The reaction we hear most to the new Apple maps that replaced Google maps on the iPhone 5 is negative. The Apple maps, it would seem, are less accurate that Google maps. But here’s a voice with a different point of view: Anick Jesdanun, technology writer for Associated Press. Jesdanun argues that the benefits of turn-by-turn voice direction and re-routing that come with the new Apple maps outweigh the errors on the maps. I had been hesitant to download the Apple maps on my iPhone 4s until I read his article. I should add that I rely on my Garmin GPS unit, which does have voice directions and recalculates if I (intentionally or not) make a “wrong” turn. But as I learned on my last road trip, GPS units don’t live forever – or behave consistently well – and I need to have a back-up on my iPhone. So I’ll be downloading Apple’s new maps. Read Jesdanun’s story here and see what you think.
What to do when the GPS unit dies mid-trip?
The Garmin unit that I’ve been using for almost three years suddenly stopped working Friday between Ocala and Gainesville, en route to Cordele, Georgia. It froze up, then when I tried to reboot it, refused to come on at all. Fortunately, Cordele is right on I-75, and with my iPad to back me up, I didn’t have any trouble finding it. But Friday was only the second day of a road trip that has me zigzagging across four states. So Friday night, I downloaded a Garmin program onto my iPhone, mapped out the route from Cordele to Charleston, S.C., and went to bed.
When I started my car Saturday morning, the GPS unit, which I had left plugged in, fired right up and knew exactly where we were. Ah, the wonders of a good night’s sleep. But it seems to have developed an aversion to freeway driving, because it directed me across I-75 and onto country roads. And why not? Back roads are a lot more interesting than interstates.
So I went zipping across country, past cotton and soybean fields, pecan groves (and a sloppily spray-painted sign that read “Stealing pecans may be hazardous to your health”), pastures where cattle and sheep grazed (separately), a farmers co-op, a partially collapsed mobile home with vines growing out the windows, barns with sloped floors and rusting metal roofs, and tiny block-long downtowns with no chain stores. The road rolled gently up and down, and curves were long and slow and easy to drive.
Sixty-five miles later, the GPS unit directed me onto Interstate 16. The back-roads part of my trip was over. The GPS under worked perfectly the rest of my drive into Charleston. But now I have a weapon – the threat of an already-downloaded navigation system on my iPhone. We’ll see what happens if it plays dead again.
As someone who travels with laptop, camera and other electronics, I’m paranoid about leaving any piece of equipment in my car, on (or under) a restaurant table, in an overhead bin that’s out of my line of sight. So I carry everything in a laptop-sized bag pack that I can keep a constant eye on when it’s not on my back. Why? Consider this statistic: Every week, an average of 12,000 laptops are lost or go missing at U.S. airports. To minimize the possibility that yours will be one of them, check out these tips from Consumer Traveler on how to keep your laptop — and the data on it — safe.
How do you pack for a road trip? Here are some good ideas I found on long-time travel guru Arthur Frommer’s Web site: Duffel bags are easier to squeeze into a crowded trunk than hard-sided suitcases; put the clothes you’re going to wear at the end of your trip in a separate bag that you won’t have to carry into your hotel every night; if you’re hauling along a collection of electronics, consider getting a universal car charger with different connectors. Want more? Check out the full list of tips here.
How many of you are planning to take a road trip this summer or early fall? Americans hit the road by the tens of millions at a time. Just over the July 4 holiday, AAA projected that 42.3 million of us would travel more than 50 miles from home by car.
Chris Elliott, who writes the syndicated Travel Troubleshooter column that runs Sundays in The Miami Herald's Travel section, has been on a road trip with his wife and three kids since last fall. You can read his trip posts here. You'll be entertained and educated.
Chris makes some interesting points in a column this week: Even though the last majority of leisure trips in the U.S are made by automobile, most travel writing, mobile apps and other technology are geared toward air travel. It also underscores how much we roadtrippers have come to rely on wireless technology -- and how foohardy that can be. Read his column here.
Do you like to travel with an old-fashioned paper map, the kind that gas stations used to hand out for free, the one you could never fold back up right once you had unfolded it?
With many people using electronic devices to find their way around – built-in navigation systems, hand-held GPS units, map apps in cell phones – there’s less demand for paper maps than there was a decade ago.
But some people still like them for their simplicity, for their retro feel, for not having to worry about being thrown off by an electronic glitch.
“Simpler times are something everyone yearns for. And maybe looking at a map takes you back,” Kevin Nursick, spokesman for Connecticut’s transportation department, told the Associated Press. “The technology is neat, but on a personal level, there’s a sense of nostalgia when you look at the paper map. A lot of people are yearning for simpler times.”
But cost is causing many state transportation departments to cut down on the number of maps they make, while gas stations, which once handed maps out for free, now offer only a few for sale – if any. So if you want an old-fashioned map, it may take some searching on your part.
Click here to read the full story.
I used to burn through reams of paper printing out maps from MapQuest.com. I love maps. If I was planning a road trip, I’d consider all the variations on routes and detours, and print out a different map for each alternative. I always took along my road atlas, but it was hard to beat the kind of detail mapquest.com gave me. Except, of course, when it was wrong, which in the early years wasn’t all that unusual.
My first GPS unit was a gift, and to my surprise, in spite of my devotion to maps, I immediately became addicted to it. I stopped printing out maps. Until the first time the GPS was wrong. And then there was the time it malfunctioned and froze. I learned here was another piece of technology that is not 100 percent reliable.
Now I just print out one or two maps I consider critical and take along a fold-out map or a road atlas for back-up, but mostly I rely on my GPS. I still use MapQuest.com, although most people I know prefer Google maps. But MapQuest.com and I got used to each other, I learned its tricks and, OK, I stuck to what was familiar.
Anick Jesdanun, a technology writer for the Associated Press, used the opportunity of a Memorial Day weekend trip to Arizona to try out and compare four free mapping services — Google maps and MapQuest.com plus Yahoo and Microsoft’s Bing. He found that Google maps worked best, but said MapQuest.com was a strong second, especially in giving him alternative routing instructions. Read his full report here.
I’m not ready to give up on MapQuest.com. But next time I plan a road trip, I think I’ll take along a couple printouts from Google maps too. Just in case.
For roadtrippers looking for ideas for this year’s trek, Moon has come out with the sixth edition of Road Trip USA. Also new at the bookstore are National Geographic’s Field Guide to the Water’s Edge and The Appalachian Mountain Club’s Outdoors with Kids guides for New York City and Boston. Check this story for more information.
Let me tell you about my packing challenge on my most recent travels.
My trip was a hybrid of travel by automobile, boat and airplane. I drove a rental car from Miami to New Orleans, took a steam boat cruise up the Mississippi River to Memphis, spent two nights in Memphis and flew back home. Total travel time: 16 days.
I've never learned the art of packing extremely light. I've never backpacked across Europe. I can get along for almost a week on what I can fit into a roll-aboard if I have to, but why do that if I don't have to?
When I take a road trip, assuming I'm returning home in the same car I left in, I don't scrimp on luggage. If I think there's even a possibility I might do something that requires special clothing or gear -- hiking boots, a fancy dress, a case of bottled water -- I'll throw it in the trunk. I'll take extra clothes if I means I can skip doing laundry on the road. Why? because I can.
But what do I do when I have to cram everything into one suitcase and one carry-on for the flight home? When I need one kind of clothes for the road trip and a nicer kind for the cruise?
I am in a part of Florida I don't know, the easternmost part of the Panhandle, putting all my trust in my little GPS unit, a Garmin more than two years old. I am following The Voice's instructions to Wakulla Springs State Park, south of Tallahassee, from U.S. 27 onto back roads lined by tall stands of trees I don't recognize.
Here and there I see kudzu creeping up a utility pole or across the undergrowth. I pass a sign offering boiled peanuts, and later, someone selling tupelo honey from the back of a pick-up. Yep, I have come north to get to the South.
The road is mostly straight, and periodically crosses a creek or a river. Occasionally I catch glimpses of men fishing from bass boats.
I have no idea where I am. The directions are given in route numbers, not names, and the signs welcoming me each time I cross a county line mean nothing to me. I just have to trust The Voice, follow its instructions and watch the miles tick off. At the park, I want to take a boat tour of the river that flows from the springs, see the wildlife.
Finally a sign welcomes me to Wakulla County, which reassures me. But when the voice tells me I have arrived, I am in front of a closed and locked gate that identifies this spot as the park's maintenance yard. Fortunately, an arrow on the gate points me to the park entrance, and a mile later, I finally do arrive at my destination.