Three ways to improve your American road trip
If you’re heading out on the road this summer, don’t forget to use the power of the Internet to make your traveling easier. Here are three quick ways to do that:
One: Find unique roadside stops
RoadsideAmerica.com is a user-contributed collection of the quirky road-side stops that dot America. Want to see the world’s largest ball of twine? Here it is in Cawker City, Kansas. Perhaps a homemade X-wing is more your style. Or who could pass up such temptations as The Thing or the Mystery Hole?
It’s easy to find something that interests you, just use the Roadside America map to take a state-by-state look at what’s near your driving route. Particularly handy is the ability to sort based on user reviews or categories such as ‘worth a detour’ or ‘worth a stop’.
Two: Find the best route
ZipperMaps is a site that plans the shortest driving route between multiple locations using Google maps.
Unlike most driving-directions sites, which require you to put in the order of the places you want to visit, ZipperMaps needs only a starting and ending position — it will figure out the order you should visit your stops to minimize driving.
To show you an example, here’s a road trip itinerary starting in North Carolina and ending in California that goes through 17 cities.
Trying to find the shortest route between all those cities is near-impossible to do by hand, but ZipperMaps will find it for you. Here is the solution for the above example:
For a real-life example of the time this site can save, my wife and I are taking a road trip across eighteen states and British Columbia this summer. The best route we could figure out on our own was 131 hours of driving. But ZipperMaps found a 99-hour solution. We’re going to save 32 hours of time. That translates into more time seeing sights, rather than driving to them.
Three: Don’t get tickets
One danger of a United States road trip is your license plate. Once you drive across your first border, that out-of-state plate reads like a big ‘ticket me’ sign to the local cops.
This is where Trapster comes in. It’s an application that you download for your iPhone or Android phone that alerts you when you’re nearing a speed trap. (Here’s a demo video of how it works.)
I recommend always driving below the speed limit anyway for three reasons:
- You don’t really get there much faster.
- It is safer if you get in an accident.
- It’s not worth the constant stress of looking out for cops.
However, it still helps to know where the speed traps are — you don’t want to give the police any excuse to pull you over. I normally drive at the speed limit, but when I know there’s a trap ahead, I go under the limit.