Since we’ve made quite a few successful air trips with our little one(s), I figured that we might be able to help you out by sharing what worked for us in the past.
Younger babies usually aren’t too hard to travel with because they aren’t familiar with the freedom that older and more mobile babies know. For the trip I took to Texas alone with my two boys I just breastfed after take off, again during our descent and landing to help alleviate ear pressure that might have built up during the flight. I brought an entire bag of “veggie sticks” and pouches of food that were easier and less messy to eat. The toys I brought were quiet ones that could be attached to myself or the seatbelt using a pacifier clip. I brought 2 carry on suitcases (one my older pulled), a ring sling, and a backpack for each of us. Mine had stuff I might need to access easily like my documents, camera, and baby accessories. In Aiden’s was his snacks and entertainment for the flight.
Toddlers are a little harder to travel with because they are antsy and don’t want to stay in one place. It helps to bring plenty of snacks that take a long time to eat like raisins or other small dried fruits and their own drink cup. As far as toys go, a travel magna doodle is easy to keep them busy for awhile and other non-toy toys such as 1″ wide painters tape (handy for covering exposed electrical outlets in hotels as well). Bring favorite comforts from home like a blanket or toy to help them relax and be prepared to walk the aisles to make new friends (but not annoy). Most people who are more tolerant with younger ones will initiate a conversation and I haven’t yet encountered an airline hostess who didn’t enjoy children. It helps to break up the flight by spending some time playing, then snacking, the napping. When all else fails, having an iPad with their favorite short videos and apps on it can pass a few minutes here and there as well. During our trip to Denmark we let Søren run wild before our flights and during layovers. It was a 10 hour flight from San Francisco to Copenhagen and 14 hours of travel on the way back with a stop in Chicago. Just find a more empty gate and let them run wild or plane watch. Again, we kept our documents, my stuff, and all baby items in my backpack. As far as larger gear we did bring our stroller to Copenhagen but we checked it all the way through and just used our Ergo carrier for airport travel. It’s more comforting for the little ones and we didn’t have to remove or disassemble it through security!
Aiden is, and has been at the age where he takes care of himself while traveling since the age of about 3/4. Children are usually okay as long as you bring something to do and something to eat. For Aiden we always bring color crayons, a notebook, plenty of snacks, and some sort of tablet like an iPad. He also has this mini pack of tegu magnetic blocks that he likes. In the past we have put movies or shows onto the iPad before the trip for him to watch, or put his favorite games on it. When he gets tired he just slouches over and rests his head on one of us.
Regardless of age, the number one and most helpful tip I have about flying with children of any age is to fly at night!