5 Must-Haves to Fly with a Lap-Child: Toddler Edition

As parents, especially new parents, the “standard” activities or events you once did with ease now can cause enough anxiety to bring us out of sleep in a cold sweat.  The poster-child of what I call “Parental Proving Grounds” is the Airplane - where you once lounged and watched movies, slept, or read is now where you are going to be wrestling a 20 pound salmon in the shape of your 18 month old, and he knows he is “out of water.” 

Before I dive into the tricks-of-the-trade and other valuable tid bits to wrangle your lap fish, I mean child, please know that traveling with our kids has been one of the greatest sources of joy to our family.  Whether going to see family or on our own family excursion, travel has created incredible memories for our children and brought us an immense amount of joy. Please know that your efforts to get there are well worth it and we, Purlieu, are here to help!

The following are our 5 Must-haves to fly with a Lap-CHild - Toddler Edition.


  • 1: A “Snack Buffett

  • Some munchkins eat like they are preparing to hibernate while others appear to have a very selective palate.  Regardless, every child has some go-to snacks and some frequently coveted treats. For our boys the following is our airplane snack buffet.


    Go-to’s - we usually pack a few

    1. Granola Bars 
    2. Cut up fruits and veggies 
    3. Fruit snacks 
    4. Apple Sauce
    5. Dried Fruit

    Treat - we let our kids choose one

    1. Fruit by the foot - Eaten one  strand at a time
    2. Starbursts - Preferably pink or orange (They already know they’re the best)
    3. M&Ms
    4. Rice Krispie Treats
    5. Gummy worms (The Holy Grail of Treats)

    As an added note, make sure to have your kids drink or suck on something during take-off. This will help keep their ears from hurting.

    2. Dollar Store Toys

    Every year, on Christmas day, there are parents all over the world that think “Why do I spend money on presents?” because their son or daughter has been playing with an empty tube of wrapping paper, a box, or some nick-nack stocking stuffer instead of the $50 toy that Santa brought them.

    Guess what - that card is now in your hand.   A couple days before the flight, if your kids are behaving themselves (double win), go to the dollar store and let them pick out a few new “special” toys that they will be able to open & play with on the plane - it’s basically a mini-Christmas to them.  Our boys are always so excited to open army men, silly putty, doodle pad, or random do-hickey they picked out. Trust us, that is money well spent.

    3. The Tried & True Show.

    With kids under 2 it is always a gamble if a show will entertain them for too long, or even at all.  That is why we always have their go-to favorites downloaded on an ipad and phone (there always needs to be a back-up).  Thankfully most airlines have free on-line entertainment for new movies or shows but the tried-and-true are essential when the new stuff won’t last longer than 2 seconds.  For us that is Toy Story, 1, 2, 3, & 4 - Woody and Buzz never let us down.

    I will say that we don’t allow any iPad time for our boys when at home so when they travel the novelty of iPads are extra special.  Every parent is different, this is what works for us, find out what works for you!

    Important note:  Make sure to have your electronics charged and shows downloaded BEFORE you leave to the airport because airport wifi is the WORST.

      4. Incentives 

        Sometimes, instead of having the carrot & the stick, it is better to have the carrot & the ….. other carrot.  Disciplining kids in public places can sometimes be awkward & uncomfortable. That’s why when traveling as a family we tend to incentivize good behavior for our mini-travelers a little more than usual.

        Our boys are those “eat-like-their-preparing-for-hibernation” kids so our incentives usually have to do with ice cream, cake, or some other delicious morsel.

        Other incentives might be excursions at the destination or when you get back home

        • The Zoo
        • Hiking
        • Skiing
        • 4 wheeler riding (one we have used in the past) 
        • Movie theater trip. 

        And remember, you can get back to your normal ways of structure and discipline as soon as you are home. It is often helpful to show forth an added measure of love, compassion, and patience to your little ones when traveling - remember this is a lot for them to process too!

          5. Our MOST IMPORTANT tip of all!

            Now for the finale,  the coup-de-grass, the game-changer when it comes to traveling with kids.  Pure, unadulterated, raw, unfiltered EXCITEMENT.   Kids thrive off your energy as a parent.  Have you ever heard that kids can sense fear?  Well they can sense excitement as well! A common ritual at our house to start this excitement is to make a paper chain when a trip is 2 weeks away.  Every night before bedtime we take a paper-chain link off the chain. This makes the upcoming trip more tangible as well as visual.

            We realize that traveling with kids can be nerve racking, or might even give birth to some new found anxiety - don’t worry, it happens to everyone.  The best thing to do is to be excited. Imagine the looks of wonder and awe in your child’s eyes on the plane, or at the destination, or even when they return back to their favorite toys after the trip.  This whole experience is an opportunity to make memories that will create the foundation of their character.  



            We at Purlieu know that family travel can be stressful but it doesn’t have to be.   

            We are here to help every step of the way!