If you're driving an RV cross-country, for example, you can bet that your GPS won't be able to tell you which overpasses are safe and which aren't high enough for clearance. And if your road trip takes you into the mountains, or low-populated areas, it's highly possible that you won't have gotten the most recent updates, as far as changes to the road map or even damage to the roads themselves.
We've all heard the horror stories of what can happen when people blindly follow their GPS devices into bad situations, and it's not necessary to repeat them here. The point is that a GPS is a wonderful device, but it's not the only thing you can -- or should -- use. Technology adds to older methods; it doesn't necessarily replace them.
A paper map gives you options that a GPS is simply not designed to show you. And while the GPS device's ability to estimate drive times can make your road trip a lot more efficient -- helping you decide when to stop and when to press on, for example, or how long you can spend in one area before it's time to move on to the next -- it's also tempting to hit autopilot on your brain and just follow its instructions, without stopping to think whether you're having the best possible time.
By incorporating a guidebook or paper map with your GPS use, you can make a fractious family member feel like a helpful co-navigator. Comparing your planned GPS route with other maps, especially those online, can give you the opportunity to adjust your route ahead of time.
While a GPS system is a wonderful addition to our lives and the ways we enjoy trips, it's important to always remember that it's just a tool. Ultimately, that tool belongs to you, not the other way around. If it isn't helpful -- or even if something just doesn't feel right -- make sure to check in with yourself, and with other plotting tools, to make sure you're not being led astray. A few minutes spent on double-checking the GPS could be worth hours, or more, of your life.
For more information, check out the links below.
- 10 Best Snacks for a Road Trip
- 10 Tips for Planning a Cross-country Road Trip
- Top 10 Stress-free Road Trip Ideas
- Top 5 Car GPS Devices
- How GPS Systems Work
- How to Use GPS
- How to Use a Handheld GPS
- How to Buy the Right GPS for Your Car
- What's so special about Route 66?
- What was the first road trip?
- Why do GPS systems give wrong directions?
- What was the first cross-country U.S. road trip?
- What are some fun things to do on a road trip?
- Drive Safely. "Trip Routing and Driving Directions for your Road Trip." Drive-Safely.Net. (July 5, 2011) http://www.drive-safely.net/trip-routing.html
- Fritscher, Lisa. "Where Are We Going? GPS, Maps and Old-Fashioned Common Sense." Tots & Travel. Feb. 1, 2011. (July 5, 2011) http://www.totsandtravel.com/2011/02/3894/where-are-we-going-gps-maps-and-old-fashioned-common-sense
- Garmin's Support Site. (July 5, 2011) http://www.garmin.com/garmin/cms/site/us/extras/downloads
- GPS Track Log. (July 5, 2011) http://gpstracklog.com
- GPS Visualizer. (July 5, 2011) http://www.gpsvisualizer.com
- Magellan GPS Resources. (July 5, 2011) http://www.magellangps.com
- TomTom's Route Planner. (July 5, 2011) http://routes.tomtom.com