Here is a list of things you need for flying with children.
1. Gum or a bottle/breast (for babies) to help stablize air pressure when the plane takes off and lands. When my daughter was really little I made sure I was feeding her on the way up and on the way down. The swallowing and sucking helped ward off any uncomfortable pressure in her ears during the assent and decent in the plane. A pacifier/dummy can also help with this, but some kids don't take them. Gum can be used for older children, but make sure it stays in their mouth unless they want a homemade haircut when they get to the ground.
2. Blanket and pillow. A good majority of the time, the hum of the airplane's engines will make my kids sleepy. So it is always good to have a soft place for them to put their head. Also, airplanes tend to be cold so a blanket is nice. Sometimes airlines provide blankets and pillows, sometimes for free, sometimes for a charge.
3. A portable DVD player/iPad. I have always found that the kids are never EVER interested in the kids movies that the airlines provide. Either they have already seen it or it is too old for them (geared towards teens and not children). If you don't have your own device and can't afford one, go beg a friend to borrow theirs. It will save your life.
4. Some sort of way to color. I used to bring crayons and coloring books for my kids so that my kids could draw and color while they were traveling. Now, I have my iPad and an app for that. Crayons work just fine, but they tend to get dropped under the seats and then you have to hunt them down. They work, but can be a pain sometimes.
5. A cuddly toy. Having a familiar face from home helps to calm nerves. Just make sure to remember the cuddly friend when disembarking the plane.
6. Headphones that fit your child's ears. The airlines headphones are meant for adult heads and don't exactly fit little ones. Once my eldest child spent an 8 hour flight with her hands over her ears holding her headphones to her head so that she could listen to music and watch movies on the plane.
7. Books. It is a good way to get an older child to sit still. Give them a book and ask them to read to you.
8. Nintendo DS/Leapster/handheld gaming system- Once again, if you do not have one and can't afford one, go beg one off a friend. They are a life saver. When all else fails, kids will usually sit still to play their video games.
9. Extra snacks. My kids NEVER eat the food that is served on the planes. The dinners don't even try to look appitizing to kids, so my kids generally only eat the dinner roll. I make sure I always carry a few packages of snacks that I know that they will eat. Don't bring fresh fruit or veg though unless you want to get a fine when going through customs when flying internationally.
10. Bring your sense of humor. Don't be in a hurry. Try to have fun. Relax if you can. It is going to be a long day, but it doesn't have to be stressful. Remember a few hours of planning beforehand can save you a lot of grief on the day.
Do you have any other suggestions for things to bring on the plane to make traveling with children any easier?