Use Technology and Never, Ever Get Lost Again
By Robert McMillen- Koin’s Tech Guru
I’m on the airplane taking my family and I back to Portland from Disneyland. This article focuses on using technology that will keep you from ever being embarrassed again by driving up to the gas station to ask for directions, but I need to point out a few truths I’ve discovered from my trip:
There is no recession at the House of Mouse. The Disney Hotel was packed even though this was the off season. The rides had waiting times into the next decade. I couldn’t get a table at Goofy’s Kitchen without at least a two day prior reservation (and they laughed at us for even asking). A small bag of chips costs $2.75 (I picked up popcorn off the ground for free). A bottle of water costs $3.75 (I drank from their hose). Ounce for ounce, souvenirs cost more than gold- as long as the Disney label was on it. Room service for one meal cost the same as a week’s worth of groceries for four people (it was too late to send it back). I did get the last laugh, however, because I used every one of their complimentary tissues in the bathroom, and I didn’t even need them! I also drooled a little on their pillows, but I didn’t do that on purpose.
So, back to the purpose of our story. Because I was away this week I didn’t read my emails for questions to answer, so I thought of a topic all by myself (I can also dress myself, too). There are a lot of new toys you can use that can keep you from getting lost and that don’t cost as much as a one hour stay in Disneyland. Especially in an area new to you- like, say, Anaheim. All this traveling started me thinking that until a couple of years ago, I was always getting lost. I even printed off directions from MapQuest, but sometimes it just wasn’t right. The one-way streets or the new construction sometimes made even the 'turn by turn' directions difficult.
Even if you do have a GPS, I still recommend printing out directions, because even the GPS is often wrong. Every new GPS owner has at least one story of turning right when the melodic voice told him to, despite the fact that he was turning before the intersection, or into a river. I received my talking Garmin GPS a few years ago and found that it is already horribly outdated. Even though it would only cost around $175 to replace it, Garmin requires an annual fee of $70 to keep it up to date. Why? Oh yea, there is no recession. I forgot.
Tom Tom has a talking GPS, but you can also talk back to it. Of course, you likely already talk back to it anyway, but this one actually listens. It costs a couple hundred extra bucks, but if English is your native tongue, it may be worth it. If you have any kind of accent, then trust me when I say, you should not try this model.
You can also get a smart phone with a built in GPS where you get charged an additional $10 per month for 'turn by turn' directions with every major cell phone carrier. What makes this helpful is that it’s always up to date, and in some models you can get real-time traffic and road closures. Should you choose an Apple iPhone, a Windows Mobile phone, a T-Mobile G1 Android, or a Blackberry, you can also get the free Google Maps application. With this application you can see street level views with or without map overlays. With the iPhone, you can even speak the location you want, and most of the time, it will take you there.
So, as long as you have a talking GPS, printed directions, and Google Maps, you will never be lost again. Here’s a case in point. We were driving to Lego Land and didn’t have the address. We did know it was on I-5 south, but we didn’t know the exit. I spoke into my Google Maps application and up came the address. We could have followed the directions on the iPhone but we decided to punch them into the GPS, and presto! No embarrassing gas station visits trying to pretend we needed to buy something.
Of course you now have hundreds of dollars worth of technology you’ll need to worry about every time you leave the car.
By the way, for better GPS reception, be sure to wear a tinfoil hat. Trust me when I say the ladies love it.
For more great tips, check back here and listen to me on the All Tech Radio show at 9:00 Sunday mornings on AM 1360 KUIK and at 10 AM in Seattle on KOL, or listen online at http://alltechradio.com.
If you would like your technical question answered here, just email firstname.lastname@example.org. Even if it doesn’t get answered in the column, I will always answer by email.