By Marianne Szymanski Special to Published Jul 14, 2013 at 4:31 PM Photography:

If the backyard has lost its luster and you've visited every Milwaukee attraction at least once already this summer, then you're ready for a quick and easy nearby family getaway. It's Family Vacation Week here at OnMilwaukee and we'll bring you suggestions every day for great jaunts perfect for a day, weekend or week-long getaway. Bon voyage, Milwaukee!

Family vacations are supposed to be fun, except when you’re unprepared. My advice is simple: plan ahead. And don’t worry about coming off as annoying or overly meticulous. The time you put in beforehand can save you headache later. Commit this to-do list to memory:

  • Make a list of kid-friendly activities everyone will enjoy.
  • Find out how far your destination is from the airport.
  • Schedule a shuttle to and from the hotel ahead of time, if possible.
  • Locate family-friendly restaurants in the area.
  • Pinpoint your geo-location in relation to historic or recreation sites.
  • Research if there’s dining at your hotel and what they offer.
  • Ask if there’s a fridge in the room and if it’s stocked.
  • If traveling by car, check the oil, tires and brakes before you hit the road.
  • Find out if the hotel provides a crib; ask for the brand name, and then check (before you depart) to make sure it’s safe.

Next up: packing. This is, perhaps, the biggest task to tackle because you don’t want to bring too much or too little. Still, it’s best to err on the side of being overstocked. Although you may remember to bring along the basics, it’s the travel accoutrements that often end up saving the day. Here, a list of less-obvious must-haves.

For infants age 4 months to 1 year:

  • Digital thermometer
  • Sun repellant clothing and hat
  • Swimming aids
  • Pediatrician phone number and after-hours contact information
  • Baby shade and rain protector cover
  • Inflatable bath tub

For toddlers age 1-2 years

  • Disposable utensils and cups
  • Insect repellant
  • Water shoes and swimming aids
  • Travel toys (Click here to see my top picks!)
  • Disposable shopping cart liners
  • First-aid bag
  • If potty training, disposable potty seat toppers and piddle pads for the car seat
  • Snacks

For preschoolers, age 3-5 years:

  • Antibacterial wipes or ointment
  • Swimming aids
  • Sunscreen
  • Snacks

For children age 5-12 years:

  • Walkie-talkies to communicate with adults
  • A camera to make a personal vacation collage
  • Sunscreen
  • Snacks
  • Homework, if required
Marianne Szymanski Special to
Marianne is the founder of TOY TIPs and a lifestyle editor that believes embracing new discoveries together with your children is a rewarding way to engage family time, enhance creativity and create forever memories. In this column, Marianne and her two children travel, craft, cook and play to share their ideas and reviews.

Marianne is a leading independent toy researcher. She has been testing and reporting on toys in the US and across the world for over twenty years. As the founder of The Toy Tips Research Institute, she has led her team to review more than 25,000 toys. Over 7,000 current Toy Tips report cards are available free to parents, grandparents and educators on

Marianne is an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Marquette University where she holds a dual degree in psychology and marketing. She is a also a graduate of the Stanford Publishing Course at Stanford University.