Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Travel Choices: Maps, GPS or MapQuest

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day, when she mentioned she relied solely on her GPS when she drove her family from NY to Florida for a vacation. It worked for her. They didn't end up on some dirt road in a swamp wondering if they had enough provisions to get them through until the tow truck arrived.

I'm just not that trusting of my electronics or of my ability to stock travel provisions.

I used to be great at reading maps. Then, along came MapQuest and my husband and I started relying on that almost exclusively anytime we needed directions. It did us wrong a couple of times. One time, we were driving in circles in Pittsfield, MA looking for the Berkshire Museum. We eventually found it with the help of a friendly convenience store worker. We were annoyed, but not enough to put the road map back in the car. 

We moved up to a GPS two years ago. I can honestly say I don't like it and it's not just because it got us lost in the Bronx on our way to the zoo last year. I like to see the big picture when I'm driving somewhere unfamiliar. The GPS has such a small window I feel lost even when I'm not. When I look at the miniature screen, I'm a horse wearing blinders that can't see what's going on in my peripheral vision. And, that's when it's working properly.

If the GPS isn't able to lock on an address, it fails. When I don't have a map to back it up, I may as well be driving down the dirt road to the swamp, because, for all I know, I'm closer to that than I am to my destination. The only options are to enter a nearby address or to drive around, hoping I eventually run into the place I'm looking for. Neither solution is ideal and both have me cursing at that little black box, hoping my kids don't hear. 

Yesterday, I decided it was time to take the blinders off.

Image courtesy of cohdra at Morguefile.

I became the proud owner of a brand new, Rand McNally 2013 Road Atlas. Future travel plans may still be mapped out using MapQuest or the GPS, but they'll be referenced with the map, which will be kept in the car, like the old days.

I better throw some trail mix and dried fruit in there, too, just in case that swamp is closer than I think. 

How do you get from point A to point B? Are you a die hard map user? Or are you all about the technology?


  1. We use a combo. GPS, Google and old fashioned paper maps.
    I don't trust the GPS completely, so I usually print out Google directions as well. As for the road atlas, I actually get great enjoyment from sitting down and looking at those maps! I follow routes to places near and far as I plot out my dream road trip. Yes, I am proud to be a geek!

  2. Nothing wrong with being a geek, Lisa! I had forgotten how much fun looking at an atlas is!

  3. GSP does fail us because of road blocks/construction and fences. I was going to a school to substitute teach and the GPS led me to a neighborhood where I could see the school over the fence, but not get there! I need to go on line to update that GPS, but haven't and don't trust that it would know about fences and construction. The latest confusion with "Ms. Garmin", what we call her, is she speaks in another language!


  4. Carol - We call ours Yoda because that's the voice we picked for it. They're unreliable enough without throwing another language in the mix! Good luck sorting that out!