Forever Young December 1999
Published December 1999
Forever Young "Down the Road" travel column

Why not plan your next trip with your computer?

By Eric and Katharine Fletcher

Wouldn’t it be nice to have your computer work out the most scenic route to Florida? And to take into account that you prefer scenic routes… oh yes, and that you’d want to stay in hotels with swimming pools?

Seems unlikely? With DeLorme’s Map’n’Go, you can do all that and more. Follow along as I helped my neighbour plot a route to drive to her mother’s winter home in Florida.

Choose start and end points

We entered Ottawa and West Palm Beach as start and end points of the trip.

Before calculating the route, a dialog box let us specify an average of 8 hours driving per day. After a brief hum from the CD, Map’n’Go displayed the “quickest” route on a large-scale map with direction details in a list beside it: 2,500 kms in 27 hours. Three large blue dots on the map showed proposed daily stops, with the first near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Plan stops

“Okay, can we find a motel with a pool?” We used the mouse to draw a rectangle around Harrisburg to zoom in for more detail. Clicking the right mouse button and choosing “all points of interest within 10 miles” brought up a sizable list of items, including motels. An option let us edit the lodgings preferences by ratings, type and price range. The now-shorter list showed a Days Inn with a pool just off the I-81. After inserting it as a stop, the recalculated route showed it at 8:03 — almost perfect timing.

The route continued through Washington and the I-95 but they’d been that way before and would rather avoid the traffic. Recalculating for a “scenic” route added half an hour and 40 kms — and bypassed Washington entirely.

We then clicked the “Along the way” button to see what attractions might be worth seeing. My neighbour noticed Shenandoah National Park. “I’ve heard there’s a beautiful drive along the ridges there. I wonder if it would be much out of our way?” A click on the information button started a spoken description of the Skyline Drive, with pictures. We added the drive and park as “via” points and recalculated the route to pass through them: it was now just over 30 hours and 2,640 kms.

The scenic drive reconnected with the I-81 to get to Lexington, Virginia at about the 15-hour point. From the list of nearby points of interest, we selected a hotel as their stop for the night and marked a checkbox to attach details about a local regional-fare restaurant to the printed travel package.

We chose a Comfort Inn in South Carolina for the next night, leaving them a 7.5-hour drive for the final day.

Printing the route

Planning the map on the computer is one thing; following directions along the highway is quite another. Fortunately, Map’n’Go provides a wealth of options.

When we chose “Print Travel Package,” the CD whirred as it found details about items we’d selected. The dialog box indicated that the full package would be 16 pages: an overview map; directions for each 200 mile section of the route; detailed maps for where we had included stops; and 3 pages of detail about hotels and attractions we’d selected.

The result? A handy printed guide for a 2,645-kilometer scenic route of just over 30 hours driving time.

Driving time is calculated by average speeds on various types of roads and can be adjusted to fit individual driving preferences. For a 2,800 kilometer round-trip to Chicago, the program predicted nearly 35 hours; it took me just under 32 hours. After adjusting the average highway speed from 46 mph to 55 mph, the program matched my time almost exactly.

Routing information for more than a million miles of North American roadways, as well as CAA/AAA information on more than 66,000 lodgings, restaurants, campgrounds, museums, parks and attractions, is included on the CD with the program.

Too often, software looks so useful when I buy it but turns out to be frustrating to use or less convenient than old fashioned manual approaches. Not Map’n’Go: I’ve purchased upgrades since it first came out and it is often the default CD in our computer. Highly recommended.

Where to find it

Map’n’Go 5.0 for Windows 95/98 is $40 or less at many local computer stores, including CompuSmart in the Emerald Plaza at 1547 Merivale Road in Nepean (727-0099) and at CAA in the Orleans Town Centre (841-6441). DeLorme is at on the Internet.