Why Publicity Matters & How to Step Up Your Film Publicity Part 1

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When you have a new film project, web or TV series or a short and you want to share it with people, what do you do? You talk about it with friends and family and you create a presence on social media via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and possibly a few others like Periscope, complete with photos and/or video, making sure, of course, to tag the right people. Right? Of course you do.

But here’s what you might not realize: there’s more to sharing your story and receiving some promotional publicity than putting photos and video up on social media. It’s the quality of what you choose to share.

Of course, I’m not talking about blurry or dark photos-it’d be common sense not to post those. To cover key pivotal moments, you need really good photography. When you think about how great images shape film posters, billboards & websites-it doesn’t seem so far-fetched to have some professional publicity as a long term investment towards a film’s future.

But there’s more that professional publicity can help with than amazing photos & videos. Here’s 3 major reasons why professional publicity matters & how it can help you step up your game in promoting a film or TV show.

Publicity Isn’t Just About Knowing What to Share

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Having a publicist to help promote your project isn’t just about knowing what to share and how to share it. It’s also about knowing when to share a piece of news. Maybe you have an awesome teaser trailer or some behind-the-scenes B roll that hasn’t quite cleared the editing stage or a concept for a film poster but not the final image. Sometimes holding things back can benefit your project in the long run and save you time and energy when it comes to the editing stage -and that’s where having an expert publicist in your corner to schedule things can help.

Publicists Have Valuable Relationships With Journalists

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Any publicist who knows what they’re doing is bound to have existing positive and influential relationships with journalists. Through these connections, publicists are able to pitch your film/TV show in a way that you wouldn’t be able to (at least, not without spending a lot of time, energy & your own money) and based on that prior experience and knowledge, they know HOW to present your project to a journalist.

These relationships are invaluable and having a professional publicist who knows journalists and talks to them daily-is vital.

Publicity Generates Buzz BEFORE a Film’s Finished

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Remember what I said earlier regarding the fact that publicity is sometimes about holding things back? Well, that doesn’t mean that you hold everything back until the film’s finished.

To create an extensive and successful publicity campaign, you need to start early during pre-production and get the jump on having a presence on IMDB as well as creating a plan/schedule for possible publicity events. You should also start early when it comes to getting together teasers of the publicity materials (ie. footage, posters etc.) when you get them.

Want more info on how to step up your game in promoting your film or TV show? Stay tuned for Why Publicity Matters Part 2: Why You Need a Unit Publicist and my upcoming post on Top 10 Best Ways to Promote Films & TV Shows.

How Music, Literature and Film Helps Me Overcome Writer’s Block

After seeing some great lists, chock full of ideas to help boost creativity, I thought I’d share my own list of great tracks, books and movies that help me get over writer’s block to close out 2016.

Whether I’m writing copy for a new website, crafting a PR release or working on one of 30 different fan fic stories in different fandoms I’ve got going on, I can sometimes get stuck on writing the next sentence or get boggled down on trying to edit as I go along.

These are the artists, the films and the books that have helped me get out of that rut for years. So, without further ado, here’s the list to close out 2016.

1) Simon-Lifehouse

One of the best-if not, the most underrated tracks off Lifehouse’s debut album, 2000’s No Name Face, this is a song that’s been a positive influence for over half my life. Every time Jason sings, ‘fulfillment to their lack of strength, at your expense. Left you with no defense, they tore it down. And I have felt the same as you, I have felt the same as you,’ I’m reminded that I’m not alone, that he understands, that he’s always understood and that no matter how stuck you think you are, no matter how hopeless things seem, there’s always a way out and for you to be strong.

2) The Pursuit of Happyness

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I’d say this film is probably the most poignant and inspirational film of Will Smith’s career. As a lifelong fan of his from his Fresh Prince & DJ Jazzy Jeff days, the one sequence that really spoke volumes to me is where he’s sitting inside the subway station bathroom with his son, tears pouring down his face as strangers pound on the door, not realizing that he’s in fact living with his son in the bathroom. It’s an amazing movie, a reminder that we all have the strength to keep us going, no matter how exhausted we are, no matter how hopeless things seem. It shows us who we really are and what we’re truly capable of.

3) Always Looking Up, The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist-Michael J. Fox

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As a long time fan of Michael J. Fox and his sense of humor, this is the ONE biography that I’ve read in recent memory that can make me laugh and make me cry all in 200 pages. As I was reading, I could honestly hear him actually saying the words inside my head, like we were having a conversation. It follows the days after his departure from the amazingly awesome Spin City in 2000 after he made his Parkinson’s diagnosis public and how he founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation. It’s a great read-inspirational, hilarious and heart breaking all at once.

4) A Density of Souls-Christopher Rice

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As a major fan of his mother Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles, I picked up Christopher Rice’s debut novel on a whim and I was automatically sucked in. Every time I crack it open, I find myself getting sucked in again into the tragedy, the love, the coming of age and the darkness that can come from growing up, growing apart and realizing things about yourself that you never knew were there. The four central characters of Stephen, Meredith, Greg and Brandon and the one outside observer who comes home in Jordan really craft a recognizable and relatable journey. The fact that it’s set in New Orleans, a city that’s historically been divided by money and class and yet finds itself floating on water that could wash it all away is both poignant and fitting. I can’t recommend this book enough.

5) Be Somebody-Fort Minor

Track #14 off of the debut solo album of Linkin Park’s rapping maestro, the incredible Mike Shinoda; this track forces you to sit up and listen, to fight for what you believe in and to not let ANYONE and ANYTHING hold you back from doing what you want to do. As someone who has been beat down, belittled, discouraged and actively disrespected when it comes to what I love, this song absolutely gives me the strength to power through all of that and everything ahead of me. I do what I do because I believe in what I love and that’s all there is to it. Special shout out also to the first single “Remember the Name” and “High Road”-a great collaboration with the multi-talented John Legend.

6) Decisions-Jim Treliving

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As a freelancer and a long time customer of Boston Pizza, I’d heard great things about Jim Treliving’s biography and ended up getting a copy as a birthday gift. It chronicles the story of how Jim went from being an RCMP officer to owning the first Boston Pizza and the decisions that he’s made every step of the way as a business owner. What I learned from Jim is that every decision is neither good nor bad, it’s simply a decision. What influences whether it’s a good or bad decision depends on the situation that happens next. Definitely pick this book up if you’re struggling and stuck on where you want to go next for your projects or your business. I love the case study of the risk Jim took during Expo ’86, makes me wish I could’ve been there myself to support him.

7) Saw 2

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It might seem odd to put a horror film on this list-and even more odd that I saw this one (on New Year’s Eve, no less) without ever seeing the first Saw film, but this one definitely struck me. For one thing, it’s pretty rare to have a horror film with a moral to it and yet it’s a simple one: either you appreciate your life or someone will take it from you. Doesn’t that relate to all of us in some way? We’re all guilty of taking something for granted, whether it’s a new platform, new tool, our loved ones-or just that fact that we’re seemingly coasting through life. Not only that, but the scene with the pit of needles continues to haunt me to this day *shudders*

8) Snow Garden-Christopher Rice

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Continuing some of the themes from his debut novel, the characters in his sophomore effort, this time in college, definitely discover some really harsh truths about themselves and the people around them. Certainly the desire to feel valued, to be accepted, to find those like you definitely plays a part in the story but the climax was totally delicious. I’d say every time I pick up this novel, t forces me to dig deeper and get down to the bedrock of what I’m really looking for and what I’m willing to do. Yet another one on my list that I can’t recommend enough.

9) I Will Get There-Boyz II Men

As a huge part of the musical fabric of my childhood, Boyz II Men’s soulful R &B harmonies permeated my earliest memories, thanks in large part to my brother’s influence. Today, I still listen to them when I’m looking for a particular musical feel while working on a story, trying to let go of a less-than-ideal relationship or looking for inspiration. This track, found on the Prince of Egypt soundtrack (still one of my favorite animated films, by the way), really exemplifies the journey that we all take to get to that destination. Maybe that destination is a new home, a new job, embarking on higher education or trying to build a healthier life, free of substance abuse and negativity. Whatever it is, the boys always tell me that I’ll get there, no matter what. You have to have faith and believe, no matter the twists, the turns and the obstacles-there will always be a way.

10) Undone-Lifehouse

To close off the list, I’ve got a track off of the band’s 2005 self-titled album. This track is like the one close friend that we all have, the one that we love more than family. When your world is falling apart, when you’re at rock bottom and you’re in the worst pain imaginable, that friend will be there. They may have some hard truths and tough love and choose to force you to see the light rather than just paying lip service, but they love you nonetheless and they’ll never leave you. Once again, Lifehouse is one of the biggest musical influences in my life and I carry every one of their albums with me, no matter where I am.

Here’s to a great 2017 to everyone and a Happy New Year! I’ll be returning with some great posts on how PR works in film and insights on new marketing tools!

Discovering Iceland: Eye Opening Facts About Icelandic History

Church in the northern town of Holmavik.

Church in the northern town of Holmavik.

In part two of my three part series on my recent travels to Iceland, I’ll be focusing on interesting and fun facts about Icelandic history, including how Iceland is historically connected to Canada.

It was a definite eye opener traversing through the Icelandic Museum of Witchcraft and Sorcery in the quaint northern town of Holmavik, appropriately enough, on Halloween and then the Viking World Museum in the airport town of Keflavik.

It was fun, enlightening and definitely worth the visit. So without further ado, here are some really cool facts that I learned about Icelandic history. If you’re curious about business in Iceland, check out part one of Discovering Iceland for an overview of Iceland’s tech industry.

Delving into Iceland’s Sordid Witchcraft Past

Icelandic Museum of Witchcraft and Sorcery

Icelandic Museum of Witchcraft and Sorcery

The Icelandic Museum of Witchcraft and Sorcery might be on the small side, but it was chalk full of eye opening bits of history and artifacts.

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One of the coolest things we came across was an actual stone bowl that held the only evidence that the Vikings held conducted ritual blood sacrifices. There was still dried blood in the bowl.

Letter from the Journalist

Letter from the Journalist

Beyond that, there was a creepy true story in the form of a letter from a journalist who visited the museum, who had purchased a talisman in the form of a necklace, hoping that it’d cure him of a recent toothache. Instead of a cure, everything went wrong. Once he sent it back, however, everything went back to normal.

The handy guidebooks we were given also had a plethora of different spells and incantations using different grimores and symbols. There were spells for invisibility, catching a thief, healing minor wounds and protecting livestock.

However, there was an entirely darker and more sinister side to the spells as well. People had been accused of harming livestock, causing ships to crash along the shores and making their neighbors to fall ill.

List of those executed for witchcraft.

List of those executed for witchcraft.

One of the most eye opening facts that stuck with me out of the entire excursion to the Icelandic Museum of Witchcraft and Sorcery is that Icelandic witchcraft history is almost EXACTLY the inverse of the Salem Witch Trials across the border in the US. Of those 21 people accused and executed, only ONE of them was a woman. That’s right, witchcraft in Iceland, historically, was practiced by men. In fact, based on the museum exhibits, there was only one spell really, that women were commonly known to have conjured and it involved creating their own monstrous ‘pets’ that grew out of their thighs and that needed to be fed human milk. I couldn’t see the use of that particular spell during the 1660s so I moved on pretty quick after reading that.

Re-enactment of raising the dead.

Re-enactment of raising the dead.

The first man to be accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake in 1652, Jón Rõgnvaldsson, had been accused of raising the dead. Clearly, even though that word wasn’t in use at the time, Icelanders feared the idea of zombies. Just seeing the creepy re-enactment on the floor of the museum was enough for your skin to crawl. It was by far, the most unique case of witchcraft I came across. Others had been accused of controlling predatory animals such as foxes to kill livestock, causing their neighbors to fall ill or stealing money and valuables.

Not surprisingly, many of those doing the accusing held positions of political power, something Iceland’s witchcraft past shares with Salem. You had mayors and magistrates doing the accusing or their family members leveraging said relationships to get people they hated into court. Of course, these judges and mayors also found themselves accused from time to time and while their influence was usually kept them from execution, they weren’t always so lucky.

The Sorcerer's Cottage

The Sorcerer’s Cottage

We traveled to the Sorcerer’s Cottage, about half an hour away from the Icelandic Museum of Witchcraft and Sorcery to see the flip side of how the people who often got accused, used to live. Indeed, most of the people who were accused of witchcraft were poor fishermen and their families who lived in one-room cottages and who barely scraped by when it came to food and hunting enough animals to create warm clothing for the winter. They built their homes from discarded driftwood and really didn’t have the means or the resources to often defend themselves from accusations of witchcraft. The prevailing belief was that they turned to the supernatural to try and raise their stations in life, even if that belief turned out to be false.

How the Vikings Have a Connection to Canada

Statue outside the Viking World Museum

Statue outside the Viking World Museum

On our second to last day in Iceland, we stopped in at the Viking World Museum in the airport town of Keflavik as my husband had been wanting to take in some Viking history on this trip.

Boats used for Viking funerals

Boats used for Viking funerals

Notable exhibits included a replica of the ships that were used for Viking funerals, filled with objects that meant something to the deceased in life and that would carry them on the journey to Valhalla. The boats were then lit on fire and pushed out into the water on their journey. I also enjoyed taking a look at the exhibit featuring the quern stone which indicated that early settlers to Iceland had tried-and failed-in their attempts to grind local lyme grass into flour.

The Yggardsil World Tree

The Yggdrasil World Tree

There was even an interesting exhibition on Norse mythology known as Fate of the Gods with all the pieces put together by contemporary Icelandic artists and featuring the World Tree, otherwise known as Yggdrasil. Marvel Cinematic nerds like me will recognize that name as the tree that connects all the worlds together, meaning Asgard to Midgard (Earth), Helheim and more.

The replica Íslendingur Viking ship

The replica Íslendingur Viking ship

However, the most eye opening part of the Viking World Museum was definitely how the Vikings were connected and continue to be connected to Canada. By now, I’m sure many people have heard about how ruins of a Viking settlement had been found in Newfoundland and Labrador and that Leifur Eirikkson had made the journey to Canada approximately around 870 AD. In fact, artifacts known as Tupliaks, carved by Canada’s Inuit population have been found in Iceland, indicating that they’d come in contact with Eirikkson’s Vikings and conducted trade.

Commemorative gifts from the Íslendingur's voyage to Newfoundland

Commemorative gifts from the Íslendingur’s voyage to Newfoundland

The talented shipwright, Gunnar Eggertsson, re-created a replica of Eirikkson’s ship known as Íslendingur, which he sailed to North America in 2000 to commemorate Leifur Eirikkson’s journey to the New World 1000 years before. The ship arrived in Newfoundland in July 2000 and the Special Celebrations Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, hosted a magor celebration on July 28, when the Íslendingur arrived in L’anse aux Meadows, the only authenticated Viking site in North America. They received several gifts from the mayor and the delegation to commemorate the anniversary, including a commemorative plaque, Tupliaks, a commemorative plate and even a soapstone carving. Íslendingur was suspended on ropes and we could walk onto the deck of it and remarkably, considering the ship was built in 1995 and it endured such a long journey, it was in great shape. It was definitely humbling to walk on the deck of something that had been built by hand and re-created one of the greatest historical journeys connecting Iceland to Canada.

Stay tuned for part three of my blog series on Discovering Iceland, this time focusing on aspects of the Icelandic lifestyle. In the meantime, check out my insights on the Icelandic tech industry in Discovering Iceland Part 1.

 

How A Film PR Campaign Made an Actor’s First Time at TIFF a Success

Actor Peter Dacunha with Dean Norris at the Remember premiere, TIFF 2015

Actor Peter Dacunha with Dean Norris at the Remember premiere, TIFF 2015

My first time ever doing PR for an actor was a definitive eye opener and a great professional challenge to get as much press coverage off-and on- the red carpet ASAP during the two weeks of the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015. To make the challenge even more intriguing, Peter Dacunha had TWO films premiering at TIFF, the drama Remember, directed by talented Egyptian-Canadian director Atom Egoyan and the horror film Hellions.

 

We had a limited window for press coverage so after interviewing Peter and learning more about the roles he played in both Remember and Hellions. I identified a list of influential mainstream and horror media outlets and pitched Peter and both films to them, getting coverage from national outlets like CP24 and horror media outlets like the Ginger Nuts of Horror. Check out a few of the resulting national and international coverage pieces here and make sure to read my case study! You can see the photos from the red carpet premieres of Remember and Hellions at TIFF 2015 below as well.

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How a Film PR Campaign Elevated Black Land to the Top 5

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One of the best film projects I’ve had the privilege of developing a strategic PR campaign for continues to be the horror film Black Land. Over a three week period, pitching the PR release I created resulted in press coverage from over 14 different mainstream and online horror media outlets from Canada, the US and the UK.

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Promotional image for Black Land

Black Land is a Canadian horror film on how a simple environmental assessment became a horrifying fight for survival, directed by Vancouver-based director Shaine Jones. At the beginning of the 2015 Cinecoup Film Accelerator, Black Land was competing against 99 other films for the grand prize of $1 million and the chance to be developed as a feature film by completing mission milestones each week and garnering votes from the general public

I developed a press campaign and identified a list of influential indie and horror media outlets from all over the world, reaching out to them for press coverage and interviews to help boost Black Land’s visibility among horror fans and general film audiences.

Check out some of the press coverage here from a few awesome horror media outlets & make sure to check out my case studies!

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Discovering Iceland: How They’re Revolutionizing Tech

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A view of the Reykjavik skyline from the observation deck of the Perlan.

On a recent trip to Iceland, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to explore the city of Reykjavik and the rest of the country and learn about their culture. This is part one of a blog series that I’m developing featuring tidbits of my vacation to Iceland and insights into some of the things I’d learned about their lifestyle, industry and history.

Part one will feature insights into Iceland’s tech industry with the upcoming parts 2 and 3 focusing on interesting and fun tidbits of the country’s history and lifestyle.

Stepping Into Reykjavik

The stunning glass architecture of the iconic Harpa Conference Center.

The stunning glass architecture of the iconic Harpa Conference Center.

Before I landed in Reykjavik, I had vague notions of what to expect in the capital city and in Iceland in general. I had an idea of what to expect regarding their food, landmarks I wanted to see and of course, geothermal pools I wanted to soak in. But I didn’t know much about their tech industry.

It was a definite eye opener to see how Iceland has started to become a hot bed for industries such as virtual reality gaming, special effects and home grown start-ups.

International Tech in Iceland

Microsoft office in Iceland.

Microsoft office in Iceland.

Walking down the Shore and Sculpture path en route to the iconic Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre along the harbour in downtown Reykjavik, I was definitely surprised to see the Microsoft logo emblazoned on a building.

I didn’t think Iceland had a population large enough to sustain a corporate office for Microsoft, yet there they were. Based on some research, it looks like the Reykjavik office has their own division that manages product marketing for office products and deals with legal affairs surrounding customer data protection in Europe. Near as I could tell, it doesn’t seem like the Iceland office has a software development division, but it was still a welcome surprise to see that the Seattle based tech giant made the leap.

A Hotbed for VR Video Games and Special Effects

Sculpture commemorating EVE Online from CCP Games

Sculpture commemorating EVE Online from CCP Games

Iceland actually has a sculpture dedicated to a video game. That’s right, the sculpture in the above photo is dedicated to EVE Online, one of the world’s biggest and popular MMORPGs (massive multi-player online roleplaying games) developed by video game powerhouse CCP Games. Not only can you participate in different forms of combat from player versus player to player versus environment in the game, but you can also take up several occupations from mining and manufacturing to exploring and trading.

CCP Games is also a pioneer in virtual reality gaming in Iceland with more than one of their titles. Gunjack, a virtual reality arcade shooter was released for the Samsung Gear VR in 2015 and the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive in 2016 and EVE: Valkyrie, a first person space combat simulator was released for the Oculus Rift, Playstation VR and HTC Vive in 2016. But they’re not the only gaming company in Reykjavik developing virtual reality titles.

Gaming startup Sólfar Studios specializes purely in VR games with several titles such as Everest VR and Godling available exclusively on VR platforms such as Oculus Rift, Playstation VR and HTC Vive.

Reykjavik’s harbor district is also an up and coming area for special effects in film and television. Local company RVX, founded in 2008, has provided VFX supervision for the Harry Potter film franchise, Hollywood blockbusters such as 2 Guns and Contraband and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Home Grown Icelandic Start Ups in Tech, Tourism & Beyond

Cottages in Iceland

Cottages in Iceland

Other start-ups outside of video games and VFX effects have started up in Iceland as well, thanks in part to the annual Startup Iceland tech conference.

I discovered Bungalo, a great accommodation site that allows travelers to find local cottages where hotels, hostels and bed & breakfasts are harder to come by. It’s Iceland’s largest cottage marketplace with accommodations all over the country. Although we didn’t go with them this time, I definitely think it might be worth trying to book through them for our next Iceland trip.

A success story in the hospitality industry, Blendin isn’t just another app that gives users information like the times bars and clubs are open. Nominated for Nordic start up of the years in 2014, it even connects friendship groups together in one go, eliminating the need to create separate event invites on Facebook.

On the tech side, Activity Stream is developing operational intelligence software. The software monitors a company’s operations and uses artificial intelligence to improve daily operations and customer support.

This vacation was an eye opener when it came to learning about Iceland’s tech and gaming industry. But that’s not the only thing I learned about Iceland. Next up, fun, interesting and thought provoking facts that I learned about Icelandic history in Part 2 of Discovering Iceland.

Essential tips for traveling with kids

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It’s been many a month since I last posted on this blog. Projects for clients and other companies took precedence, but I’ve learned a lot along the way that I hope to share with you soon. Here’s hoping for more bigger and better marketing, social media and business posts filled with insightful advice-due to arrive ASAP!

In the meantime, here’s a reblog of the post that I wrote for MEC on traveling with kids. For parents looking to make family trips a little easier, enjoy!

Whether you’re planning a long road trip, a fall camping vacation or a first-time visit to a different city, travelling with kids is a great opportunity to build some family memories. But as any parent knows, things can get a little crazy when you add little travellers to the mix. Use this list of tips to keep everyone (adults included) happy and your trip running smoothly.

Choose lightweight luggage

When you’re travelling with kids, it’s important to make sure that you have enough lightweight compact storage to keep their clothes, toys and snacks in order. Look for bags that can pack away when you’re not using them to save space, like the Travel Light Duffle. It has plenty of room and can fold into its own pocket to stash during or away after your trip.

Even the littlest explorer wants a bit of independence from mom and dad. Equip your kids with their own small daysack that has room for a toy, snack and water bottle, so that they can stay hydrated, happy and feeling grown up (and you have one less thing to carry). The Littlelife Animal Daysack comes in neat shapes for kids that like nature. Find out what other features to look for when you’re choosing a kids’ backpack.

Pack portable fun

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When you’re traveling for hours – whether it’s a long drive to your campsite or an international flight to see new cities – keep the kids entertained with a portable game that won’t drain any batteries or need a power outlet. They’ll be too busy having fun to ask the dreaded, “Are we there yet?”

Layer up

It’s good to be prepared for anything the weather might bring – and this is where layering comes in handy. Layer a fleece jacket under your kid’s water-resistant outer shell to keep them warm and dry if it starts to drizzle, or just use the fleece jacket for cool nights. Some ideas? The Yeti Hooded Jacket or the Cocoon Reversible Jacket.

Don’t forget about yourself either – it’s important for you to be comfortable when you’re wrangling the family from point A to B. The waterproof-breathable Alpine Ally Jacket has deep pockets that gives parents quick access to essential items like bug spray. It’s also super lightweight, which allows for easy movement when you’re chasing after kids or tucking them into their sleeping bags.

Let the Kids Be the Chefs

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Build a mobile pantry with all the fixings for trail mix in separate food containers, so that everyone can create their own combinations. You can also let the kids create a fun dessert like s’mores – they’ll like camping that much more when they have a say into what’s on the menu.

Pack cutlery and bowls that don’t have sharp edges, are small enough to be held by little hands and can easily flatten to save room, so that you can call on help from the whole family to make clean up that much quicker.

Give Them the Chance to Explore

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One of the best reasons to bring kids on a road trip is so they can explore nature in new places, which means mud, dirt, leaves and puddles. Look for waterproof boots made with parents in mind, like these Stonz Rain Bootz – they’re easy to pull on and off as the weather changes. That means you can let your little ones wander (within reason!) through the woods, without worrying about wet feet.

Prep for naptime

When you’re on a hike and the kids get tired, give your arms a break and strap them into a comfortable carrier. They’ll be off their feet and shielded from the rain, giving them an opportunity to rest up for the next fun activity.

Bring the first aid kit

Scrapes and bruises are bound to happen when you’re travelling with kids. Keep the first aid kit on hand to help bandage any minor bumps quickly so you can get back to enjoying your vacation as soon as possible.

These simple tips will help you keep everyone happy on your next family vacation. By prepping ahead of time, you’ll have a memorable trip with the kids that’ll have you planning your next vacation as soon as you get home.

Original Blog Post

BONUS: Day 8-The Best Apps & Websites for Planning Your Dream Honeymoon

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Planning a vacation should be about enjoying the journey of discovering all the options of destinations, attractions and activities available to you-and avoiding the stress of last-minute cramming and rushing.

Even after you decide on a destination, you have to make a decision on transportation (flight, road trip, cruise etc.) and decide on what kind of accommodations you’d like to stay in during your vacation and the types of attractions & landmarks you want to experience.

Overall, planning a fun, exciting and possibly romantic trip is all about making decisions. But, the key element to creating the best itinerary for any vacation is a stress-free, seamless decision making process. How do you go about having a seamless vacation planning process? By choosing the right websites and apps, of course. Although large vacation sites such as Expedia and Travelocity have their place, don’t be fooled into thinking that these are the best-or the only-websites for your travel planning.

So which apps and websites should you turn to? Well, I’m glad you asked! As an extra bonus for brides and grooms mired in wedding planning, I’m going to expand my usual top 5 list for this blog series to include NINE of the best apps & websites that I’ve discovered that will help you plan the perfect honeymoon with the itinerary of your dreams!

After all, with all the work you’ve been doing to plan your wedding, you deserve a well-earned, fun, adventurous and romantic honeymoon. Without further ado, here’s the list of top 9 (in no particular order) of the best apps and websites for planning your honeymoon.

1) TripIt Travel Organizer


Why It’s Awesome: TripIt magically organizes all of your travel plans in one place so you can access them anytime, anywhere—in the airport or on the road (even when you don’t have an Internet connection.) Just hit forward to send the team all of your hotel, airline, car rental, and restaurant reservations and they’ll take care of it. Want to add a few notes, links, or recommendations? Just click Add Plans and enter away. The TripIt master itinerary has all the details you need, plus maps, directions and weather, so you can keep calm and carry on. It keeps all of your travel plans in one spot and stay organized with separate itineraries for every destination—ideal for frequent travelers. You can access trip details whenever and wherever you need them—on your smartphone, tablet or online at tripit.com. You can also easily add or edit plans manually right from the app or on tripit.com and receive daily weather forecasts, directions and maps for each destination as well as use map-based search to find restaurants, businesses and attractions, then add them to your trip itinerary in one click.

2) Jetsetter for iPad Hotels & Exclusive Travel Deals

jetsetter
Why It’s Awesome: Jetsetter provides insider access to the world’s greatest hotels, vacation homes and tour packages. With the app you can enjoy panoramic photography, first-hand reviews, and access Jetsetter’s exclusive flash sales — up to 50% off daily. Browse panoramic pictures and 360-degree room tours, read first-hand reviews and grab insider tips and search and discover hundreds of the world’s greatest vacations, from boutique hotels in New York City to charming villas in Tuscany. You can also access Jetsetter’s members-only deals at up to 50% off and iPad exclusive offers without having to join.

3) Dwellable Vacation Rentals

Dwellable_Vacation_Rentals
Why It’s Awesome: Find the perfect vacation rental with this app! Compare thousands of dream rentals right on your iPhone/iPad. It covers all US destinations, including hot spots like Hawaii, Cape Cod, Gatlinburg, Orlando, Outer Banks, San Diego and many others. There are over 80,000 vacation rentals and 1,000,000 photos that you can browse through the regional map and your search results will be automatically filtered by date, beds, price or amenity.

4) Utrip

UTrip
Why It’s Awesome: It’s a European vacation, complete with an interactive map! You decide on your travel dates and it takes you to an interactive map of Europe where you can choose the county and/or city you want to travel to. Then an interactive menu pops up where you can choose your lodging for the trip. Each menu not only has photos of the hotel, descriptions of the amenities and ratings, but once you click to book a room, an interactive map will pop up. The map shows you the locations of all the restaurants, attractions, landmarks and amenities in the area with icons, descriptions, photos, ratings and reviews of each place. It’ll even give you general price ranges that you can expect to spend at each place.

5) YourTour

yourtour
Why It’s Awesome: Not only does YourTour allow you to generate city trips on the spot, but it goes beyond the city setting to offer you visits to whole regions: after all, wouldn’t it be a shame to visit Paris and then find that your adviser never mentioned Versailles to you? YourTour is currently the only travel generator which covers all of a city, one or more regions or even a whole country. What’s more, YourTour will automatically plan hotels to suit your trip and you can make all your reservations in just one click. It’s the only tool that will generate you a real trip complete with reservations based on the preferences and budget you’ve indicated. The YourTour.com website is based on a unique calculation engine that combines mainly hotels and activities in order to generate several million tours in a few seconds. YourTour’s calculation engine matches the attractions and hotels to your tastes and preferences (modifiable in the “Personalize” tab), along with price, distance to be travelled, opening hours, availability, etc.

6) Hipmunk Flight & Hotel Search

hipmunk
Why It’s Awesome: This app is the fastest, easiest way to search for flights and hotels, by comparing all the top travel sites so you don’t have to. Unlike every other travel app out there, Hipmunk doesn’t just show you the cheapest flight first–the app sorts by “flight agony” instead, incorporating important factors like flight duration, number of layovers and price. Hotel results are shown on a map so you can see exactly where you’ll be staying in a destination. You can also read TripAdvisor reviews in the app and turn on heatmaps to see the best areas to stay in based on unique interests like food, landmarks, nightlife and more.

7) Room 77 – Hotel Deal Finder for 200K+ Hotels

room77
Why It’s Awesome: Room 77 is a hotel booking app that helps travelers find the most rates and book the best prices on 200,000+ hotels worldwide. In one search, travelers can compare rates across hundreds of leading travel sites, including Expedia, Priceline, Orbitz, Booking.com, Hotels.com and hotels directly, so they can be sure they are seeing the widest selection of rates and availability to get the best deal. You can easily search and find your perfect hotel from 200,000+ hotels worldwide, see more rates and room categories than anywhere else, so you always get the best deals and save up to 50% with AAA Member and Senior rates. You can also get the inside scoop on the best rooms in each hotel and after you book with Room 77, the team goes behind-the-scenes to get you a room matching your preferences. Want a quiet room or one with a view? They’ll hook you up.

8) Turquoise Holidays Honeymoon Guide

Turquoise_Holidays
Why It’s Awesome: You can discover dream destinations, read top tips of where to go when, what to pack and golden rules from the experts on all things honeymoon. You can learn about Turquoise’s unique gift list service, where your guests can purchase gift cards that will go towards your honeymoon and enter a world of stunning landscapes, turquoise waters, white sandy beaches and once in a lifetime journeys. Features of this app include: honeymoon tips & ideas, interactive guides for 32 countries across the globe, packing tips, budget tips, destination guides including currency, visas and flight information, interactive maps, special offers, beautiful photos and accommodation photos & descriptions.

9) Cruise Ship Mate

quantum-of-the-seas
Why It’s Awesome: Now you can find all cruise ships itinerary in one app! Including the following cruise lines: Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America, MSC, Oceania, P&O, Cunard, Oceania and Azamara. No matter which cruise line you’re traveling with, you can access all of these features: Cruise countdown clock, roll call, deck plans & cruise ship info, cruise port info (history, maps, locations, weather), excursion info, postcards, cruise itineraries, deck cams, cruising packing list, cruise ship tracker, vacation picture gallery and cruising tips. You will NOT need internet service to use the app on the ship. You can put your phone on “airplane mode” and still use the majority of Ship Mate’s features.

Yours in Wedding & Honeymoon Planning,

Lilian Sue

Day 7-Using Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Creating Your Wedding Soundtrack

wedding music

When you’re planning a soundtrack for your wedding, there are three aspects you have to keep in mind: what kind of music do you and your future spouse like, what kind of music do you know that your guests love to dance to and MOST IMPORTANTLY, how do you incorporate both types of music to create a playlist that you AND your guests can have fun dancing to all night long?

If your tastes in music are anything like mine, you’d know in advance that NOT ALL the music that you enjoy listening to is music that you can dance to and there’s a chance that your guests may not agree with your music choices. Not only that, you may not agree with your guests’ musical choices either. How do you avoid a sticky situation where no one enjoys the music and they don’t want to dance?

Do your research into the songs that you enjoy, surely there must be a few rock, rap, pop or alternative songs that people could at least slow dance to. Then create a playlist with some of your favorites as well as some dance-worthy music that you don’t find cringe worthy. Personally, I’m a huge fan of Usher (mostly early 2000’s), old-school Boyz II Men and some Kanye West that could be considered dance-worthy.

So, what’s the easiest way to create your own playlist and have a guest or family member manage your wedding soundtrack for you? I’ve got top 5 of the best apps and websites for creating and managing your wedding soundtrack and getting you the kind of music you want for your reception.

1) Spotify

music-for-every-moment-spotify
Why It’s Awesome: After you download the app (for an iPod), make a playlist using your Spotify premium account OR make one from any account and subscribe to it later using a mobile device that’s logged into the premium account. Set the playlist so that it’s available offline on the mobile device of your choosing. If you’re using a iPod Touch, you need wi-fi long enough to “download” the playlist. Spotify lets you download temporary files to your iPod which last 30 days, at which point you’ll lose access and have to log back in and re-download. Test your setup wherever you plan to have the ceremony, preferably with some of the same songs you’ll be using to see how they sound and how loud they should be.

2) MyWeddingDJ

MyWeddingDJ
Why It’s Awesome: Great for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, you can play songs and playlists that are already on your iTunes! It helps you create a Music Plan using your songs and playlists, suggests parts of your wedding you need music for, there are no awkward silences as it fades gracefully for all pauses and stops and crossfades between songs and when you skip a track. It prevents accidental skipping or pausing, takes requests, waits between each song or playlist.

3) Gig Masters

Gig_Masters
Why It’s Awesome: You can literally find any form of entertainment that will play any kind of music you like. From jazz and bluegrass bands to violin soloists, singers and DJs, you can find entertainment to fit your wedding music needs. You can even hire world bands who play Caribbean music, a Beatles tribute band and other entertainers as well such as impersonators, magicians and clowns. It’s definitely the go-to website to hire all kinds of musical and other entertainment.

4) Last.FM

Last.FM
Why It’s Awesome: You can search for all kinds of artists and play their albums for a fee through the Android and iPhone apps, listen to the radio, create playlists and it even has personalized radio stations based on music and playlists you’ve previously created. They have full albums available for all kinds of artists from Incubus to Imagine Dragons, Daft Punk to Kanye West.

5) Djay for iPad

Djay_for_iPad
Why It’s Awesome: For the budding DJ, djay gives you instant access to all your existing songs and playlists on your iPad. Browse your entire music library and easily play, mix, and scratch your favorite songs as an iPad DJ. In Automix mode, djay mixes your favorite iPod playlists with seamless DJ-style transitions. You can customize Automix to your liking by adjusting various transition options such as style, duration, shuffle, and auto-sync. djay’s sophisticated on-the-fly song analysis calculates the beats per minute (BPM) and exact location of each beat, laying the groundwork for a host of other features including Auto-Sync and beat-synchronized scratching. djay’s advanced audio wave form display gives you an overview of a song’s structure and allows you to visually cue to specific points to prepare the prefect transition. Auto-Cut Scratching automatically applies the rhythmic pattern of the currently playing song to your scratches in real-time. Simply touch and move the record with two fingers to create stunning effects and go beyond the possibilities of the analog world.

What makes these websites the best for creating an awesome soundtrack for your wedding? Well, it goes beyond just having a playlist and it incorporates everything from DJs to live bands and all genres of music that fits absolutely every wedding.

With the right tools and websites to help you expand and incorporate your wedding soundtrack, what’s next on the wedding planning agenda? How about planning the perfect honeymoon?

Keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned for your BONUS post on ‘How Social Media Can Help You Plan the Perfect Honeymoon.’

Yours in Wedding Planning,

Lilian Sue

Day 6-Using Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Wedding Décor & Wedding Favors

White-Wine-Wedding-Favors

Whether you’re searching for materials to create the perfect centerpieces for your wedding reception or personalizing bottles of wine or photo frames for your guests to take home after the wedding; it’s vital that you do your research.

When I talk about research, I don’t just mean researching what kind of décor and wedding favors are out there that will fit your overall theme. If you’re thinking about personalizing wedding favors or creating your own centerpieces and table runners, you need to do some extensive research to see whether or not it’s worth your time and energy to DIY some décor and wedding favors.

Depending on your creative skill, you might discover that a DIY wedding décor project that you take on may take too much time and energy. Planning all the elements of your wedding is supposed to be as stress-free as possible.

Keeping it in mind that shopping for and creating your wedding décor and favors should be as seamless, relaxing and fun as the rest of your wedding planning; here are the top 5 awesome websites (in no particular order) that I found that will help you find the perfect wedding décor and favors that will fit your theme and your culture, no matter what your culture is.

1) Beau-Coup

BeauCoup
Why It’s Awesome: You can order all kinds of personalized wedding décor and favors, from napkins to fans, wine glasses to photo frames. They also have an extensive section for Disney-themed wedding favors and you can also order edible wedding favors such as tea, wedding cookies and chocolates. In terms of décor, you can purchase lanterns, place card holders, bubbles and everything in between.

2) Wedzu

wedzu
Why It’s Awesome: This website is totally awesome because you can purchase handmade and indie wedding décor and favors from confetti to personalized coasters. You can also order monogrammed vases, place card numbers, wildflower seed wedding favors and spice kit wedding favors. You can also purchase handmade centerpieces.

3) Tree Beginnings

Tree_Beginnings
Why It’s Awesome: For nature and garden inspired weddings, you can come to this website to purchase seeds for wedding favors! You can give your guests thoughtful wedding favors of tree seedlings, sunflower, daises or forget-me-not seeds and even flower bulb favors. If you have gardening fans in your wedding, you can also give them herb wedding favors.

4) InspirAsian Creations

InspirAsian_Creations
Why It’s Awesome: For anyone like me who is looking to plan an Asian cultural wedding, this website is absolutely amazing! It’s got literally everything you could want for Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Indian weddings. You can purchase a double happiness stamp to stamp your invites, a bamboo gift box, takeout cartons for wedding favors and even Asian themed cake toppers. I was blown away to discover that you could even purchase chopsticks as a wedding favor! If you’re having an intercultural Asian wedding, I definitely recommend this website for wedding décor and favors!
5) Vintage Origami

Vintage_Origami
Why It’s Awesome: For the vintage inspired wedding, this website is definitely for you. You can rent everything from vintage glassware to decorate the tables at your reception to vintage luggage and typewriters to give your ceremony site some old-fashioned ambience. They also provide décor accents such as postcards, old-fashioned skeleton keys and candy bowls. Personally, I love any company that allows me to get my hands on vintage typewriter keys and even quill pens.

What makes these websites the best for adding cool and unique wedding décor and favors to your wedding? Well, it goes beyond just having décor and favors for your guests that fit your theme and it incorporates everything from ethnic cultures to garden items that fit absolutely every wedding.

With the right tools and websites to help you expand and incorporate fun wedding décor and favor ideas into your wedding, what’s next on the wedding planning agenda? How about finding cool ways to create your own wedding soundtrack?

Keep your eyes peeled and stay tuned for ‘Day 7 of How to Use Social Media to Leverage Your Wedding Planning-Creating Your Wedding Soundtrack.

Yours in Wedding Planning,

Lilian Sue