It is one thing to find your perfect travel assignment, but it is another thing to pack up and drive there. Fortunately, there is no shortage of ways to find driving directions no matter where you are going in the United States. For those of us who have been around a while, it used to be that the only way we could navigate on road trips was by using an Atlas or a map. What is an Atlas you ask? An Atlas is a book of maps and companies like Rand McNally have been producing these travel tools for more than 160 years.
Today, travelers are using technology to find the best routes to their chosen destination. There are several apps available for your smartphone, some are free, other apps require a small payment before downloading. Let’s take a look at some of the best apps you can use for navigation to your next travel assignment.
Waze – This free, full-featured GPS navigation app is available for Android, iPhone, and Windows smartphones. Waze utilizes crowd-sourced traffic information to provide the users with real-time information regarding traffic conditions, accidents, and even speed traps (Friendly disclosure: We recommend all drivers obey the posted speed limits).
Google Maps – For every day, easy to use turn by turn navigation, Google Maps is still the standard bearer. Free for Android and iOS, one of the nicer features is the ability to access “Explore Nearby” which provides the user with points of interest, restaurants, coffee shops and more. When navigating without a data connection, Google Maps allows you to store your route for offline navigation.
inRoute – One smartphone app that gives Google Maps a run for the money is inRoute. This iPhone-centric app features both a free version and two tiers of pay versions. The big difference with inRoute is the real-time access to weather information along your chosen route. The application also allows you to plan optimal routes within the locations on your main route. These features allow you to alter your trip based on elevation changes, road “curviness,” etc.
Technology and gadgets are fun, but what if you wanted to plan a leisurely drive to your next assignment the “old school” way. In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower championed the formation of the National Highway System of the United States. This network of highways is laid out online, in map form or published Atlases. If you are traveling cross country, there are several routes you can take based on what part of the country you are interested in visiting along the way. Here are a few highlights of the main highways between the East and West coasts.
I-90 /-80: The I-90 is the main highway leading from New York City towards the West Coast. If you choose this route, there are several must-see stops along the way. In New York State, you can hop off the I-90 and spend a day visiting a few Finger Lakes wineries. In Ohio, you can visit Cleveland’s waterfront renewal and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Once you reach Chicago, you have a decision to make. If you stay on the I-90 and head north, you can visit Mount Rushmore, the Grand Tetons, and Jackson Hole. This route takes you all the way to Washington State. If you merge onto the I-80 around Chicago, your trip will take you through Des Moines, Iowa, Lincoln, Nebraska, and a trip to the “Old West” in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Further west, you will travel through Salt Lake City, Reno, Nevada and on into Sacramento California.
I-70: Starting your cross country trip in Pittsburgh, the I-70 takes you on a central route across this great land of ours. Highlights of an I-70 trip is an outstanding steak dinner at St. Elmo’s Steakhouse in Indianapolis, a day spent exploring St. Louis and authentic BBQ in Kansas City. Further west, you have to visit the hot springs in Lakewood, Colorado and plan several days for exploring the intense beauty of Arches National Park in Utah. The I-70 ends here in Utah so you will finish you trip to California via the I-15 which brings you through Las Vegas, Nevada and on into Southern California.
I-40: Country music fans are most likely to choose a cross-country trip via I-40. Starting in North Carolina, the I-40 takes you right through Nashville where you can spend a day or two soaking in the music, food, and southern charms of Music City, USA. On towards Memphis, travelers have to make time for some real Memphis-style BBQ. The I-40 drops you into the ‘hot spring spas” in Little Rock Arkansas, through Oklahoma City and the Southwestern flair of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Before ending your trip in Southern California, you even have an opportunity to commune with the desert “hippies” in Sedona, Arizona.
I-10/-20: Whether you choose the I-20 out of South Carolina or the I-10 from Jacksonville, Florida, either trip takes you through the best of America’s southland. The I-10 crosses through the panhandle of Florida, through Mississippi and just north of New Orleans, while the I-20 takes a slightly more northern path through Georgia, Alabama, Jackson, Mississippi, and Shreveport. Both cross through the heart of Texas and merge just outside of El Paso. Once you cross over into southern New Mexico, a side trip to the Carlsbad Caverns should be on everyone’s list. The I-10/-20 through Arizona sends you to Tempe, Phoenix, and Scottsdale. While there, spend some time scoping out the beauty and wonder of the Grand Canyon before ending your trip in San Bernardino.
As you can see, there are options galore in planning your next travel assignment. Whether you choose maps or apps, you will find that getting there is easier than you thought. We want to hear about your favorite cross country trips. How did you navigate and what were your favorite stops along the way? Are you planning a cross-country travel assignment? Tell us all about it in the comment section below or share your story on our Facebook page.