Software // Information Management
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11/30/2005
12:20 PM
Fred Langa
Fred Langa
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Langa Letter: Free Tools For Road Warriors

Not everyone has (or wants) a GPS. These Web-based alternatives Fred Langa searched out make even complex route planning a snap!

Imagine: You're in a hotel room, partway through what was supposed to be a routine business trip. You check your E-mail and find your plans must change: Instead of traveling to familiar places by well-known routes, you're faced with having to plan a new and somewhat complex multistop route on unfamiliar roads. The classic online mapping tools you've used before -- Yahoo, Expedia, and the like -- are meant for simple point-to-point navigation, and can't handle complex, multistop routes. What do you do now?

Or: Perhaps you've rented a car with a GPS unit, or have your own self-contained, whole-continent GPS unit with you. These units are meant for point-to-point navigation, and some can be hard, or even impossible, to use to build complex routes with multiple stops along the way. What do you do now?

Or: Perhaps you have a full-featured GPS, but unexpectedly need to travel beyond its coverage area; say, to a region beyond whatever maps are in the unit. What then?

Or: Imagine you're midway through a business trip, and want to plan a short sightseeing side trip. On the business portions of the trip, you want a fast route that saves the most time, but on the sightseeing trip, you want a route that avoids freeways and takes a deliberately inefficient, scenic path to the destination. How do you accommodate both?

In all these cases and more, you're beyond what the classic online route-planning tools can offer. Sites such as Expedia, MapQuest, Yahoo and Google are all good for what they are, but simply aren't meant for planning complex, multistop routes; or for finding deliberately off-the-beaten-path directions. At the very least, you'd have to manually break your route into simple, point-to-point subsections that these mapping services could handle, and then print out the maps and directions for each segment. The resulting sheaf of paper would not only be awkward to manage, but also is potentially dangerous: a distraction for the driver.

Fortunately, there are a number of specialized mapping and routing sites that will help you develop custom, complex routes, in one pass, for destinations almost anywhere in the world. I've been poring over literally dozens of sites, trying to find the best ones for you: Ones that allow for complex routing; that let you specify variables such as preferred road types or driving speeds; that present clear, well-drawn, detailed maps; and so on. What's more, all the best sites I found are free, and accessible from anywhere -- even Internet cafés or public kiosks -- so you'll never be far from access to world-class mapping and routing tools.

In a moment, I'll present you with capsule summaries of the best mapping and routing sites I found, but first, here's a list of the sites and their URLs that you can copy and paste and save in your laptop or PDA, or even print out to carry in your wallet. Then, no matter where you are when you need to plan or change a trip, you'll have quick access to some of the very best tools available.

InformationWeek's List Of Outstanding
Free Route Planning And Mapping Sites:
Extremely Wide Coverage:
  • Maporama (worldwide)

  • Map24 (U.S./Canada)

  • Map24 (U.K.)

  • Map24 (Europe)

  • Map 24 (other)

  • MSN Maps and Directions
         (U.S./Canada/Europe/Australia)

  • ViaMichelin
         (Europe/U.S./Canada)


  • U.S. And Canada Coverage:
  • FreeTrip


  • U.S.-Only Coverage:
  • Maps On Us

  • RidePlanner
  • Rand McNally

  • Europe-Only Coverage:
  • Royal Auto Club

  • Mappy

  • AA Route Planner

  • Traveling with Agip

  • ANWB Routeplanner

  • MultiMap

  • More route planners,
         worldwide meta-site


  • Miscellaneous:
  • U.S. gas station finder

  • U.S. truck stop finder      (gas/food/sometimes lodging)

  • View this list as a seperate file | Download this list as a .txt file
    Download this list as a .doc file

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