Vacation Media: Print, Games and Facebook

Last week I took my family on a vacation to Arizona. In addition to enjoying natural attractions like The Grand Canyon, The Painted Desert and Meteor Crater, we also consumed a surprising amount of media on our road trip.

The biggest surprise was all of the print that we consumed. Ordinarily, we get our media fix through an armada of iPads, iPhones, MacBooks. And while we brought all of that with us, on the flight from New York to Phoenix we opted to read an actual copy of The New York Times from beginning to end. We hadn’t done that in years.

At the Camelback Inn in Scottsdale we lounged by the pool and read hard copy books as well as magazines like Entertainment Weekly and Real Simple. Print was also with us throughout the trip in the form of paper maps of local attractions. Despite having a half dozen Apple devices with us, the visitor centers in Flagstaff and Sedona won the day with their pamphlets and helpful staff.

We were also surprised—and sometimes annoyed—by the sheer amount of gaming that our kids did during the trip. Their new Playstation Vita with MLB 12 “The Show” got heavy use. A trusty Nintendo DS also got a lot of usage, especially during the long drive across the Kaibab National Forest en route the Grand Canyon. Prying the kids away from Pokemon: SoulSilver was a challenge at times.

Speaking of the Grand Canyon, there were subtle bits of media here and there, including a two billion year timeline that stretched along a mile-long walking path on the canyon’s South Rim. Every stride took us back a million years in the canyon’s history. In a sense the Grand Canyon itself is the ultimate form of media, exposing layers of the earth’s history in a way that is entertaining, informative and humbling. With five million visitors a year, the Grand Canyon has a large, highly engaged audience.

Unlike at home, we rarely turned on a television except to catch Aaron Sorkin’s new show, The Newsroom, which seemed rather labored in its first episode. A couple of silly Adam Sandler movies on a portable DVD player was the extent of our movie watching.

A big surprise was how much we relied on Facebook during our vacation. As a New York media guy, I have become enamored with Twitter and its endless stream of industry news. But when you’re on vacation you really don’t care about Google’s foray into tablet computing or whether the banner ad is dead. What you really want is to share photos of the amazing things you’re discovering and stay in touch with the people you love.

There were a few other forms of digital media in rotation. The ESPN ScoreCenter app kept us up to date on sports and the Thomson Reuters app did the same for general news. We checked email whenever we had more than a couple bars of service—which wasn’t that often across vast expanses of Arizona.

Despite the soaring temperatures—it was well over 100 degrees each day—we had a fantastic vacation. It was great to have both new and old forms of media along for the ride.