Even if you have done it many times before having children, flying with kids can be very daunting, especially for longer flights. The best thing you can do is to plan ahead and do your research. And don’t take it personally if your child disturbs others, just try to remain calm and do your best to calm your child.
Children are allowed to fly free and sit on your lap up until they are 2 years old. However, flying becomes easier when your child has their own seat, so consider purchasing a seat for them. The closer they are to 2 years old, the harder it is to have them sit on your lap for longer flights. If you do purchase a separate seat for your child, you can bring your car seat on board and secure it to the plane seat, which provides increased safety, restraint, and a similar experience to riding in the car.
Select your seats in advance. Most airlines reserve the bulk head seats for young children, but it's a first come first serve system, so you have to get to the airport early on the day you fly to get those seats. With bulk head, you get extra leg room. Also, one set of bulk head seats has a basinet that will attach to the wall for babies. If you have the bulk head seats, you can make a little bed on the floor in front of you for your child to lie down to sleep. Ask the flight attendants to give you more blankets.
Most airlines offer pre-boarding for families with young children. Although it is ideal to reduce the amount of time sitting in the plane, it is a lot easier to get situated prior to a full plane. Plus, there is still plenty of space left in the overhead storage. If you are not traveling alone with your child, have one of you load the stuff while the other delays boarding the plane with your child.
Airlines allow you to gate-side check many big items such as your stroller and car seat. Having use of your stroller throughout the airport will be very helpful, both for the comfort of your baby or toddler and your own sanity in not needing to carry or chase your child.
Pack a diaper bag with all of the essentials, including a few more diapers then you think you will need. Include extra clothes not just for your child, but for you as well. Be sure to pack appropriate snacks. Not only do they take care of hunger, but they also provide entertainment and distraction. Make sure to check the current rules on bringing liquids on board. And of course pack along toys and items to entertain your child. Consider bringing toys that are new to them (ones that have been packed away for awhile or that you picked up at a garage sale or the dollar store) and toys and activities that will not be disruptive to the other passengers.
For small babies, plan to nurse, bottle feed, or offer a pacifier during take-off and landing to help with any ear pressure problems. On flights where adults do not get food, a lot of airlines will still give kids meals for free. Be sure to ask ahead of time. If you're potty training, consider putting your child in a pull-up for the flight.
Have you taken a long flight with children? How did it go? Do you have any additional tips?