June 29, 2012 Anyone with small children knows parents need to pack a lot of patience for pit-stops and play time when it comes to logistics of summer travel, but now “there’s an app for that” to make it a snap.
Trekaroo, the travel review site written by families themselves has just launched their free iPhone app that taps into kid-friendly spots along most any vacation route, from impromptu day trips and urban romps to those hair-tugging ‘get these kids out of the car’ road warrior treks.
“Going? Get the scoop. Been here? Share about it.” That concept is so simple it’s sublime, because word of mouth among parents is gold, and having a mobile app to pop in your pocket to check out a billboard that’s been blasting ‘must see’ dinosaur parks, natural caves or diners ‘at the next exit’ is handy to get a reality check as to whether to pull over or keep on going.
Getting kids out and about to a play space pronto especially when you’re in unfamiliar turf can be a savior when kids get cranky and you start to feel like you need a ‘vacation from the vacation.’ (see the demo after the jump)
Is a beach worthy of tossing the boogie-board in the trunk, or rife with thick seaweed where the kids could get entangled in ‘eww?’ Is the “hands-on exhibit area” an exploratory creative one or a glorified video arcade? If you’re at a pricey destination and want to get a snack without breaking the bank, are there local spots nearby that families favor?
Parents want to know this stuff.
Curated like a reviews-based style ‘Yelp’ for family fun, parents can use Trekaroo as a hub to sound off on the pros and cons of beaches, parks, attractions and more, sorted by ages and specifics unique to their needs, whether it’s a hot teen surf spot or a calm shoreline gentle enough for wee ones to wade.
Moreover, the whole point is to encourage families to shut off the TV and get trekkin’ out into the real world, using the power of media to get mobile with the app as just a shortcut to newfound fun…
Trekaroo’s new mobile app leverages user-generated reviews in ‘pay it forward’ style, bonding parents that write them with parents that need them, creating a niche market child’s eye view of hits and misses to share among the community.
The firsthand recommendations add accuracy and value since parents helping parents offer a unique filter, even if it takes a while to populate the site with citizen journalism hot spots from local eateries to interesting neighborhoods, easy hikes or unusual playgrounds.
To me, the authenticity of offering trip tips from those with kids in tow is appealing, like a field report or a journalist’s notes, trumping any advertising revenue model with its immediacy, and granular details about a given spot, so I really hope the community thrives with contributors taking a ‘sharing is caring’ mindset to help each other out.
I joined online (again, it’s free) then started testing out the app, and was greeted by an email encouraging me to start adding my own voice into the mix right away by creating my own profile/travel style and personalized “passport” of recommendations so others could benefit from the feedback.
The tonality is part social sharing, part ‘help us build a dynamic community’ complete with “we’ve been here” passport stamps. It feels easier to have feedback in one central hub to browse, even if you’re using it to plan your vacation using online sites all over the board.
Like many sites that add value to a community by enlightening others with personal comments, Trekaroo has an ‘all-star’ approach to rewarding repeat users who actively engage with insights, tips and helpful stories that aid other parents repeatedly.
Participatory perks are earned based on credibility and eventual ‘Superoo’ status (noted with a star by their name) which could include advance notifications:
…”exclusive access to new hotel and attraction openings, special events, and gear that’s ready to be put to the test; sneak previews of new features we’re working on and help to weigh in on what’s next”
Of course, being a media literacy hound, that’s where my radar went off…
Since marketers are known to send in their PR poseurs to hype given destinations or attractions in forums and on blogs and such, I asked the Trekaroo team pointblank:
“Do incentives sway power-reviewers for favorable reviews? Are there checks and balances in place? What’s your revenue model? How do you make your money?” Usually that last one stops CEOs cold.
Thankfully, the Trekaroo team assured with full transparency that they have some Google ads and direct ads tied to the site, Amazon and hotel commissions via their gear/store tabs and bookings through Expedia, but the reviews are user-generated with NO monetary compensation.
If a free stay is ever used to facilitate a review, it’s disclosed in full, as are ANY sponsored blog posts.
We’ll see how it all shakes out, as I’m a diehard social media fan of ‘cool finds’ referred by peers objectively…
I wear my untethered “influence of not being influenced” like a badge of honor, so would love to see a site like this soar with genuine parent reviews vs marketing shills…let’s all keep a close eye out for any infiltration.
As summer travel ramps up and I watch new parents laden with baby gear, strollers, and backpack strapped siblings inching through security lines exhaustedly seeking the ‘start’ of their relaxing vacation I can’t help but wonder if there will soon be a Trekaroo category for ‘best airports’ or ‘active games on the go’ to turn mundane mandatories into hands-on fun (3 oz size math and science guessing anyone?) I’d even add a whole “category” for planes trains and automobiles or ‘by land, air or sea’ to open up the family feedback loop to carriers who make life easier versus those who make you question your sanity for even attempting to leave the house.
It seems so short-sighted when airlines continue to cutback on pre-boarding for families with small children as it only serves to clog up the line later when they’re grappling with gear and fidgety kidlets to herd them into their seats (often accompanied by surly flight crews rushing families into a state of chaos vs calm)
Yep, I’d sure like to have a place to callout the good, the bad and the ugly in family travel, as I’m a former specialist in travel/hospitality and high end consumer goods marketing in my ad agency days, so I have much to say on the matter.
Another suggestion to expand nationwide reviews fast might be to invite partnered participation with like-minded communities like the Children and Nature Network to turn the Trekaroo “hiking and walking” category and “nature and gardens” hub into a mapped, shared, collaborative distribution channel…
They could open up reviews to outdoor camper families and wilderness adventurers…and eventually expand to international globetrotting, trying out cool eco-hubs like this one I just found on Twitter The Beehive in Rome, with hand-picked family-friendly apartments in European cities that are great homegrown alternatives to massive chains.
Meanwhile, I’m going to start adding a couple of my own local personal picks to showcase a few spots where I’ve been that merit a Trekaroo shoutout…If you do the same, we could have a robust little data hub at our fingertips.
At the very least, I’m IN for getting OUT this summer. You?
This post is dedicated to all who have lost their homes into ashes this week’s Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs, including my own brother and his family. May the tourism rebuild, the sense of community continue to inspire with passion, conviction and unyielding support for one another, and the devastation give way to healing, hope and new tomorrows in this spectacular nature hub. Hang tough Colorado. You are cherished. Screenshots of Colorado nature attractions courtesy of Trekaroo.