The first time I took my then-7-year-old stepdaughter on a two-hour flight to Seattle, we dubbed her carry-on the survival pack.

Loaded inside were coloring books, travel board games, cards, books, kids' craft projects and enough snacks to feed a half-dozen children. That flight felt like two hours trapped inside a pinball machine as we jumped from one activity to the next. But I was quite proud that we never once turned on a tech gadget.

Don't get me wrong: Gadget time has value -- it's how I get my 2 ½-year-old to sit still for 20 minutes. I just love good, old-fashioned ideas, too.

Like the ones from Travel Savvy Mom blogger Jamie Pearson, of Palo Alto, who has used a ballpoint pen to turn airsickness bags into impromptu puppets.

"As long as you've got your pen out, you can have lots of fun adding funny captions to the SkyMall catalog," she adds. "Not only is this a delightfully immature pastime for you and your kids, the next person to sit in your seat can enjoy your creativity, too."

Pearson also suggests telling young children funny stories about when they were babies, "especially if they involve diaper or toilet-training mishaps."

Readers have some great ideas, too. Here are a few favorites:

Between trips I collected small games, coloring books, books and little toys (nothing that made noise or had many pieces) in preparation for the next flight. These items I kept in a zippered pink bag that we called the activity bag. My daughter was not allowed to see what I was putting into it. She could carry it to the airport but couldn't open it until the plane had lifted off. With the anticipation of finding all the treasures the bag contained, she was cheerful and excited about the flight. There was always enough in the bag to entertain her during the whole flight.

-- Peggy Ryu, Lafayette

I mail an envelope a week ahead to the child filled with surprises to be opened once the plane is in the air. I have fun collecting things pertaining to the trip. For younger children, a special coloring book with a new pack of crayons. Amazon has a great collection of coloring books, like one on Hawaii with information on native fish, customs and food. For older kids, I include a map of the destination and information from the visitors bureau. Depending on the reading level, I include a story from the destination. The envelope boldly carries the warning DO NOT OPEN UNTIL YOU ARE IN THE AIR!!! It is fun for me and keeps these young fliers busy.

-- Joan Stevenson, Lafayette

Markers and Pens and Skin: One year my then-3-year-old son doodled all over his own legs and arms with a ballpoint (no one had yet narrowed his thinking that pens were only for paper). I'm pretty sure he enjoyed not only what was emerging on his own body but how "tickle-y" the pen felt. Note: This was on a return flight, so there was no concern about shocking Grandma and such.

Arts & Crafts: Don't forget the small jar of Play-Doh, stickers and craft materials to make a gift for the people you're going to see when you land.

Happy Snaps: Hand them your old phone in camera mode and invite them to snap away in the cabin.

-- Marcia Klein, San Jose

Parental Guidance appears twice a month. Follow Ann Tatko-Peterson at Twitter.com/atatkopeterson.

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