The post-war awakening of America sent thousands of youngsters on the road in the 1940’s as chronicled in Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road‘. The 1960’s sent thousands of hopefuls on the road in brightly painted buses in search of fulfilment and enlightenment as chronicled in Rory MacLean’s Magic Bus.
Wanting to experience life as it was lived by the footloose heroes above is sending thousands on the road today who will have their movements and moments chronicled on the world wide web.
When you’re starting to plan a trip today, it’s not as easy as it was for Sal Paradise in the 1940s. You can’t simply board a greyhound and expect everything to go great. Planning and further planning are necessary to get from A to B. In this article, I will provide you with a road trip planning guide for the technology enthusiast by showing you the top web apps available for the backpacker, adventurer or holidaymaker.
This is a tool for road trip planning that will get most of the nitty gritty work done for you such as finding hotels, things to do, where to eat and it will even give you suggestions of where to go. The planner can be found here. When you first go to the trip planner, to your right you’ll see “˜Create a Trip‘. Click on this button. You will be asked to sign in with your Yahoo ID. If you do not have one you can register here.
When on the “˜Create a Trip‘ page, enter in the location to which you want to travel. This could be a country, area, city or town.
Then, you’ll be asked for information about your trip such as dates and scheduled activities such as tours and outdoor pursuits. If you’re not sure about where to stay then enter the city you’re visiting into the destination bar. This will return tons of hotels, facilities and things to do in the area, which are constantly updated with event plans and new hotels, restaurants etc”¦
The trip planner also has a Journal to keep your friends and family informed. Here, you can write about your experiences on the open road. Your family (who undoubtedly will subscribe to your journal) will be able to keep track of what’s going on with you, look at your photos and comment on them. Think of this as a kind of travel Twitter come blog.
Okay, so now you’ve got your ideas formulated into an envelope full of timetables, bus tickets, hotel reservations and your trusty passport. What’s next on your road trip planning to-do list? Well now, you have to know where to go. While the average internet user in you will automatically point you to Google Maps, I’d suggest using MapQuest as it is more tailored to the traveler who has a geeky side with a touch of organizational OCD.
Their maps are just as detailed as Google’s but give better information for those on-foot and in a car. For example, while you’re driving at cruising speed you may as well instruct Johnny in the seat next to you to pop open the Mac Book and see what’s to come. Along the top of the map window which is on the homepage of MapQuest you’ll see buttons like ‘Gas Prices’ and ‘Traffic’ that will inform you of the situation that lies ahead, such as low or high gas prices and traffic conditions ranging from ‘Normal’ to the dreaded ‘Road Closed’.
How about the best restaurants or what’s going on in the city? Each major urban centre will have a star beside its name. Click on that star and MapQuest will give you all the current news on what’s happening in that city.
Quest Map is also available on your iPhone. To find it, the best thing to do is open up the Apple App Store and type MapQuest into the search bar. It is much the same as the web version with most of the same functions so I shan’t repeat myself.
Rand Mac Nally
This useful road trip planning website will give you the best info for the city you’re heading off to. Sure, the Yahoo! Trip Planner and Map Quest will give you small bursts of what’s hot in a city but Rand Mac Nally will condense the whole city and all of its thousands of energy pockets into a few articles that Johnny can read aloud whilst cruising along.
As you can see from the screenshot, there are loads of sub-categories for each city and along the left hand side; there are several options for any kind of traveler. Each city has a huge article detailing its history, cultural monuments and sights.
Rand Mac Nally is less of a planning tool and more of an idea mill from where I’m standing. Before traveling to a city, you can see what’s going on and some facts about the place like weather, population and the local culture and customs. It’s a perfect road trip planning guide.
My final advice for the tech savvy traveler in this article is to be prepared for failure. Often, while out on the road where the internet still comes via a phone line, relying totally on your Mac or iPhone for travel advice and suggestions is a silly move. The best thing (and perhaps the essence of travel itself) is to talk to the locals, see what’s going on and get the inside scoop. While it’s almost blasphemous to say on a website such as this one but the internet isn’t perfect.
On the other side of that coin however, making a journal entry on Yahoo! about how you were stranded offline for three days is interesting and makes for a great experience. Here are my Top Five Tech Travel Tips:
1. Always have spare batteries
2. Carry different plug converters for different regions
3. Charge your equipment at any chance you get – in cafÃ©s, hotels, anywhere there is a plug. Free electricity!
4. Download Google Maps for your Cell Phone. This can literally be a lifesaver. Read my article on how to do it here.
5. Tweet – loads!
Any other tips?