I've been promising to integrate new functionality into Vagabond Family for some time now and today I'm making good on that promise with the first of many new features that will be released over the next six months.
One of the challenges we faced when we first started travelling was finding other long term travelling families to talk to, both online and in the real world. When you start planning this kind of life it's easy to feel like you are the only ones doing it. Lets face it - amongst your family and friends back home you probably are. It isn't until you've been on the road a while and run into other travellers, or found online travel communities that you start to realise there are a lot more of us family travellers out there than you ever knew. We love knowing that we're not alone, that other parents are also enjoying travel with their kids and facing the same hair-pulling frustrating challenges that we do.
Of course with us all moving about so much it can be hard to keep track of where everyone is. I've lost count of the number of times we've written a post about leaving a location only to discover that we've missed meeting up with a family by just a day or two. Or that we were staying just a street away from another travelling family and never knew. If we had of known we would have found a way to meet up for a few days so the kids could play and we could have adult conversation before we moved on.
And even if you're not looking to meet up with anyone, it's always useful to know who's travelling in a location you're headed to soon to get travel tips from.
Map your location. It's as easy as tweeting!
We're adding in the ability for vagabond families to find each other by mapping our locations. Just add your current location to your family profile or tweet us the details and it will automatically be added to your family profile on Vagabond Family. You can even include the map on your own blog - update it through Vagabond Family and the map on your website will update too.
Use it as a tool to meet up with other families or just check out whose in your next destination so you can follow their blog or contact them directly for travel advice.
How does it work?
The twitter approach
We're all busy so we wanted to make this new mapping feature as easy as possible. To update your location all you need to do is have to do is make sure your twiiter account is added into your Member Profile in Vagabond Family and send out a tweet like this:
#vflocation [city], [country], [dd-mm-yyyy]
The date is the date you expect to leave your current location. It should be in numerical form, such as 1-10-11 or 22-12-2012.
We're currently in Penang, Malaysia until November 1, 2011. So I would send the following tweet:
#vflocation Penang, Malaysia, 1-11-2011
It's that simple! We automatically pick up anything tagged with #vflocation and the system will add your location to your family profile for you. Anytime you want to update your location, just send a new tweet.
If your not sure, just search twitter for the tag #vflocation to see what other users have tweeted.
Update through Vagabond Family
The other way to add in your current location is to log into your family profile on Vagabond family.
At the top of your profile you'll see a new button, Add Current Location. Click on it!
Simply add in your city, location and date details. As soon as you hit "Add Current Location" your details will be updated and displayed on your profile. If this is the first time you've added in a location, clicking on the 'Add Current Location' button will display the map feature on your profile and update it with your location.
That's all folks!
After you've added your location using either the Vagabond Family site or twitter, your family profile on Vagabond Family will display a small thumbnail displaying a map centred in your current location. Vistors to your profile can also click on the 'Current Location' tab to see a larger view of the map.
I want to know exactly where people are, not just the city
When we were initially building in this feature we thought it would be fantastic to know exactly where people are. But for privacy and safety reasons we decided to limit the information to just city and country.
We know a lot of travelling families are concerned about the safety of their children and like to retain a certain anonymity. If you want to catch up with someone that's in the same city you are (or intend to be) then it's as simple as getting in contact with them through the information listed on their family profile.
Add the map to your site
We've also included instruction on the 'Current Location' tab of your family profile for how to add this map to your own website and customise the site. If you update your current location through Vagabond Family or twitter, the map on your website will automatically update as well.
You can see an example of how it works in the footer of our personal blog, Our Travel Lifestyle.
Keeping up to date
We know how hard it is to remember to update things like this when you are on the road. So over the next few weeks we'll be building in an automatic reminder to the system. On the date that you said you will be moving on, a tweet or email will be sent to you asking if you'd like to update your location. If you haven't left yet yet then simply send a tweet with a new departure date and we'll remind you again on that date.
Future functionality for the map
This is just Phase 1 of our location finder. In the near future we'll be:
- Creating a world map view that displays everyones locations.
- Adding the option to set future dates and future locations so we other can know where you are planning on going in the future rather than just know where you are now.
We have more ideas but we're keeping them under wraps for now! If you have any other ideas how this facility could be utilised for everyone, let us know.