Packing for kids is all about organization.
I get a special kind of anxiety when I think about flying with my children on long-haul flights.
You see, we used to live in Australia and flew several times with our child/ren over the pond to visit family. The trip took 36 hours door-to-door, and much of that was spent flying.
When you're in the air, you're at the mercy of your carry on luggage. Need a change of clothes? A diaper? Maybe 12,000 wipes? You're ok if you've packed them.
The same is true for shorter flights, though you can probably MacGyver your seat back contents into a temporary fix.
The flight time for Melbourne -> L.A. is about 15.5 hours alone. For very young children, you'll need supplies for between 5 - 1000 diaper changes, 3 - 10 changes of clothing, baby food, snacks, activities and kid-friendly headphones. For older kids, you'll need clothing changes, both daytime and pajama-type clothing, snacks and activities.
This is a lot of stuff. Spend the time before you fly to be as organized as possible.
Here's how I do it:
1) For young children in diapers, changes of clothes with one diaper should be placed in plastic (or reusable) quart-sized bags. Label them clearly.
If you bring this bag to the airplane bathroom, you'll have a change of clothes ready for every diaper change in case of blowouts. That way, you won't have to carry your diapered child, sans clothes, through the aisle and search for clothes at your seat.
2) Pack yourself a change of clothes too. You'll likely be spilled on, or worse.
3) Pack more clothes and diapers than you think. My husband thought I overpacked for our first overseas trip. Our baby went through every. last. outfit.
4) Wipes aren't just for babies! I wish I had known this years ago, if only to clean the tray table. Keep some in the front pocket of every suitcase.
5) Remember where you packed things. It's easy to throw things in your bag and forget. It sucks to be digging for something when someone is screaming for it, or when another passenger is giving you the "get out the way" eyes.
6) Consider a four-wheeled suitcase. If you need the room of multiple carry-ons, you'll be able to wheel two of these, back-to-back, with one hand. Your other hand would be left to push a stroller, etc. This is particularly handy when traveling alone. We use an older version of this Victorinox Avolve suitcase.
7) Pack age-appropriate activities, in you guessed in, little bags. That way, you can pull them out when the last activity gets old. Also bring books. For little ones, we've often packed Lucy Cousins books like this.
8) If you need to pack baby food, bring pouches, these are an example. I've yet to fly an airline that provides them, or any other baby food, even on long-haul flights.
8) Whatever happens, you'll be fine. As long as you arrive safely, you've done it!