2011; A Year in Review; Best of the Road with USA TODAY. A deal with Travel Channel. My kids make me laugh, again.
2011 was an interesting year for many, including me. I thought with this post, I’d give you a bit of my life, both professional (at Rand McNally and Tripology) and personal, in hopes we’ll all gain something from “connecting” during the holidays.
My team and I conceived, created and implemented two phenomenal strategic partnerships for Rand McNally and Tripology. First, is our strategic alliance with USA TODAY where we have joined forces to find the best small towns in America via a project called “Best of the Road®”.
This national promotion, which started in April, culminated with a three week road rally where five teams of amateur videographers drove from New York to California, each taking a different route to discover the best small towns in five categories; Best for Food, Friendliest, Most Fun, Most Patriotic and Most Beautiful. As each team crossed the country visiting the six towns in their assigned category, they chronicled their adventures by blogging, tweeting, uploading videos, and posting photos along the way.
Over 670 towns, their residents as well as the public watching and joining in online all participated in the promotion. It is no wonder the program generated over *500 MILLION* media impressions in a few months. To see more and to learn about this year’s Best of the Road, go to www.bestoftheroad.com.
The other major strategic alliance is with Travel Channel. Put simply, TV viewers of Travel Channel and visitors to their website now have options to visit Tripology to submit trip requests, based on Travel Channel programming. More details can be found in our newsroom online http://www.tripology.com/consumer/news/ This, as you can imagine, is a huge win for Tripology, our Tripologists and frankly, travel agents in general. Indeed, 2011 was a great year professionally.
Personally, it was wonderful as well. My family (my children are now four and three years old) and I got to do a fair amount of traveling; we hit the beach a few times in places like the Bahamas, Florida and yes, Chicago. We enjoyed the outdoors on a small lake in upper Wisconsin, fishing and watching majestic bald eagles fly from their nests above the cabin. We also spent a bunch of time back East, visiting friends and family in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. We have quite a few trips planned for 2012, including Greece to visit family and then hit the beaches on Crete, where my wife and I were married nearly twenty years ago (yes, a “destination wedding” before the term existed).
This time of year is filled with family traditions. One of my favorites with the kids is the annual toy donation; where we go through the house and do the “Donate or Keep?” project; I hold up a toy or doll and ask the owner (aka my kids) “Donate or Keep?” We’ve explained there are children less fortunate who won’t get many toys at all for Christmas. We also threw in the “fact” that Santa won’t bring new toys unless we know how to share and be kind to people in need.
My four year old daughter gets it; she rifled through the easy ones, but needed a tiny bit of coaxing on a couple of dolls. My three year old son however, shocked me in his first participation of the tradition; he kept screaming “DONATE!” with the fury of a stock broker trying to quickly unload some of his underperforming assets. After a dozen or so “DONATE!” shouts, I looked at my wife and she gave me the look of a mother who has raised an angel of philanthropy. You know, the “he may look like you, but inside he’s all me” look. I then handed him is own bag and he walked around the playroom putting most of his toys in the sack, leaving out only essentials; Buzz Lightyear, Matchbox cars, Army men and a few stuffed animals which included “Yogurt” the bear who was appropriately named when my son spilled (you guessed it) yogurt on him.
I have to admit, I was proud of him. So, we walked around, my son barely able to pull his third bag. As we tied each bag, we told our kids how proud of them we were. My daughter said she was happy to give these toys away. My son heard that and exclaimed, “Wait Daddy, you said Santa wants us to *share* so when do we get these back?” It turns out 2011 was also the year my son actually listened to what I said. Needless to say, we had to go through the bags again, but still, not much came out and yes, I was still proud of him.
So as we talk about angst at work and the emails and joys (read “horrors”) of business travel, this is a great time to think of those things that really matter; health, family, friends and those less fortunate than we are. Kiss your children often. Don’t complain if your siblings always call at the wrong time, just enjoy that they can call at all. Hug your parents if you can. Call them if they’re far away. If they’re gone, close your eyes and be with them for a while. Think of wonderful New Year’s Eves past. And remember, you’re making a wonderful holiday moments for your children to remember in the future. What will they remember about this year?
Finally, donate what you can, even if it is just some time at the local shelter or a can of food at a local food drive or dropping off old toys and books to kids that don’t have any. Even the smallest of donations helps and I promise, it’ll make you feel great.
To all our Tripologists and industry partners, whatever holiday you’re celebrating, we wish you all the very best of health and happiness. We look forward to a successful 2012.
Warmest wishes from the entire Tripology / Rand McNally team!
PS “Hot Spots 2012,” hosted by John E. DiScala (aka Johnny Jet) will debut on the Travel Channel Jan. 1 (at 9 p.m. and midnight EST). The one-hour special features the travel expert revealing insider tips, and the best 2012 has to offer from travel destinations around the world — including New Zealand, Belize, Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island and Canada. He also gives a “first-look” at the new Harry Potter Studio in London and visits Virgin Galactic’s Spaceport America, which is the first commercial spaceport built exclusively for passenger use. Johnny Jet travels more than 150,000 miles (and visits more than 20 countries) each year.