geeks / tech tips for writers

10 Digital Tricks to Add Zip to Your Roadtrip

Last week, my daughter and I drove from Southern California to Washington DC–her new duty station with the Navy. I could share the glorious national wonders we encountered (the Grand Canyon, Nashville TN, the extremely understanding Texas police, that sort), but I thought instead I’d share with you how we used two smart phones and two iPads to make the seven-day trip across 2600 miles, seven states and one District, through cities and towns, find hotels and gas stations (ranging in price from $4.98 in California to $3.03 somewhere in Tennessee), entertain ourselves, and do whatever else came up on the daily twelve-hour journey:

  • We started at AAA getting their electronic Triptik that mapped our route across the country. This was a general guide which provided the broad strokes for our trip
  • We used Google Maps when we were looking for hotels, restaurants, or gas stations, or wanted to checked distances. A note: My daughter updated her iPhone to Apple Maps while I (wisely) hadn’t. Apple Maps was far inferior to Google Maps in every reason you want a map–directions, finding locations, distances. If you haven’t, don’t update. Wait until Apple does more than apologizes for the ineptitude of their mapping program and actually fixes it
  • We set up stations on Pandora (which has MANY MORE commercials than it used to) to listen to our favorite music from 8am to 7pm when we (almost) always tucked in for the night
  • We had both iPhones going–one for Google Maps and one for Pandora. We didn’t need this–we could toggle between the two–but having both active was convenient. Of course, one phone was always recharging because the Maps programs drains the battery
  • When we approached towns, we used SigAlert to see if there were traffic problems and Google Maps to reroute to avoid them. This came in handy just outside of Memphis where SigAlert showed a highway close down
  • We used the iPhones to update email, respond to messages, read blog comments, text my husband on our progress, transfer money between bank accounts (something we didn’t plan on having to do), solve a work problem (it’s a long story)

  • The non-driver used the Kindle App to read. Sleeping wasn’t an option because we had a constant stream of blips and beeps as Facebook and blogs and Drudge Reports updated, and friends sent text messages (to my daughter) and emails (to me)
  • During my Driving Break, I wrote blog posts using the iPad. This is how I learned that the WordPress app doesn’t require a connection. You write the post, save it, and it uploads to your WP account the next time it connects. Cool.
  • We used Google to research the derivation of the name ‘Smoky Mountain’
  • We always picked hotels with free WiFi. Evenings, my daughter wanted to continue her Insanity exercise routine. She brought a DVD player to hook up to the hotel TV and forgot the DVDs! Five minutes of searching and we found the workouts on YouTube which we played through the iPad
  • Once we were settled in for the night, we used Yelp to find a local restaurant
  • We were traveling on Thanksgiving so stopped for brunch where we set up one iPad to Skype my husband, another iPad with my son’s picture (he’s in Kuwait with the Army and not available for a call) and had my daughter on the phone. True, we could have conferenced two people into the phone, but liked the elegance of Skyping
  • We did bring an adaptor to plug the laptop into the cigarette lighter in the car, but never needed it. Are you surprised? I was. I love the idea I don’t need a computer to run my writing gigs. A smart phone and an iPad and I’m set.

Do you have any travel stories where digital devices made all the difference? Please share! I’m sure I have another road trip in my future.

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.comEditorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing TeachersCisco guest blog,Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Write Anything. In her free time, she is  editor of a K-6 technology curriculumK-8 keyboard curriculum, creator of two technology training books for middle school and six ebooks on technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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15 thoughts on “10 Digital Tricks to Add Zip to Your Roadtrip

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  6. To answer:

    I hadn’t planned on chronicling the digital devices until I saw how many we used and how we turned to them before paper maps or the radio or anything else. It amazed me that a digital immigrant like me could act so like a native.


  7. I’m posting this for my dear friend Shari:

    That was an amazing experience. I would never have thought of taking a road trip so connected by digital gadgetry. But you made the most and the best of it. I don’t have the technical skill – nor the gadgets – to do this but I’m finding more and more that my technical Ludditism is holding me back. Thank you for sharing this and explaining how efficient use of a few devices can keep you in touch and ease your travel. Glad you and your daughter made the trip safely. I’d still love to see the photos and hear about those other adventures.


  8. You Maa Betti [mother and daughter] are so adventurous [exclamation mark or full stop?] I enjoyed your trip [as if I was in your back seat] and learnt those techy tips. Thank you. But why did you take this tortuous trip? [no exclamation mark?]. Long before the invention of those gadgets my trip to Austria via France and Switzerland went, with many detours and hand gesture directions from the French and German speaking country folks, quite well. So my non-tech tip is : Believe in yourself, prepare for the worst and expect the best and use your common sense and be happy. Arun


    • My daughter had to get her car from California to the East Coast. I’ve done this three times now (always because of her car) and am constantly amazed by the beauty of this country. The landscape, people, everything. I’ll take that road trip any time.


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