So later this week we are headed out of town for a little late birthday, mid-winter, vacation. Usually at this point in the travel prep, I'm searching the internet trying to find great ways to entertain my young children on the plane. I'm heading to the store to buy toys and candy and other patented parenting bribery. Just last spring we went on a long flight to NYC from Montana. I was mildly terrified of flying for +6 hours with two kids under the age of 4. Thankfully, even despite the fact that our flight was majorly delayed, we were able to have a pretty stress free travel day.
So how did we do that? Even when we sat on the tarmac for hours with a plane full of cranky adults and seats in coach? Let me tell you that first of all, there wasn't any magic gadgets or treats involved. The key was my husband and I both spent time playing and focusing on our kids. I do think my children are relatively easy going, so that is definitely a BIG help. But most kids can be easily entertained with playing with the SkyMall magazine for at least an hour or more if you go through it with them and play with them. As long we kept calm and interested in what they wanted to do, everyone was happy. If the parents are cool and calm and not stressed, the kids will be follow that. Having toys and books with you is always a good idea, but don't be surprised if you don't need half of them if you do it right.
Take my advice for what it's worth (unsolicited and free) but you don't need to spend time individually wrapping toys for each hour of your flight. You don't need to pay money for iPad games that they'll only play once. Just be prepared to spend 95% of your time (if they are awake) playing with your kids. They love you, they want to play with you, and they might really enjoy the flight more that way.
Also, I usually get air sickness, to some degree or another. I noticed once I was fully engaged on what my kids were doing, I didn't have enough time to stress or worry about the plane falling out of the sky. I was too busy figuring out to make paper airplanes out of SkyMall pages. Win-win.