Follow the GPS: It Knows Where We Are!

            When you plan an unfamiliar road trip with the family, how do you find your way? I’m sure we all agree that you need to know where you are going even if you haven’t visited the area before. When we first began our camping journey with five kids in tow, we used physical maps and TripTiks from AAA, our automobile association. Do you remember them?
We started every Camping
journey with a pile of maps
and Tour Books.

            My husband is amazing with directions and somehow knowing where he is and the way roads and highways work—even in states we haven’t visited before. However, he literally will not ask for directions if for any reason we get off track of our destination. And I’m about as helpful with directions as the children when they were very young. I keep saying, “Shouldn’t we be there by now?”
            What usually happens in these instances is that I irritate my husband so much he finally stops at a convenience store. I run inside with the children and the map to see if anyone can help us find the waterfalls or a hike in the area we’re looking for. But sometimes it’s not this simple. Remember those five children? Well they’ve been sitting in the van wondering when we “get there” too. So they are hyper and want to buy snacks, and I have no sense of direction. None! In other words, we’re not much help to my husband.
            So I made my husband come in with us and stand near me to hear as I ask for directions. I told him to leave once he understood where to go, and then I’d thank the person and leave with the children. This will work, but the children and I decided to go one step further. We bought my husband a TomTom GPS, a global positioning device, for Father’s Day. He was ecstatic! While I realize today the iPhone and the Android phones can become GPS’s, my husband prefers his TomTom.
My husband’s pride and joy, his
TomTom GPS.

   The good thing now is that many “places of interest” offer coordinates to plug into GPS’s—even trailheads and waterfalls in rural areas. The kids think this is magic, and many times it is. However, you need to remember two important things when planning a route on a GPS to spare you from a car full of “are we there yets.”

            Update your maps regularly. With all the roadwork going on in the United States and the creation of new highways or the re-naming of old ones and roads popping up in rural areas where we like to hike, updating your GPS maps will help you avoid traffic jams and road closures. In other words, any new highway or street sign you find will match your GPS.       
            Always check the settings for each trip you plan on your GPS. If you don’t check your settings each time you plan a trip, you could add miles and miles to your trip simply because you still have “avoid tolls” set from the last trip and you need to cross a bridge for your current route. And whatever you do, please remember that “shortest route” actually means shortest—to the foot. Sometimes the map of our route on the GPS looks like the tangled rope we try to set up our tarps with at camp. All to save maybe two feet off our journey. And the “fastest route” means every minute counts.
            New technology can be great if you remember to update your machine regularly. But I’m still old fashioned. I insist on carrying a map of the area we will be visiting just to be able to see the whole area at one time. It also verifies that you are heading in the correct direction. I like helpful machines, but I don’t mind a second opinion. How about you?
            So enjoy each other’s company while traveling and have fun on your next travel adventure. Feel free to share any tips you may have about finding your way in unfamiliar areas. Just leave a note in the comments section here at Camping with Five Kids. It would be truly appreciated. Enjoy your adventure! 

6 thoughts on “Follow the GPS: It Knows Where We Are!”

  1. I use my phone more nowadays because it gives me traffic alerts too, like a car crash or what not. I always forget to update my GPS. This reminds me to do it. Thank you! I still use paper maps as well. I have a route to the shore that I usually take and I have a paper copy just in case my phone dies or GPS is not working. I'm a paper person. I feel more confident when I have it along, even if I don't use it.

  2. Hi Victoria Marie – I still use common sense and the basic – but am happy to stop and ask … you meet wonderful people. However GPS in Britain can be a nightmare … sending people down roads that aren't roads, or into towns were huge trucks can't get through … useful – yes, but we need to think too. Cheers Hilary

  3. To me, a paper map just makes it real, Michelle. I can look at the whole area to see where I am without going blind trying to look at the area from a view on a tiny screen. My husband links his iPhone to the GPS to receive traffic alerts on the GPS map.

    It's always a pleasure seeing you here at Camping with Five Kids. Thanks so much for your note. Enjoy your weekend!

  4. We truly need to consider where machines "think" to send us, Hilary. I feel asking for directions is a splendid way to meet people, so long as those people truly know how to find a place. I have no problem telling someone that I don't know how to get someplace. Thanks for the tip about GPS's and Britain. I'd definitely have to get a street map to be able to trust the GPS there.

    It's always a pleasure seeing you here at Camping with Five Kids. Thanks so much for your note. Enjoy your weekend!


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