Preparation key to a happy vacation for both kids and parents

Preparation key to a happy vacation for both kids and parents


The first time Reese Murphy flew on an airplane, she came aboard bearing treats.

The then almost 2-year-old handed out small baggies filled with chocolate-covered blueberries and gum, containing a note explaining this was her first plane ride and apologizing in advance if she cried because she was scared or her ears popped.

“Not only did Reese love handing them out to people, but you could tell they all appreciated that we were acknowledging our kid, and that we were not going to be ridiculous parents about any issues she may have,” her mother, Jennifer Murphy of Fitchburg said.

“I also wrapped up some ‘gifts’ for her that I got at the dollar store for desperate moments — little toys, games, art supplies, etc., to keep her entertained and to reward her and/or encourage her to be a good traveler,” Murphy said.

As summer travel season kicks into high gear, area moms and travel experts share some ideas and successes when it comes to traveling with children.

Lindsey Reinke, of Middleton, hosts the Mom2Mom Facebook page and says travel is a “huge” topic among the group’s 900 members.

An iPad, or similar tablet, is a natural go-to for in-flight entertainment, Reinke said, and highly recommends the website, which offers many educational apps and reviews.

“We really stockpiled the iPad,” Reinke said of the past flights she’s taken to California with her daughter, now 3. “For short travel and long travel, that’s nice to have.”

But sometimes, it’s the novelty of the random plastic cup or airline magazine that’s most entertaining.

“When flying, my daughter liked things that weren’t actually toys,” Reinke said, “something they’re not used to playing with.” For example, her daughter Ruby was entertained endlessly by a straw, she said.

Reinke also recommends (as challenging as it sounds) trying to pack light.

Overpacking a ridiculous carry-on results in parents lugging it around and it’s too hard to rifle through with a child on your lap, she said. “One pack of crayons, a coloring book, an iPad and a few novelty things” is all you need, she said.

When traveling by car, Reinke goes for “comfort items,” such as making sure the child has their favorite stuffed animal or blanket.

Plus, “snacks, snacks, snacks.”

Sarah Stremlow, of Verona, has taken her four children, ages 10, 8, 5 and 4, on many road trips over the years, going as far as Cincinnati, a 9-hour trip. She agrees that snacks and movies are a great way to keep older children occupied. But for her younger ones, she suggests bringing books with family pictures from previous trips and events.

“The little ones are very interested in this sort of thing,” Stremlow said.

Local travel experts can offer many suggestions for people planning family getaways. One of the biggest, if traveling internationally, is to check your child’s passport to ensure it’s valid.

Adults often forget that a child’s passport expires after five years, as opposed to adult passports that expire after 10, said Brenda Trainor, owner of Pyramid Travel in Verona.

Sharon Freund, a travel consultant and Disney specialist for Burkhalter Travel in Madison, reminds parents that strollers and car seats can be checked for free on airlines. This also will save money by not having to rent those items once you get to the destination.

Freund also suggests parents find family-friendly resorts.

“A lot of resorts out of country will have childrens’ programs where you can have the children go during the day,” she said.

And while it can be fun to outline all your sightseeing stops, “don’t schedule every minute,” Trainor said. “You want to have some time to yourself, just hanging out.”

Once home from an amazing vacation, don’t forget to record the memories — especially if the children are too young to remember much themselves.

Reinke has a map of the United States and one of Wisconsin hanging in her daughter’s room, on which she puts a pin for each place her daughter’s traveled.

“She has so many travel experiences that she’s not going to remember from her early years,” Reinke said. With the map, she can see all the places she’s been, Reinke said.

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