After all the hustling at the airport, we now move on to the slower pace of the airplane.
The good news about the plane is: the kids have to stay in one place.
The bad news about the plane is: the kids have to stay in one place.
The first thing I do when we get to our seats is to take some disinfecting wipes and clean the area where we will be sitting: Both sides of the tray, the arms of the seat, the seat buckle, the in-flight entertainment controls, overhead controls, etc. Then we get the kids their entertainment materials for take off, and get ready to roll!
Entertainment for the Kids
Once the kids can read, entertainment for them is so easy because not only can they can read to themselves, but also it's likely that they can self-manage most of their time-occupying activities for the flight. I like to limit books to just 2 or 3 since they get heavy, and supplement that with some comics and magazines, sticker books, drawing pads and a pack of crayons and pencils. We also bring their Nintendo DS and games, but those stay in a separate electronics bag that Dad carries.
It's a little more involved when you have an older baby or a toddler because you have to actively provide most of their entertainment. If your baby is really young, like up to 4 months, it's not so bad because you can just feed and hold them, and they sleep a lot of the time. Once they are 5 months and on, you really have to be prepared with some new toys, new books and be ready to feed them, change them or walk them up and down the aisles....whatever it looks like they want next. My top priority is keeping ahead of my baby's mood so that the chance of crying is minimized.
Speaking of crying, it's not the end of the world, so don't let it fill you with dread or worry for your flight. I have decided that when I am on that airplane I am only responsible for taking care of my family and myself. These are the people whose enjoyment of the flight I am most concerned with. I teach my children to be polite and quiet on the airplane, and I work to make sure that my baby is happy and quiet as well, but if despite these best efforts, he cries a little, I can't worry about how strangers feel. Of course I don't want the bad looks or hostile whispers, but if it happens, it can't take precedence in my mind over caring for my baby. It's really a worst-case scenario that a baby will cry, and if you try hard to avoid it, most people recognize that and end up cutting you some slack.
Other Considerations to Make Life Easier
In-flight movies. Bring your own headphones for the kids because many airlines have the type that hook over each ear individually and those can be tricky for kids, especially littler ones.
Spillage. I prepare for this by bringing some disposable sippy cups and toddler size disposable cutlery for the in-flight meals and drinks.
Hunger. Bring snacks, candy and a bottle of water. If you are on a flight where you will have to buy food, get some things at the airport before getting on the plane. It's possible that food will sell out (especially if you are at the back of the plane) or maybe what is being sold isn't something your kids would like to eat.
Messes. Bring boogie wipes, napkins and a little plastic bag (like what they have in the produce dept at the grocery store) just to be safe!
Sleeping on the plane
Consider a buying a little neck pillow for comfort. Other than that, you have to be pretty flexible about sleep on long flights. It's hard to get kids to settle in, but they will eventually. They are young, so they will bounce back better than you from lack of sleep.
If you are traveling with a baby, bring a boppy pillow to make it more comfortable for both of you to get some rest. Many airline give families traveling with a baby the bulkhead seating, which features a pull down on which they place a bassinet.
For yourself, don't fixate on sleeping, just tell yourself you will rest,and hopefully sleep will come. If not, you are getting the next best thing by "powering down" and just being still. When the time comes for the plane passengers to "wake up" and the lights come back on, have something hot to drink, go to the bathroom and brush your teeth, and when you are seated again, eat something for a burst of energy. You're almost off the plane and that much closer to your vacation!