Think of the worst flight you've ever had. You probably had a little kid sitting behind you, kicking your seat while the mother of said child cradled another scared toddler who was screaming all throughout takeoff and landing because someone forgot to remind the youngest kid to swallow and pop her ears. Or, you've been moved to pray for safe landing because the kid sitting across the aisle from you continues to ask what would happen if the plane fell from the sky. If you've ever been the parent of these children, you have probably sworn to yourself that you'll never take another plane ride with kids ever again; you'll just wait until they grow up to take another vacation. Luckily for you, it doesn't have to be that hard. If you can prepare beforehand, you'll have a much smoother traveling experience that won't leave you in a fit of frustrated tears.
Bring Your Own Entertainment
Frankly, plane rides are long and boring, and being cooped up in that tiny cabin is difficult even for the smallest of passengers. If the flight is delayed, that boredom is only compounded by the boredom of sitting in the terminal waiting to board the plane. If the flight isn't long, there isn't even an in-flight movie anymore that can keep the kids entertained. Therefore, you need to bring your own sources of entertainment.
Coloring books and crayons are great ways to keep kids occupied. Even better is a portable DVD player stocked with the kids' favorite movies and TV shows. If you have an iPad or smart phone the kids can play games on, that's a great addition to the entertainment pile, as well. As long as something is moving in front of them, they will stay occupied for a long time.
Stock Up on Snacks
You can't bring trail mix through security anymore, but it might be a good idea to invest in some snacks after you get to the terminal. Even though airport food is totally overpriced, hunger is one of the primary reasons why kids get cranky. They can't last as long without food or drink as adults can, so keeping their favorite treats at hand can help keep them calm.
Take Your Time
Getting to the airport early is the key. Traveling with your kids in tow is incredibly different from traveling alone or with a group of adults. Your kids will probably slow you down, and they will want to sit and watch the planes take off to build a sense of comfort for when their plane takes off. Also, rushing the kids and acting stressed out will only stress them out. Therefore, make sure you give yourself plenty of time once you get to the airport.
Bring the Comforts of Home
If your child has a favorite blanket or stuffed animal, make sure you carry that. Having some of the comforts of home can help your child sleep on the airplane, and can also make him or her feel more comfortable. Being reminded of home is one of the best ways to calm a traveling child.
Educate Kids Beforehand
A few weeks before you are scheduled to take flight, start talking to your kids about airplanes, traveling, and etiquette. Knowledge is power, and the more they know, the better they will do. If you have toy airplanes with little figurines that can get on them, you can use the toys to play "airplane" and show the children what people do and how they act. This knowledge can make them less nervous and, therefore, better behaved.