Some things you can do to make it easier on yourself (and them!)
Pick the right flight. You might consider taking long haul flights at night if your baby is a dependable sleeper. Otherwise, time flights to coincide with his naptime (or less cranky times of day). A direct flight means less maneuvering, but a connection offers a welcome break during a long day of flying and a chance for baby to move around.
Consider buying your baby a seat. Even if you arenít required to, there are several reasons to consider it. Itís safer for your baby in the event of turbulence, provides extra napping and playing space, and gives you more privacy from your neighbors. Of course, only you know if your baby will actually sit in their own seat or if it would just be wasted. Remember, you canít choose seats in an exit row and youíll usually have to install the car seat next to the window. If you have a particularly large car seat, check your airlineís website to make sure your seat will fit.
Try for bulkhead seats (or not). Bulkhead seats are the seats in the first row of the plane; they are attractive to families because they have a large floor space in front of them, allowing young kids extra space to move around. The drawbacks are that you wonít be able to store your bags at your seat, they are difficult to reserve ahead of time, and even if the airline allows you to reserve them thereís a fair chance youíll be bumped by someone with greater need.
Maximize your chances of getting a free seat for your baby. If you donít buy a seat for your baby and youíre traveling with a partner, consider booking an aisle and a window seat. Middle seats are usually the last to be filled; if youíre lucky, that seat will remain empty. If not, the other passenger will almost certainly trade with one of you.
Look into safety harnesses. If your baby is a toddler (22-44 pounds) the FAA has approved the CARES safety harness for use during flights. You use it in addition to the regular airplane seatbelt and in place of a car seat. It takes up next to no space in your carry on bag and gives you one less piece of equipment to maneuver. If you fly frequently, it could be a worthwhile investment.
Pack right. Bring several extra changes of clothes, more diapers than you think youíll need, and lots of interactive toys. Donít forget an extra outfit for yourself; you never know when (or where) your baby might get airsick. Donít forget to do one last diaper change right before you board the plane.
Deal with ear pain. Some babies experience ear pain during take-off and landing. The easiest way to deal with it is to nurse or bottle feed them during that time. If nothing else, crying will help unplug their ears, though fellow passengers may not find it charming.