GPS Units - Make Road Trips More Pleasant

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Not only can a GPS unit make finding your campground a cinch, it can make the entire road trip a pleasurable experience. You’ll likely never miss a turn or an exit again. Also, even if you do make a wrong turn, your GPS will quickly correct your mistake and create a new route for you so you can get back on track right away. Additionally, just about any decent GPS these days can also tell you where the next rest stop is, and also help you find gas stations and restaurants to visit on your trip. That’s why I’d recommend investing in a good gps tracker for your car.

Of course, these days, GPS units offer even more advanced features. For example, top of the line units can get live traffic updates for major cities, so you can avoid heavy congestion and traffic jams. I know, I know. You’re probably not going camping in the city, but you may have to go through them to get to your destination, and being able to avoid bad traffic just makes the drive that much more pleasant. (I don’t know about you, but I always feel better when I’m driving if I’m moving vs. sitting in traffic even if I have to go a little bit out of the way to do it.)

And that’s not all; many units also come with large hard drives or expandable drives so you can put all your MP3s on them to give you something to listen to while driving. Many new units will even connect to your Bluetooth cell phone and patch calls through your car’s speakers so you can answer phone calls safely while driving.

So are you convinced yet that a GPS unit is a good idea yet?

Great!

Now let’s talk about what you want to look for in a GPS unit.

Price Range

Automotive GPS units range in price from about $250 to over $2500, with excellent units being in the $400-$1000 range. The more features you want, the more you’re going to pay. For example, some high end models feature text to speech features that can tell you what street to turn on. For example, cheaper models will tell you to turn on a street in 300 yards, but they don’t read out the street name. Better models will say something to the effect of “Turn right on Elm Street in 300 yards.” That means you can keep your eyes on the road instead of looking at your GPS screen to figure out which street you’re actually supposed to turn on.

Maps

Having a GPS with a good set of maps is critical. I’ve had some experience with a GPS unit that didn’t have a good set of maps, and the results weren’t pretty. There was a lot of foul language involved when I realized that my GPS was trying to get me to drive on a snowmobile trail in the middle of winter in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado in the middle of nowhere. For this reason, I’m going to recommend you get a GPS unit that gets its map data from Navteq if you’re camping in North America and Tele Atlas if you’re camping in Europe. Navteq maps have a reputation of being far more up to date in the U.S. than Tele Atlas, but Tele Atlas maps are cheaper. So beware of those bargain basement GPS units, they may not have the best maps.

Most GPS units sold in the United States use Navteq maps (Garmin, Magellan, etc.) with the major notable exception being the Europe based TomTom. While I have personally used TomTom units, and feel that their interface is the very best, unfortunately their maps are usually out of date, and it’s not always capable of finding certain addresses. For example, a couple years ago a group of friends and I went snowboarding in Breckenridge, Colorado. I drove one vehicle and I had a TomTom Navigator to help me get there while my friend had a Garmin. Despite the fact that my GPS had a superior interface, and a 3D birds eye view map (which current Garmin units have now), it was clear from the get go who had the better unit. It was the Garmin. The Garmin was able to find the address of our condo, which mine was not, and the Garmin also didn’t try to take us off the Interstate for a detour that didn’t exist (but fortunately, I’d personally driven that part of the route many times before and ignored my GPS’s directions, but I still wasn’t pleased about it.)

garmin nuvi 680 travel assistantSo with all that being said, what am I going to recommend you buy? Well, you may have guessed that it’s not TomTom, and you’re right. I’d actually recommend you get something in the Garmin nüvi or Streetpilot line. I like the nüvi line a little better, but check them out for yourself. The Garmin nüvi 680 Travel Assistant makes for a particularly good choice.

So make getting to your next camping destination more pleasant, and invest a few bucks in a good GPS unit, you’ll be glad you did.

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