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Inflight harmony

Jack and Hailey Anderson stay happy during plane travel by keeping busy. King Features (King Features / The Spokesman-Review)
Jack and Hailey Anderson stay happy during plane travel by keeping busy. King Features (King Features / The Spokesman-Review)
Donna Erickson

Jack and Hailey Anderson are such loyal Northwest/Delta frequent-flyer members, they’re each on their way to racking up enough miles for free travel, which is impressive considering they are only 3 and 4 years old.

These pint-size seasoned travelers have been in the air between San Jose, Calif., and Minneapolis/St. Paul at least twice a year since birth to visit doting grandparents, cousins and friends. Toss in a trip to Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., and vacation in Houston, and they’ve honed their travel skills to collect more than just a few wings.

So what’s the secret for keeping smiles on their faces from a long airport-security line to baggage claim five hours later?

“They have jobs to do and plenty of activities to keep them busy from the moment we start packing for our trip,” says their 37-year-old mom, Sara. “The long flight, summer or holiday crowds and unexpected weather delays can be a challenge if you aren’t prepared.”

Here are some smart new tips to keep spirits high and help the miles fly by:

•Assist preschoolers in packing easy-to-carry suitcases or backpacks to have onboard. Include just enough healthy and easy-to-handle food to keep young tummies satisfied.

For fun stuff to do, include stickers, crayons, tablets and matchbox cars. Sara suggests packing only thin storybooks to keep the bags light, since you’ll want the kids to carry their belongings all the way to the plane themselves. She purchases bottled water near the gate in case the kids get thirsty before in-flight beverage service is provided.

•As you board the plane, take the opportunity to look at the cockpit with all the buttons and dials, if it is allowed. Sara’s kids love meeting the pilots and receiving trading cards depicting the plane they are flying on that day.

•If you have a portable DVD player, bring it along with favorite movies. As soon as a flight attendant announces that the plane is at an altitude where electronic devices are allowed, press the “on” switch, and your kids will be off in the land of Care Bears for a good chunk of the flight.

•Sara brings her own garbage bag and enlists the kids in collecting all the trash that has accumulated around their seats during the trip.

“The flight attendants love this gesture,” she says, “and the kids learn at a young age that they are responsible for their own mess!”

Donna Erickson is the author of several books about family activities and host of a public television series. See more at
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