Online Family Organizers

Google Calendar
Image via Wikipedia

One of the key elements of successful travel is being organized. And one of the key ways to procrastinate about getting organized is to spend a whole afternoon looking at online family organizers and calendars. Here’s my round up of the current offerings on the web to help co-ordinate busy families.

1. Google Calendar
OS: Online – any 
Price: $0
Shareability: 10/10
Prettiness: 7/10
Ease of Use for Kids: 5/10
Additional features: planned iphone sync, integrates with gmail, create invitations, reminders (including mobile phone notifications), agenda view and *surprise* search
Comment: Is there anything that google can’t do? In terms of functionality and price they are the rulers of all they survey. You can share calendars as a family including creating specific calendars for events such as travel. Of all the calendars this one is the most customisable actual calendar. Kids need their own google log in to view, or you need to create a family log in. 

Cosi 2. Cozi – probably pronounced like “cosy” as in snug, not “cossie” as in Aussie slang for bathing suit.
OS: Most downloads aimed at Windows users, although online aspect can be used by everyone.
Price: $0 (ad supported)
Sharability: 10/10
Prettiness: 10/10 (although it is quite orange)
Ease of Use for Kids: 8/10
Additional features: lists, reminders & messages, mobile access, family journal, syncs with outlook
Comment: Beautiful to look and and easy to use. I just want it to import my calendar data. Not Mac friendly.

Glubble 3. Glubble
OS: Online – any
Price: $0 although premium edition coming soon (supported by Amazon Store)
Shareability:  10/10
Prettiness:  10/10
Ease of Use for Kids: 9/10
Additional features: Safe internet browser with safe sites for kids to access.
Comment: Create a private family homepage with shared calendar, message wall and photo albums. Calendar not very configurable, only displays dates as a list of events. I was very impressed that it auto added Birthdays but SGM nearly had heart failure when it informed him how ancient he was.

Famundo 4. Famundo
OS: Online – although grrrrr – didn’t like Safari
Price: $0 (ad supported – and ugh, not the most family friendly ads), ad-free is $50 US per annum
Shareability:  10/10
Prettiness: 9/10
Ease of Use for Kids: 8/10
Additional features: photo sharing, to do list, shopping list, address book, files, vaults, blogs
Comment: Fantastic calendar – looks like they’ve tarted up google cal, great options for importing and exporting both calendar and address book details but the ads are the most painful and intrusive of the lot. If you are prepared to pay for the extra features, this would be great. 

Qlubb5. Qlubb
OS: Online – any
Price: $0
Shareability:  10/10
Prettiness: 9/10 (What is it with orange?)
Ease of Use for Kids: 5/10
Additional features: shared to-do lists, group invites / RSVP’s, file sharing.
Comment: this could be very useful for co-ordinating more than one family when travelling 

OS: Online – any
Price: $0 (supported by ads and classifieds)
Shareability:  6/10
Prettiness: 10/10
Ease of Use for Kids: 0/10 (Not intended for kids to use)
Additional features: photo sharing & printing, to do list, ask the experts, interactive family calendar
Comment: Aiming to be more of a community of parents / social networking site than a site for sharing within own family. Allows you to share photos with selected friends.

Family Details Website7. Family Details
OS: Online – any
Price: from $5 per month (US)
Shareability:  9/10
Prettiness:  3/10
Ease of Use for Kids: 4/10
Additional features: Instant messaging / chat between family members, basic games (space invaders, tic tac toe), photo sharing, family forum

My Home Point8. My Home Point
OS: Online – any
Price: $6 per month or $55 per annum (US)
Shareability:  9/10
Prettiness:  7/10
Ease of Use for Kids: 4/10
Additional features: Address book, home inventory, shared family notes, tasks and chores, ability to import and export calendar data
Comment: You can try a demo account without signing up

30 Boxes9. 30 Boxes
OS:  Online – any
Price: $0
Shareability:  10/10
Prettiness:  7/10
Ease of Use for Kids: 4/10
Additional features: Calendar, to do list, events, tags, rss & ical feeds, sms reminders, photo sharing
Comment: Facebook app integration (as well as other blogs and social networking sites) – this may be the way to go if you all have Facebook accounts. If the words “life stream” are important to you, you will like this app. Although the calendar itself is easy enough to enter data in real words, fiddling around with themes and settings is a bit more advanced.

Fircle10. Fircle
OS: Online – any
Price: $0 – currently free, soon to be invitation only
Shareability:  7/10
Prettiness:  7/10
Ease of Use for Kids: 5/10
Additional features: Job and allowance tracking for kids, family rules, growth charts, recipe collection, shopping lists, play groups, import and export ical data

Keep And Share11. Keep and Share
OS: Online – any
Price: $0 (advertising supported?)
Comment: Bored with registering for online calendars now – so if you like the look of this you’ll have to try it out yourself.

Amy Knapp12. Amy Knapp’s Family Organizer
OS: Windows only – a download not online
Shareability: 0/10
Prettiness:  10/10 Although there’s that orange again. Included it because it truly is a work of art. Check out those page turning animations. Would sell at least one major organ if they made this as an iphone app.
Ease of Use for Kids: Depends if they can hack into your computer account or not.
Additional features: Weekly menu planning & grocery lists, weekly inspirational quotes, to-do list

Conclusion: I successfully procrastinated doing anything else for pretty much the whole day. After all that, we’ll probably stick to our current situation of using a combo deal of  ical events and google calendar. I’m considering stalking Cosi and Amy Knapp and sending them relentless emails until they become Mac compatible. 

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Travel Gurus

One of the most influential travel guides I have read when researching this trip, is Rick Steves’ Europe through the Back Door. [amtap book:isbn=1598801082] Rick Steves seems to have a huge fan base and I think it’s entirely justified.

One of the key concepts is being less “touristy”. This means travelling off the beaten path, viewing the main sites – but doing it efficiently, and taking more time just to experience everyday life in Europe. This has really influenced our decision making process. It’s a terrible confession but we may not do every major monument in Europe! What’s more, we are trying to reduce the number of each type of tourist attraction. I suspect where we will bomb out on badly will be the theme parks and the museums, but the rest will be strictly rationed. We will be saving our sight seeing for a few select castles, and a few select cathedrals etc. I am thinking we can do without an hours journey each way just to see the leaning tower of Pisa. I know! I know! Total sacrilege! But I also figure the kids will get bitten by the travel bug, and that there will be plenty of time for them to come back and see the big monuments.

The other influential concept is to pack light. Rick Steves’ heavily promotes the idea of only taking carry-on luggage. I will talk some more about this in later posts. What we did decide very early on is that we were also going to be committed to taking over only carry-on luggage. Note: I did not say there we will not bring stuff back. I think this is an important distinction considering the last time we flew back from the UK I had several rolls of wallpaper border and a Winnie The Pooh lamp shade from Mothercare tucked into my suitcase. Or rather, taking up most of my suitcase.
Winnie the pooh lampshade
I just put that in there as I was having a nostalgia moment and so that you can see how smuggle worthy Winnie the Pooh is. Luckily for SGM, we now have entirely halogen lighting, which diminishes the need to bring back random light fittings. The rest of this however, I consider fair game…