised. I came up with quite a few things to put in my “forbidden items grab bag.” I then hit up my Facebook parenting groups to gather more ideas before heading to Target. (I came out spending way too much, but it was less than $100, which is kind of amazing for a trip to Target!)

In the end, I collected quite the mishmash of items to entertain my toddler on the plane. And thus I bring you tips for flying with a toddler (without losing your mind).

Ewokmama tips for flying with toddler

Ideas for Fun and/or “Forbidden” Items to Bring on the Plane:

  • a fun keychain with spare keys and a large paperclip attached
  • various expired membership cards
  • a bracelet
  • post-it notes
  • small, portable toys that are new to your toddler – we had Little People figurines, My Little Pony minis, a Little People clown car
  • a pill organizer filled with snacks
  • stickers
  • interactive books (i.e. a “slide & seek” book and Pat the Bunny)
  • a pack of playing cards from the $1 bin

My cell phone is the ultimate forbidden item, of course…so I also looked around the app store to find things that might appeal to a toddler. [Note: If your kiddo is closer to 2 years and above, Toca Boca makes some awesome apps.] The best app I found is called “Animal and Tool Picture Flashcards for Babies” by Open Solutions. It’s free and contains a mixture of animal photos and clip art pictures; when you tap on a picture, the app states the name of the animal and then plays a clip of the sound that animal makes.

That app was the best money I never spent! Dez LOVED it. Even aside from the animal pictures and sounds, he really enjoyed dancing to the background music. It came in handy in the hotel room later, as well.

A word of warning, though. Now that I’ve let Dez play with my cell phone, he is more demanding about it than ever. Still, it was worth it for peace of mind on the plane!

If I were to pick one item from the above list to suggest above all others (aside from the animal flashcards app), it would be the pill organizer filled with snacks. Dez thought it was great to point to the container he wanted me to pop open – over and over. The snacks were key! A well-fed kid is a happy kid!

Aside from items to schlep along with you onto a plane, here are a few more tips for flying with toddlers:

  • Opt for the window seat. Not only will your kid like the view, but you can use stranger anxiety to keep him from trying to make a run for it.
  • If you are flying with your child on your lap, upgrade to get extra legroom. You can let your kid stand up a bit or maybe even play on the floor (depending on how MUCH leg room there is). And in case of tantrums, flailing limbs are less likely to hit the seat in front of you.
  • Babywear through security.
  • Ask for an empty cup and/or water bottle for your kid to play with.
  • Make sure to nurse or give your child something to drink during take off and landing to help with eardrum pressure.

Hopefully these things will help you get through your trip without any meltdowns from your toddler OR YOU. If not and your kid has a tantrum, hang in there! And maybe buy your neighbor – and yourself – a drink to cope.

Moms and dads, what did I forget? What are your tricks for traveling with toddlers?

Magical Sevilla

David and I both fell in love with Sevilla, Spain. Something about that city is magical. It feels quaint and cozy even though it’s the fourth-largest city in Spain. The center of the city is pedestrian-only and here and there you will hear a musician – with actual talent – playing guitar beautifully so it feels like the city has its own soundtrack. One such musician sat in Plaza Elvira (where we stayed) and filmed a music video; we even participated and were filmed as part of the audience!

There is just no way to convey through pictures how enchanting this city was – I hope some day you all can visit and experience it (if you haven’t already). We did our best, though, and her are some of the things that make Sevilla such a charming place.

There are cobblestone streets with horse-drawn carriages

Ancient buildings around every street corner and off in the horizon


An abundance of orange trees that are covered in fruit (too bitter to eat, but making for beautiful scenery)

Buildings and courtyards with thousands of inlaid hand-painted ceramic tiles




Stone carvings that are mind-blowingly intricate and well-preserved


Flamenco up close and personal

Well manicured gardens that seem to have no end

And city views unlike anything you’ve seen before

These are mere snippets of all that we saw in our two days in Seville (the whole set of pictures can be seen on Shutterfly). Every single thing we saw there exceeded all expectations, including the people.

Someday, we’ll go back and experience the magic again.


I Can’t Write About Spain

I want to write about how amazing last week’s trip to Spain was. Because truly, it was wonderful. I needed that change of scenery. I needed to get away from the stress of day-to-day life. David and I badly needed that time together to be a couple and not caregivers. We got that in Spain and it was lovely. It was so very worth it!

Some day, we’ll go back.

We had a whole week abroad free of worry (for the most part). And I wish I could say that I feel refreshed after that change of scenery, but I don’t. I know I should feel happy – my soul renewed and inspired – and I should be ready to tackle everything all over again. I feel conflicted instead of happy. Less than a day back and the blanket of depression I’d tried to leave behind me when I got on the plane to Madrid enveloped me all over again. Every time I’m asked how Spain was, I say, “it was…good.”

Spain was awesome.

On the other hand, I was not awesome; therefore Spain was…a mixed bag.

I just want to forget the less wonderful things, but I can’t. I’m stuck.

I spent a lot of the week battling a nasty cold that seems to have turned into a sinus infection. I dealt with insomnia (which hit at different times than my husband’s insomnia). Half the time I longed for the comfort of my own bed and an ability to recover from my cold without missing out on a whole world outside the hotel. I was so overwhelmed by many of the wondrous things we saw and yet I lacked interest in other things that I usually would enjoy. I had very little appetite to take full advantage of the foods and wines I had been looking forward to trying. I was so out of it by the end of the trip that I accidentally forgot a painting we had bought in Seville in the hotel lobby before we left on a train back to Madrid. Then on our last night in Spain, David and I argued, my debit card was eaten by an ATM, and I woke up in the middle of the night with a debilitating migraine that had David looking up the cost of medical care for tourists.

There was a lot of bad. It wasn’t all bad and in fact I felt mostly relaxed while in Spain, but there was enough bad to reinforce the feeling that the universe continues to punish me for something that I’m not even aware of doing.

That’s ridiculous, I know. This is life and there are good things and bad things and if I could just remember to think more about those good things than the bad things, I could be a much happier person.

I want to focus on the good. I want to write pages and pages about the magical town of Sevilla and the sheer awesomeness of the architectural details we saw everywhere in Spain. I want to offer recommendations for places to try for tapas and let you know that Spanish in Spain is different than Mexican Spanish. I have lists to share – of American things we’d miss if we ever moved to Spain and things that Spain does better than America. I have nearly four hundred pictures to show off, many of which only offer hints of how mind-blowing everything was and really need some narration!

But I’m depressed. I’m still sick and I had another migraine last night. And it’s December, which has traditionally been a terribly hard month for me anyway.

So instead of writing about Spain, I wrote this.

I’m sorry.

BlogHer12 Recap

I’m really glad I got to go to BlogHer this year. It was a great event and I loved seeing New York City again, as well as my many friends who live in the Internets. This BlogHer, as opposed to BH10, was much less overwhelming for me. I don’t know if it was the fact that I had a buddy (Jana), that I knew so many more people this go-round, or if it was the fact that I went in without any expectations or set plans; it all worked out well and I just happened to run into pretty much all the people I had hoped to see!

This is just a brief recap that does the conference NO JUSTICE. But please consider checking out the posts I’ve linked below and enjoy the pics. Maybe I’ll see you in Chicago next year!

Voices of the Year I particularly enjoyed:

Jana: From a Pecan to a Majestic Magnolia (Identity [read at Open Mic])


Elizabeth at Flourish in Progress: To the Person Who Stole My Taco Bell Gordita Savings Fund (Humor)

Neil from Citizen of the Month: The Poet at the Geek Bar (Humor)

Dresden Shumaker: Welfare Queen (Heart)

Arnebya Herndon: Walk This Way (Op-Ed)

Best Party:


Come As You Are – It was hosted by Aiming Low and Mouthy Housewives. I got some pretty sweet artwork drawn on me by Robin Plemmons, plus I got to give out all kinds of compliments on stickers (and got a few myself). And there was the most amazing chocolate covered peanut butter ball dessert thingy…

Connected with and/or hugged (in no particular order and possibly not all-inclusive):

Jana, Issa, Dawn, Cathy, Nona, Alecia, Allison, Katherine, Tanis, Anissa, Julia Roberts, Liz, Andrea, Jenny, Lauren, Frelle, Stacey, Bossy, Christine, Stacey (who also likes ewoks), Robin Plemmons, Angie, Jenny Grace, Julia, EmmieJ, Megan, Kristine, Jenna

Favorite conference moments:

In the “Blogging After Life Change” session, I spoke up to tell my story and was able to connect with another mom whose son had just recently been diagnosed with Leukemia.

When the lovely Robin Plemmons wrote on my arm, “He will be healed,” we both teared up.

Dancing with the very talented Cathy at Sparklecorn.

‘Fancy’ breakfast with Jana and Lauren.

When I drew a schlong on Allison’s moo card during a keynote.

What I did offsite:

Rode the subway, then had ‘fancy breakfast’.
Ate breakfast for lunch at Serendipity3.
Visited Tiffany & Co.

Things I’ll do differently next year:

Go out to dinner.
Buy a memento.
Attend more than 2 sessions.
Pack a suitcase in a suitcase (for swag).
Share a cab to/from the hotel to save cash.
Take an incoming flight that is NOT a red-eye.
Drink more champagne.
Take more pictures!

Unexpected Honeymoon Happenings

  • Losing my passport in Munich
  • Big food portions
  • Italians speaking amazing English
  • Affordable wine at restaurants (like – 8 euro for a bottle!)
  • Throwing up in a bidet
  • Trannies on the train to Florence
  • Peacefulness of Venice
  • Bad coffee…a lot
  • Bad pasta – just once (they took ‘al dente’ to a whole new level)
  • Getting tons of sleep
  • Watching football at an American bar
  • The terrible American food at the American bar
  • Coming home $1000 under budget

Pictures here.  We had a blast!

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