I'll start by saying none of the ideas are original to me. They're a compilation of everything I found while google searching over a period of several weeks. I'm so thankful for each one as I know it was a huge contributing factor to such a smooth trip. Planning ahead goes a long way!
Bring a carry-on dedicated to snacks and food for your toddler.
I'd never really considered mine to be a picky eater so I thought I was bringing snacks to tide her over between meals on the plane or on our layovers. WRONG. She wanted nothing to do with any of the plane food our entire trip except for the ice cream. So, I was VERY thankful to have packed enough healthy snacks to feed her on those two days of travel. I brought pre-packaged everything. Perfect little serving sizes to pull out quick with minimal to no mess. Apple sauce pouches (the ones they suck out the top) organic/natural flavored gummies and cheddar bunnies, nut mixes, sugar free organic suckers, granola bars, etc. I was so thankful I'd brought as much as I did (a whole carry-on bag) and will do it again on our return trip to the states.
Another item I stuck in the snack pouch was her vitamins, fish oil supplements, and probiotics. I wanted to make sure she didn't skip 2 days of these with all the new germs we'd be coming in contact with. I also brought probiotics for D and I. Two hours into our 14 hour flight and my stomach was in knots...miserable. I took two doses and within 30 minutes by stomach was back to normal. So very thankful I'd brought that!
Bring a variety of new things (they've never seen before) and pull them out at intervals on the flights.
I had found over the few months before we left various little quiet things and some I called "presents" (wrapped in a plastic bag and had her close her eyes). Some places suggested actually wrapping in gift wrap but I didn't want to have the TSA agents unwrap them. Melissa and Doug bendable figures, Squinkies, mini zoo animals by Safari Ltd., finger puppets from Ikea, travel magnetic fishing game, fun beads with pipe cleaners and long laces (provided a LONG time of quiet play for her), pretty stickers with paper, washable mini markers and crayons, mini playdough, new paper back books, work books we did together and called "school". None of these items took much room or weight but all were new/never seen by her before, and provided many options for quiet entertainment.
Ipod (or something similar) loaded with games and movies. Can I say LiFeSaVeR. WITH a pair of headphones.
The long 14+ hour flight from Houston to Tokyo we each had a touch screen tv with tons of options for movies, games, tv shows, music. She ended up watching Horton Hears A Who for HOURS on that flight (which save our ipod battery for the layover and short flight) but that was only possible because we'd brought her own headphones. They airline only had ear buds on the plane...simply not an option for a two year old.
This was crucial to not losing my mind when going for hours without sleep. At least if I needed something for Bee I knew exactly where it was. You'll see in a pic below that I used the nice pencil bags to organize her things. I had balked at the idea of paying 2.50/each but they were the perfect thing and size and I only wish I'd had just one more. No, zip lock bags are not an equivalent, but will work if that's what you've got. I did bring a few extra gallon size zip-lock bags and these came in handy for holding dirty clothes, or just anything really....definitely useful to have on hand.
V.I.P items like the "night night" or pillow or special animal. I brought all three in carry-on.Times 2. There is so much change already and lack of sleep that having those VIP items make it just a bit easier on their fragile emotional state. Also so when one Night Night and Cassie Puppy were dragged all over Tokyo airport and quite black from the filthy floors, they went into a zip-lock bag and stowed away, and out came a clean fresh night-night and clean Giggles Penguin. Wonderful. Would do it again. It was worth bringing the extras so that she had clean VIPs to hold close to her and feel safe with.
An extra change of clothes for all family members. You never know when something will spill or when you just need to feel refreshed. A change of clothes...or at least tops will do wonders when you've been traveling 20+ hours.
Hope this will help those of you preparing to travel overseas. I'm no pro, but these are a few things that helped us get through our travels from Dallas to Thailand.