One of the most enjoyable parts of a vacation is planning.
That might be hard to believe when you consider the planning part usually involves negotiating destinations and dates with your family, saving money for the big trip, and ultimately packing half of your belongings into a minivan.
When my family planned a vacation in the 1970s, we relied on brochures from travel agents and customized AAA Triptiks that mapped each step of the journey.
Twenty years later, we used MapQuest to download and print directions.
Fast-forward another two decades and our travel planning now consists of a laptop and some incredibly useful apps.
AAA Triptiks. One of my most memorable travel planning tools from my youth got an upgrade. The foldable, page-flipping travel guide from the ’70s is now an app, with more features than you’d find on a printed map.
The AAA TripTik Travel Planner (via the AAA Mobile App) includes trip-planning maps and traveling directions. You’ll find more than 59,000 AAA approved and “diamond rated” restaurants and hotels. Use the booking feature to make your reservations and get discounts at more than 164,000 locations.
Best feature: Share your travel plans on multiple devices. Start on a laptop and access your plans later via the mobile app.
DuoLingo. If your trip will take you to some place a little more exotic than Dayton (no offense, Dayton), preparations might include learning the basics of a new language. Whether it’s Spanish, Swedish or Swahili, DuoLingo is one of the best apps for language development. And it’s one of the most downloaded for iOS and Android devices.
How long will it take you to learn the basics? According to DuoLingo, 34 hours on the app is the equivalent to a semester-long elementary language course.
Best features: First, it’s free. Second, DuoLingo is one big, language-learning game. The short lessons start with the basics and then move into useful topics such as numbers, places and distances. Get an answer right, earn points and level-up.
Waze. The social GPS app has grown-up since I first wrote about it in 2014. If you’re unfamiliar with Waze, the Google-owned app is like most GPS devices, offering detailed maps and directions.
Waze makes it social by connecting fellow drivers through its interface. If you’re friends with fellow “Wazers” on Facebook, connect with them on the app by sharing destinations, estimated arrival times or “beeping” (e.g., Facebook “poking”).
Best features: First, once in a while, I drive fast. Not too fast. Still, the “slightly” controversial police notifications are helpful.
Second, Waze occasionally offers celebrity voice guides. Over the years, we’ve received pithy travel updates and quips from stars like Stephen Colbert, Morgan Freeman, and my favorite, Ed Helms. When you download a celebrity voice on Waze, keep in mind they’re usually only around for a short time.
Dan Middleton, better known as DanTDM to millions of adolescent fans around the world, performed at the Akron Civic Center last Friday.
My two oldest daughters asked for tickets. They don’t ask for much. They’re not boy band fans. Our big entertainment expense usually involves a Sunday afternoon trip to the movie theater.
So when they pleaded for DanTDM tickets, I jumped at the opportunity for a parenting win, but not before asking, “What’s a DanTDM?”
“Not a what. A who. He’s a YouTuber,” my oldest daughter said. “He has millions of followers on his (YouTube) channel. You know? He does the Minecraft videos.”
“Oh yeah,” I replied half-knowingly. “OK, let’s go.”
When I posted to Facebook friends about Mr. TDM, they made it clear they knew all about him. “The YouTuber!” one parent proudly replied, but not before one of my more hip friends Brandon quipped, “Do you try to sound old, or is that just natural?”
Brandon was right. I was trying to sound old. I knew of DanTDM long before they asked for tickets.
Acting like I don’t know something is part of Adam’s Parenting 101 strategy. Once in a while I act like I have no clue what my kids are talking about to see how they’ll react.
My kids see this as an opportunity to teach something new to their know-it-all dad. I see this as an opportunity to connect with my kids.
They’re not fully aware of my little scheme, but my oldest daughter is catching on. She’s clever and skeptical, like her mother.
Before dropping $270 on three tickets (no, that’s not a typo; $90 per ticket), I did a little digging to be sure that: (A) this would indeed be an appropriate show for kids (I had no reason to suspect otherwise, but you never know), and (B) would this be even the slightest bit entertaining for a 40-something year-old.
At the show, we weaved our way through a sea of dazed parents and eager children to find our seats. When I made eye contact with parents and snapped them from their zombie-like trance, I’d ask, “Do you know what the ‘TDM’ stands for?”
“The Diamond Minecart,” one mom triumphantly replied.
I paused and asked her, “What’s a Diamond Minecart?” Too late. She was off to buy a $30 T-shirt.
The show included references to Minecraft and characters from his series that most parents wouldn’t know. But the kids knew every reference, as evidenced by the high-pitched squeals and excessive decibel levels.
The encore included a plea from DanTDM to not share online what we just saw. “Make it a surprise for everyone,” he said.
The real surprise, however, was something I shared with everyone online and in-person – that my children and I built some great memories, thanks, in part, to a world-famous YouTuber.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is associate professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about social media and technology, sports and fans.