The challenges of traveling with kids have tempered my wanderlust. However, I did manage to take my firstborn on 26 flights (many for work trips, but also some for pleasure) before she turned two, and I had to start buying her a ticket (the frequency was tempered somewhat after that due to cost constraints).
Tip #1: Plan Your Flight
When my kids were small and still nursing, I would often time my flights during nap time. I would get settled into my seat, nurse them to sleep, and then enjoy a quiet flight to my destination. This sometimes led to some fussing in the airport terminal, especially if there were delays. Still, at least in the terminal, you can walk around and expose different people to the crying, unlike your captive audience on a plane.
Tip #2: Bring Gifts
As they got older, I would ensure I brought something “new” with me on each trip. This was usually a new book, often a Good Night Book for the destination. The best thing about this approach is that I would learn what an author thought were all the cool kid-friendly attractions. I also loved bringing a Water Wow book from Melissa & Doug. I would often get a pack of them and then bring one out on a trip, and then it would mysteriously disappear when we got home (with a rotation of these making them ever “new”).
Tip #3: Stay Calm and Flexible
Stay calm and be prepared to pack extra things that might not be necessary, and stay flexible. The more relaxed you can stay, the more confident the kids will be that everything will be okay. Flights get canceled and delayed, your spouse sometimes gets seated away from you, or your kid has a poo-explosion mid-flight. These manageable challenges can be handled better if you find the ridiculousness in the situation and keep your cool.
Tip #4: Be Prepared
On these trips, I would often pack a near-lifetime supply of wet wipes and spare outfits for my kids and an extra shirt for me (the poo-explosion thing was a regular occurrence when my kids were small). I was always happy when I didn’t need them, but so glad I had them when their necessity arose.
Tip #5: Pack Snacks
I would pack my kids’ favorite snacks like Goldfish or gummy bears that could sometimes be used to bribe them for good behavior. I have often said, “If you can count the people walking by for the next five minutes, you will get ten gummy bears.”