Let's face it: you need some sort of road trip map. No matter what a free spirit you may consider yourself to be, you can't set off for a road trip by jumping into your car with no idea where you're going.
Roads twist and turn. Highways end. And mountains are fairly set in their ways. At the very least, you'll need to plan around these obstacles.
Your map will be the blueprint of your road trip. So whether you just need to get from point A to point B quickly, or you're hoping to go off the main road in search of adventure, planning your route is crucial.
We've used most of the online mapping programs as well as good old-fashioned maps. So, what's the best approach for planning your route? We say it's a mixture of pixels and paper.
Online mapping programs come with the advantage of being much more flexible and customizable than paper maps. These websites also do all the figuring for you. You punch in two endpoints, and the website will generate an exact, turn-by-turn route for you. Don't like the route because it goes through a busy city or is just plain boring? You can change it with a few clicks.
Paper maps are easier to read than computer printouts. I have to admit that as much as I like the convenience of online maps, I've always found that they make it difficult to look at more than a very narrow swath of terrain at once. There's nothing quite like sitting down with a road atlas, flipping through pages, and studying the roads, geographical features, and points of interest you're likely to encounter on your next road trip.
So, before a long road trip, we start off by mapping our basic route online and saving it. We'll print out the directions, and then we'll sit down with the atlas and find points of interest that we might like to include in our route. We'll then go back and edit the original route online.
When it's time for our road trip, we'll print out the turn-by-turn directions so that we have something concise to refer to along the way. But we'll also bring the atlas so that we can flip through it in the hotel each night and figure out what interesting things we're going to see the following day.
We have plenty of tips on creating a road trip map online. We also have some thoughts on using old-fashioned paper maps. Check out these helpful resources:
MapQuest Road Trip Planner. We've enjoyed MapQuest's trip-mapping tools. No solution is perfect, but having Mapquest's online maps has been helpful.
AAA maps. If you haven't requested AAA maps in a while, you should take a look at AAA's free, highly convenient online services.
Road trip directions. Your driving directions will break down your map into a sort of to-do list. Here's the best way to generate directions for your road trip.
Road trip route. Planning your road trip route involves more than just putting two endpoints into Mapquest and clicking Get Directions. Here's how we plot our ideal course.
Use these pages to figure out your approach to mapping. Just don't leave home without a plan of some sort!