1. SNACKS: our arsenal generally looks something like this (when in ideal grocery scenarios) – a bag of Pirates Booty, two bags of a healthy varietal of gummy bears/fruit snacks, a few Lara/Clif Bars, a few Sabra Hummus Dip and Pretzel combos, a kids water bottle to fill up on plane (especially important when traveling INTO the US, when you can’t bring ANY liquids aboard the plane), a small assortment of *emergency* provisions such as cookies, chocolate, and other non-healthy-kids’ll-be-stoked-on snacks (which often aren’t even broken into – but totally necessary as a back up plan).
2. CAR SEATS: after traveling on a few trans-Pacific flights with car seats, I’m a FIRM believer in using them for kids under 5 on long distance flights (don’t get me wrong, I’m still an ergo on the back, backpack on the front minimalist when it comes to shorter trips). It gives them their own space, prevents the inevitable sleeping riga-ma-roll (and allows YOU to even get some shut eye, imagine that!), and enables you to contain them/strap them in safely (emphasis on the containment aspect). We have two that are used expressly for this purpose and can surely also be used if renting a car on the other side (though they’re cheap and not the absolute safest, they’re still better than the crap, barely legal seats most rental agencies provide).
My main concern with using them has been the bulkiness. I am a MINIMALIST when it comes to travel gear. I’ve learned, however, that you can make your stroller do the work. Our seats fit PERFECTLY stacked on top of one another, in the front seat of our Phil and Teds Vibe (with doubles kit), and the front stroller seat is still totally useable (with child in top car seat). They honestly haven’t been a hassle at all, so much that on our last trip from San Francisco to Hong Kong, I easily navigated through the airport, by myself, with the kids (and all of our sh&%).
3. iPad/iPhone/other electronic device + kid friendly headphones: while the part of me who was CERTAIN I’d never be that parent who bought a car with a DVD player hates to say it, this is an ESSENTIAL part of a successful flight with young kids. And DO NOT rely on the airline headphones – they are too big and end up being a huge pain in the ass (and may even make you wish you HADN’T brought the iPad). We have a pair of Incase Reflex’s (they’re on super sale on Incase’s website right now too!) and a pair of Harman Kardon AKG’s (which are on the pricier side and aren’t at all necessary, unless Mom and Dad want an excuse to buy a new pair of headphones).
4. Kids Activities: we fill my daugher’s backpack with a handful of crayons/colored pencils (avoid markers if you don’t want to end up over-reacting to a mark somewhere it doesn’t belong, 10 hours into the flight, patience exhausted, bombs firing), a notebook for each kid, a handful of legos, 3-5 small paperback books, a handful of moving toy vehicles and animal figurines. I think that having her wear her stuff through the airport and our journey is a good exercise in responsibility and general wherewithall for her. Buying 1 new toy for each child, especially at the airport if you can stomach the prices, will buy you some quality play time/peace when flying.
5. Sleep Aids: my view on giving the kids a dose of Benadryl on the plane is that it’s not worth it. It *might* get you an hour or two more of sleep, which I honestly have yet to experience (yes, we’ve tried it), but you also risk having doped up kids when you land and are trying to disembark off the plane. In the end, your flight WILL end and if you’ve traveled somewhere far, it’s the jet-lag that’s going to exhaust you (so save the sleep aids for when you REALLY need them).
I just experienced the EASIEST 14 hour flight yet with our 2 and our 4 year old, all by myself. Don’t let flying intimidate you; even if it is the hardest 14 hours of your life, it’s ONLY 14 hours of your life, right?