Getting lost is practically a given when you fly into a strange city, climb into a rental car, and start looking for a client site. In year's past, you'd pull into the nearest gas station, pick up a map, and use it to look for that elusive road. Technology, however, has changed all of that.

Today, we rely on two different technologies to find our way: the Internet and GPS.

Each system has its own challenges, but they both beat unwieldy maps and frequent stops to ask directions.

Mapquest.com

Pros

  • The comfort of a piece of paper that you can fold up, put into your pocket, tape onto the dash, or write on.
  • The information is constantly updated by the company.
  • Cost = Free.
  • No bulky equipment to unpack, turn on, recharge, etc.

Cons

  • Directions from the Internet often leave much to be desired. If you try too hard to comply with every minute direction, you'd drive yourself crazy--and probably become lost.

Garmin GPS (laptop version)

Pros

  • The ability to enter the address while on the plane or at home, and store the information for later retrieval. When you get into the rental car, simply put the antenna on the roof of the car, and the system automatically registers your location, and provides directions to your destination.
  • Multiple options for seeing routes:
    --Provides step-by-step directions, and displays the current direction in easy to read letters at the top of your computer screen.

    --Speaks the directions if your computer is wired for sound.

    --Sounds "dings" and "bongs" to let you know how close until the next turn.

    --Offers a bird's-eye view.

    --Changes the scale of the map by zooming in or out.

    --Stores the most recent 25 directions so if you found a great restaurant, you can find it again.
  • The system will automatically reroute you if you make the wrong turn.

Cons

  • If you weren't paying attention in high-school math, you may not know how far 160 meters is naturally. So when the Garmin requests you turn left in 160 meters, you might find yourself guessing.
  • It can be a pain in the neck to use. After shlepping through the airport, heaving luggage off and on the rental car shuttle, you then have to pull out your laptop, open it up, connect the GPS cable and wait for it to boot up. After about 10-minutes, it begins to establish a route to the final destination. The computer voice starts spits out instructions even before you've started the car. When you reverse out of the parking space, the system assumes you've made a wrong turn and starts to re-route. This happens continually as you move through the parking lot, avoid the next shuttle bus, get through the payment window and get to the edge of the driveway where you can actually begin paying attention to the directions.
  • This system had problems particularly in California and other areas that have parallel roads close to each other. If the GPS thinks you're on the wrong road, it'll start barking reroute instructions.

Each system has its benefits and problems. Choosing the right one is a sanity issue. Which will drive you insane more: getting lost and not having directions back to your previous point (Mapquest.com), or getting there, but having to deal with the technological equivalent of your father sitting next to you, barking directions and nodding his head in rerouting disapproval?


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