Imagine if Clark Griswold had Google Maps

Technology has made planning for vacations geekier than ever

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Who doesn't love family vacations?

As I told my ITworld buddy Keith Shaw on last week’s episode of our video series Geekend, I’m in the midst of planning our family’s summer vacation. For an (overly) organized person like myself, family vacation planning is a chance to make lists, plan routes and generally go way overboard in trying to ensure maximum family fun. Thankfully, rapid changes in technology have given me (and you!) a lot more tools for going a lot more overboard in trip planning.

Back in the day, when I was growing up in the 70’s and early 80’s, the only planning I remember my dad doing for our annual vacation was to swing by AAA and pick up a (paper!) TripTik. By the time I was getting ready to go off to college, computers were beginning to dribble into people’s homes, which started to offer more options for vacation planning. Oh, how I enjoyed watching Clark Griswold in action in the Vacation movies, planning big trips for his fictional family, and how I dreamed of the day when I would have a tribe of my own and could plan out a cross country trip in the family truckster.

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Gonna be a busy week in Vancouver

Well, that day eventually arrived and thanks to the growth of the Internet, the cloud, mobile devices and apps I can take trip planning to a whole new level of absurdity. This year I’m doing more geeky vacation planning than ever as my wife, two daughters (ages 11 and 13) and I plan to fly to Vancouver, BC for a week of (hopefully) good old family fun. Here are the geeky ways that I’ve prepared for our trip (so far):

  • Shopped for and booked flights/hotel/rental car via the web (No, I didn’t use the Priceline Negotiator)

  • Created a Google document with all relevant travel info and a pre-vacation To Do list

  • Asked friends on social media for things to see and do in Vancouver

  • Created a spreadsheet of sites to see with addresses, hours, prices, notes, etc. (I originally had these in a Google doc, but they’re easier to group and sort in a spreadsheet)

  • Created a Google Map for our vacation with the places we want to go marked, and also included driving directions between more distant locations (e.g. the airport to the hotel)

  • Saved a few Google Maps others have created of Vancouver highlights to My Places

  • Figured out how to access custom Google maps on my iPhone. This turned out to be trickier than I thought, since the Google Maps app on iOS doesn’t let you access your My Places. You can, however, do so via the mobile version of Google Maps. You can also do it through Google Earth, or the My Places app, but I’m sticking with the mobile version.

  • Saved Google maps of Vancouver for offline access, since we won’t have cellular service when we’re wandering or driving around

  • Installed the OverDrive app on my iPhone, so I could then check out and download an e-book from my local library

  • Signed up for email notification about airport parking conditions here in Boston, so I’ll know whether the Economy Lot at Logan airport is full before we leave

  • Looked up the long range weather forecast for Vancouver online to figure out what clothes to pack

If only Clark Griswold had access to Google Maps! Imagine the comedic possibilities. Maybe his son Rusty will make use of it in the next Vacation movie.

What kind of tools or apps do you use for trip planning? Also, any places in Vancouver to recommend (particularly restaurants)? There’s still room on my Google map and in my spreadsheet, so let me know!

Read more of Phil Johnson's #Tech blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Phil on Twitter at @itwphiljohnson. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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