Parenting On The Road: How To Connect With Your Kids When You’re Traveling

Parenting is a tough job. It’s even tougher if you have to travel a lot for work. Being away form home doesn’t mean that you have to be away from your child’s life, however. Here are eight tips on how to keep connected to the rugrats while you’re on the road.

Skype. The greatest aid for the wandering parent ever invented. Why miss story time when you can pack a few of their favorite books and read to them over the computer? One guy I know even puts on puppet shows for his two boys. There’s also a fun coloring tool where you and the little one can paint each other’s faces.

Email. If you want something more old school, get them an email account and send them messages. Attach some photos of yourself on your travels. You can stay current with their schedule too. If you know they have a history test coming up, send them an email the night before wishing them luck (and reminding them to study).

Postcards. Or go classic with postcards! Nothing is more personal than getting a handwritten note from mom or dad with a cool picture on it. Once you’re back you can share your own photos with them.

Studying Maps. Show them where you’re going with an atlas, globe, or Google Earth. My son loves Google Earth and likes to zoom in on the places I am, and he often goes to sleep with his illuminated globe shining Africa or Asia over his bed. You can also use programs like Tripit to show your itinerary so the kids know where you are. One friend also shared that her son has a “huge world map and every time I take a big trip I text him often on the way and he marks my progress. This was a lot of fun when I circumnavigated the globe. He learned about flat maps in a round world!”

Planning for the future. Figure out what to do together once you’re back under the same roof and mark it on a calendar in their room. This gives the kids something to look forward to.

Online Games. Hey, you know they’re playing tons of video games while you’re gone anyway, so why not join in?

Hide things. Gadling’s Chris Owen shares, “I hide things for them to find later, when I am away. Once I folded very tightly a permission slip one of them needed for school and put it in their cereal box..” Libby Zay says, “My mom and I used to tuck notes into each other’s bags/coat pockets/lunch box/purse/wherever. To this day she’ll sometimes put a coat on that she hasn’t worn in awhile and find a note in the pocket from little Libby!” My son does this to me too. I always end up finding one of his toys hidden in my bags. One has even made it onto Gadling!

Put them to work! Give them a complicated puzzle or Lego set to work and challenge them to get it done before they come back. Dave Seminara’s two boys like to be given titles. “Leo, 5, is the man of the house while I’m gone, and James, 3, is the ‘associate’ man of the house. They like these roles and if they do a good job they get souvenirs. Actually, they get souvenirs either way.”

What do you do to stay connected with your kids? Share your advice in the comments section!

[Photo courtesy user woodleywonderworks via Flickr]

TourWrist Brings New Views Of Old Places

TourWrist has one of the world’s largest collections of geo-located virtual tours, acquired from consumers and panoramic photographers. Different than two-dimensional photos and static-shot video, TourWrist real world panoramic images can greatly enhance travel-planning efforts by offering a different, more detailed view of places we might visit.

A free service, TourWrist delivers a 360-degree view of places we might travel with over 30,000 panoramic images. Using the TourWrist smartphone app to view, shoot, publish and share panoramas is easy too. TourWrist comes loaded with panoramic photography tools, back-end infrastructure and tour viewers.

“If you’ve ever played with Google Earth, you zoom in and get this sensation of being able to go anywhere – but eventually you stop going back because it doesn’t let you do anything,” explained on CoDesign. Tour Wrist CEO Charles Armstrong. “Our goal is to give you the opportunity to actually explore these places.”

Visiting the TourWrist website, we can choose to see the best/everything in categories such as hotels and resorts; arts and entertainment; dining and more. A panorama of a luxury yacht caught our attention and provides a good example of just what TourWrist is capable of. Clicking our way around the yacht took us from one panorama to another, giving about as complete of a tour as possible without really being there.

In that yacht tour, we were able to view in different directions and move forward and backward into the scene, much like Google Street View, something we would not have been able to do not long ago. “Our interface is always in a constant state of improvement,” says Armstrong.

[Photos Credit: Flickr user drocpso]

New stretch of Great Wall of China found using Google Earth

A British researcher scanning through images from Google Earth has discovered a new section of the Great Wall of China.

Surprisingly, this part of the famous wall isn’t in China, but rather Mongolia. The Great Wall is actually comprised of several walls built in various centuries by several different rulers starting in the fifth century B.C., or perhaps earlier.

When Great Wall expert William Lindesay spotted what looked like a wall cutting across a remote part of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia’s southernmost region, he headed out with a team to follow along 60 miles of it. This photo, courtesy Alec East, shows the kind of terrain these modern-day adventurers had to deal with.

The wall varies in construction depending on the terrain and resources. In some parts it’s made of local volcanic basalt, while in others it’s a simple berm of sand and shrub cuttings. Lindesey believes this new portion of the wall is part of the so-called Wall of Genghis Khan, which, despite the name, is not considered a project by the famous conqueror but actually the Han Dynasty of China in 115 B.C.

Lindesay says this is the first time part of China’s defenses has been found outside of the modern boundaries of China. A journalist for the New York Times may have discovered a portion of the same wall in Russia in 2001.

Track Santa’s progress tonight courtesy of Google and NORAD

Once again this year, Google and NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) have teamed up to help eager girls and boys the world over track Santa’s progress throughout the day. What is new this year is that you’ll also be able to follow jolly St. Nick using Google Maps and Google Earth, as well as your mobile phone.

As you read this, Santa has already set off on his appointed rounds and begun delivering those all important presents to children across the globe. You can follow his progress by going to the official NORAD Tracks Santa page, which is available in a variety of languages. You’ll also find information on how to track him in Google Earth by clicking here.

For the first time ever, you can track Santa while on the go as well. Google Maps for mobile users can launch their app and do a search for “Santa” to get the latest updates on his progress and you’ll also be able to receive reports via Twitter and Facebook too. Twitter users will find tracking info at @noradsanta and Facebook fanatics can click here for updates on that site as well.

Modern technology has made it easier than ever to track Santa’s sleigh and prepare for his arrival. Now you’ll know exactly when to take the cookies out of the oven and pour the milk, so they’ll both be as fresh as possible when he gets to your house. It never hurts to put the big guy in a good mood when he’s delivering the goods!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Ayn Rand fanatic travels to send GPS message

In today’s politically polarized climate, die-hards will do anything to get a leg up in the battle for communication. Larger crowds are sought, along with bigger signs, louder voices and greater media play. The days of slapping bumper stickers on random cars are giving way to more sophisticated stunts, and Nick Newcomen just set the bar higher with an unusual road trip.

Newcomen put 12,328 miles on his car while crossing through 30 states to write “Read Ayn Rand” on Google Earth with his GPS device. Mashable writes:

Newcomen – who explained to Wired that he undertook this mission simply because he is a Rand fan – took more than 30 days to execute this task, using a GPS logger (Qstarz BT-Q1000X) to create the letters. He started in Marshall, Texas, where he began writing out “Rand,” and then drove on (turning off the GPS whilst not writing) until the entire, “Reading Is Fundamental” sentiment was complete.

Ayn Rand’s (rather anemic) philosophy puts forth the primacy of the individual over the group and believes that merit should be the sole arbiter of success. She was also a big fan of keeping the government out of just about everything, which is why many are using her words and works as a rallying cry against the current administration in Washington.

Of course, I’ve always wondered how Rand herself would have felt about the cult of personality that has evolved around her work. She had no shortage of lackeys while she was alive – including Nathaniel Branden and Alan Greenspan – and she seemed to be pretty happy to be lauded. On the other hand, a fairly strict interpretation of her philosophy would result in the criticism of efforts such as Newcomers, as it would encourage people to go accomplish stuff on their own and give up the fanboy fawning.

One final criticism: if he were a real fan, he would have ended his trip to Colorado with a bracelet made from Rearden Metal on his wrist.

[photo via World’s Biggest Writing]