tips for the techno-savvy traveller

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I've learned a few things this week about using my computer for travel planning. A few sites that have become indispensable for us as we do our day-to-day reservations (we didn't want to book too far in advance because we weren't sure how far we'd get each day):

  • TripAdvisor, which has the greatest number of consumer reviews of hotels, and has helped us avoid hotels that people said were particularly dirty or unpleasant. As a result, we've had no terrible experiences with hotels.
  • Orbitz, which let us see at a glance which hotels have free wifi, free breakfast, and a pool--three things we like on road trips.
  • Priceline, which let us book a hotel even when all the other sites (Expedia, Orbitz, and the hotel chain sites themselves) said there weren't any rooms available.
  • America's Byways, which provides photos and maps of the scenic byways if you want to avoid the boring interstates.

For offline computer-based planning, I've found that Microsoft Streets & Trips is significantly more useful than any of the online mapping tools. It allows you to specify your typical driving speeds and frequency of rest stops, your daily start and stop times, and waypoints--including the length of time (in hours or days) that you plan to stay. This has made it possible for us to reroute along the way, and get accurate, detailed estimates of time for each leg of the trip. I have the GPS unit that's supposed to work with it, but after a few months of flawless operation it stopped working. :(

Our Garmin GPS, however, came back to life--just in time for us to embark on this trip. Hallelujah! It really is useful to have, especially when you take a wrong turn, or decide to leave your original route for a scenic byway. Another nice feature is that it provides your elevation, which was fun to track as we made our way across the Rockies. (I think the highest point for us was leaving Yellowstone, where our elevation was over 9,000 feet.) The unit we have was the most economical one we could find, and except for the unexpected refusal to work for the first two weeks of July, it's been a great investment.

And while it's not computer-related, our AAA membership continues to be a good investment. The guidebooks and maps are great, and if we'd stuck with our original routing, the TripTik would have been useful as well.

1 Comment

Great tips, Liz! I've added those URLs to my bookmarks. The Byways one should really help us plan our upcoming trip to New York state.

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This page contains a single entry published on July 23, 2006 7:14 PM.

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cross-country trip day 6: rapid city, sd to mitchell, sd is the next entry in this blog.

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