Being a parent is hard enough when you can control all the circumstances surrounding your daily grind. When you're traveling long distances, the difficulty expands almost exponentially. The kids get bored, they get tired, or they get amped up. It's almost better when they're tired and cranky than wound up and mischievous, but that will depend on the child.
Here's the point: Murphy's Law really likes to activate when you're traveling with your family. Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. So you want to go into any journey with that mindset.
First, know the “rhythms” of your family, and know the available flights leaving the airport from which you're departing. When do the kids normally nap? What “nap tactics” can you apply to get them sleeping as soon as they get buckled into the airplane? How will you keep your children busy going through security and waiting for your flight to depart?
You may want to start answering these questions one at a time. Figure out the date you need to leave, and where you need to be. Then figure out what sort of budget you have. A good strategy that could save you time and aggravation could be pursuing discount flights. Believe it or not, you can also book your flight last-minute. Ultimately this may end up saving you time and money.
Understand Air Traffic
It can be difficult to book last minute; know the stats for busy times at your local airport—a simple Google search will provide this information. Oftentimes late September and early October represent a low traffic time, and you'll be able to save money and even get better seats by booking last minute. This isn't always the case, sometimes it is.
If you can catch a late-night flight booked last minute with the kids, you may be able to save time in the security line, time at the terminal, and your own sanity. The kids will be naturally tired and fall right asleep as soon as they get on the flight. Then your only difficulty is waking them up on landing.
Ideally, when traveling with children you'll have someone else with you. That is to say, you've got a spouse or significant other who can help shoulder the load. In a pinch you can do it yourself, but it's a lot better to have another set of eyes; especially when you're dealing with multiple children.
Ensure you do your best to prepare children, too. When you've got infants, there's not much you can do outside memorizing nap-times and being strategic about your trip. The car can be a positive and negative tool, here: car-seats will knock children out like a light—but then they're awake and energetic through the airport. It's better if they sleep on the plane, than make a bunch of noise etc.
Incentivize Good Behavior, Plan In Advance
If you've got older ones, incentivize good behavior by promising treats, toys, or whatever you reward them with—provided they make things easy on you. Coloring books are a good idea, letting kids bring along their favorite toy can help too. Also consider audio dramas.
You can have audio teleplays and children's stories galore on your smartphone or tablet. Download a few hours of something like Adventures In Odyssey, and you may just get a trouble-free flight. Just ensure you know how to charge whatever device your child is using, and that you've got backup solutions to keep them busy should the device run out of battery.
There are many things you can do to reduce the hassle of travel with young ones. Ultimately, what works best for you may not work well for other families, and vice versa. Your best bet will be knowing your options, your children, and thinking things out as much as possible beforehand.