The summer months are a time when we dads get to spend a little more time with the family because the kids are out of school. Yes, it’s a little more taxing on the family agenda (and your wallet), but it’s well worth the money and time invested.
This year, my kids created a summer bucket list that included a variety of one-day and multiple day events that looks more like the ultimate kid’s wish list as opposed to something more manageable like trips to the park and hanging out at the pool.
Regardless of the activity, us geek dads see these activities and trips as a way to get our geekness on. In addition to the obvious, photography and videography, there are a slew of geeky ways to keep your trips and events organized; catalog the content you capture and create; and, share your mini-tribe’s experiences with friends and family with the help of social media.
Once the kids have thrown down the gauntlet, you need to start strategizing; where to go, when to go, how are we going to get there and what are we going to do once to arrive. From a planning stage, Google Maps will be your best friend. My kids decided to add Story Land to their bucket list; a family-oriented theme park that’s in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and has been around for roughly 58 years. Before we booked a hotel, I buzzed over to Google Maps to check out locations in proximity to the park. We ended up booking at the Red Jacket Mountain Inn as it was kid-friendly and about seven miles from the park.
With Google Maps, I created created a “place”, pinpointing where Story Land and the Hotel were located. I added directions from my house to the hotel and finally to the theme park.
I didn’t stop there, though: We needed to find some places to eat as well. I quickly punched “restaurants” into Google Maps and was treated with a plethora of results. I clicked on the ones that I thought the family would be interested in and added them to the map. The best part is that Google Maps provides reviews by consumers for an unfiltered snapshot of potential eating spots.
Now, with the help of my Samsung Infuse, I can bring up My Places in Google Maps, and have all the trip details at my fingertips. And, if we want to head a little further up North, we can plot out a trip to Santa’s Village.
With the help of Google Maps, I’ve been able to plan all of our short and long adventures, not only for directions courtesy of the built-in GPS in my mobile devices, but also to scout different places we might want to check out.
Booked, Now What
Once a trip has been planned, you have to start strategizing in terms of the “stuff” you and the family are going to need in terms of your basics and amenities. In addition to cloths, bathing suits, towels, etc. theres a list of things that can easily be forgotten like Q-Tips, floss, bug spray, etc.
For list building, I find that Evernote does the trick. My wife will create the list using her iPhone, share it with me via the app, which I can then add to and send back to her with my thoughts, additions, etc.
In addition to list building, you might also have paperwork that you need to bring with you, such as receipts from reservations that you PDFed. You might also need some things for work that you have to check in on in between dunner and bedtime. In that case, I’d suggest Dropbox, which is your personal server that can be accessed from any iOS, Android, Mac or PC-based device. Yes, you’d rather not have to do work, but it’s better to leave your stuff in the cloud as opposed to taking your briefcase with you.
Are We There Yet?
So now that you have your trip planned, check-lists completed, it’s time to hit the road. GPS devices will be your guide, but portable DVD players and even tablet devices will be your savior in the car. The proverbial “Are we there yet?” question is guaranteed to get asked by the kids. Make sure you have a stack of DVDs or tablet devices that are jammed with their favorite movies. If you can swing a couple of portable devices — even an iPhone or Android mobile devices — bring some headphones. The last thing you want to do is hear cartoon songs for a three hour road trip. If the movies fail, be sure to have a number of mobile/tablet games on tap to keep the kids occupied.
If you’re into location-based services, you can tell your friends and family that you’re heading on a journey with Forecast, a Foursquare-type of mobile app that does exactly what the name says it does — forecasts your plans.
Once your neck deep in bucket list activities, it’s of course, your job to capture the moments with your paparazzo skills. Whether you’re a dad that is a DLSR type or a slim point-and-shoot like the Canon PowerShot S95, ensure that you have extra batteries and CF/SD cards. The biggest issue I tend to have is that I want to bring a variety of lenses and additional gear with me. The last thing anyone wants to do is slug around 75 pounds of gear, though, so what I find comes in handy is LowerPro’s Slingshot line-up of bags. They are compact, yet feature enough slots and compartments to carry what you need, keep it snug up against you and be “out of the way” as much as a camera bag can be. The best feature is the ability to sling it towards the front of your body so you can quickly exchange lenses, grab your video camera, etc. It also acts as a stabilizer as you’re able to rest your elbow on the bag while shooting.
Of course, snapping all those pictures and HD video clips will mean that you’ll need someplace to put them. Not everyone wants to lug a laptop or Mac with them on vacation, so I’d suggest an iPad with the Camera Connection Kit. Not only can you dump photos and videos to the iPad, but with the help of iMovie (for iPad 2), you can create some short segments that you can post to your social networks and share with friends and family.
Don’t overlook your handheld device either. With apps like Instagram, PicPlz and others, you can quickly grab bucket list memories and share them in real-time, especially if you’re using location based tagging features.
Also, you don’t have to be the only one taking pictures. Why not get your kids involved? If you’re using the DSLR, you can use an old point and shoot and get your kids snapping away. Be sure to check out a site called PhotoJojo (specifically the message boards) or a site like Kidzworld before you head out on the trip so the kids can get some of the basics of photography down.
Of course there is a slew of other apps, gadgets and services that can make your assault on the kids summer bucket list fun, organized, cataloged and best of all, enjoyable for you and your family. What suggestions do you have?