Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Traveling? Don't Go It Alone: Online Maps and Apps Get You On Your Way

We are car travelers. Himself drives, and I navigate. Most of our trips are under eight hours, but every year we drive to and from Maine, a three-day journey. In the past, I've always visited our local AAA office and had them create a TripTik for our route and also gathered Tour Books for each state we traverse. (You have to be a AAA member, which we've been for years. I can't recommend membership highly enough.)

Enter the internet.

Two years ago, I took advantage of AAA's online TripTik creator and made my own. Using click-and-drag, I could personalize our route, just in case we wanted to go a different way than the default route. This sounds easier than it is. Sometimes the click-and-drag assumed a certain route, and I'd have to really zoom in and fiddle around with the settings. According to the AAA employee I spoke with recently, they have the same problems in the office! Once I got the route just the way I wanted it, I printed out the TripTik, three-hole punched the pages, and secured them in a notebook. Voila!

This year I tried something different and used MapQuest's Directions to plan our route. By entering in various destinations, I was able to personalize our route. I was also able to print out maps to my preference, zooming in when I needed more detail and zooming out when something more general would do. I found MapQuest's click-and-drag function easier to use than AAA TripTik's.

Hard copies are great, but in this era of smartphones, apps are also a way to go.

AAA offers free apps for both Android and iPhone. I was able to download the TripTik app without giving my AAA number or any other information, so perhaps you can, too, if you are not a AAA member. This came in quite handy for locating gas stations and hotels.

I also used my Google Maps for my Android. My phone came with this app, but you can also download it. This was great. When we hit a spot of creeping traffic, we were able to find an alternate route around the problem.

Hungry? The TripAdvisor app has a Near Me Now feature. We've used this lots of times with great success. These free apps are available in many platforms.

And don't miss this one: the free USA Rest Stop Locator app. There are several of these types of apps from which to choose. Just run a simple Google search to find the one you like best.

IMPORTANT: Make sure you have a car charger for your phone. These apps eat up batteries!

With these tools at your fingertips, car travel is both easier to plan beforehand and manage while you're on the road. What could be better?

Happy traveling!

(Aside: I have no idea why some of the text has a different background color. In editing mode, it looks exactly the same as the other text, and nothing is different. )


  1. Thanks for these timely tips, Ellen. They will come in handy when we take our big road trip next month. :) I saw your blog on the AO yahoo group. We will begin our first year of AO this fall. I look forward to "visiting" with you often and gleaning from you AO expertise. :)
    Hope you're having a blessed day,

  2. You have to love (or maybe not) this age of technology we live in. I have relied on my Google maps on my iPhone more than once to get me out of a jam in which I am lost! Thanks for linking up with us over at NOBH!


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