I've written about airplane travel with kids before, you can find that post here. But we recently took the kids on a surprise trip to Disneyland (a surprise for them, not us!) and I think I've had sufficient experience to add to my previous writings on the topic.
Do not travel in the "red zone". I define that as about 6 months - 2 years old, give or take. Before then the baby will just nurse and sleep, so your arms might feel like they will fall off, but you won't want to throw the baby out of the plane at 30,000 feet. After 2, or whenever your child discovers the wonder of TV, this is the time to just bribe them with a zillion shows and snacks.
Pack with a plan in mind. Don't just throw a variety of cheap plastic toys in a bag and think that because your kid hasn't played with them at home they will magically become fascinating in the air. Think through your timing, and pack accordingly. If it's a short flight, you might need a snack for takeoff, 1 or 2 shows or movies for in the air (a new one and an old standby, this is not the time to discover that your child strongly dislikes WonderPets and *needs* her Dora), and an activity or snack for the way down. Longer flights will benefit from workbooks, simple card games (Go Fish, Old Maid etc.), and art that you make out of the airsickness bag. Add a sweater and you are good to go.
Don't use this time to teach sharing. Nope, on a plane is not the time to reinforce your value of sharing (whether it's a device or an armrest). Beg for or borrow enough video devices so that each child has their own with their own content. Separate your children from each other, and let them each have their own bags and snacks.
Headphones. Enough said. Your kids need them or you will go insane listening to the opening refrain from Bob the Builder (yes you can!). We give our kids our old noise canceling headphones so they can actually hear their shows (the kid ones don't work well with all the ambient noise of an airplane) and we just hope we might be able to read a magazine:)* the above photo was taken before takeoff, so she could still hear!
What are some of your best tips for traveling with kids?
*Notice that we left the baby behind on this particular trip, 17 months (at time of travel) being not fun either in the plane or in Disneyland:)
Other great travel advice: Plane Travel with Kids, Car Travel with Kids, How to Pack for a Trip with Kids, Car Seats for 3 Kids