Finding Road Trip Attractions with Rand McNally’s New Online Trip Planner
In my last post, Mapping the Great American Road Trip, I showed you how easy it is to use Rand McNally’s new TripMaker®, a free online road trip planner tool, to map out a route with multiple stops, complete with driving directions, mileage, and fuel costs. My road trip out west begins and ends in Denver, CO, and loops through eight states over three weeks—timed so that I celebrate my 40th birthday by seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. In this post, I’ll use TripMaker as a travel planner, finding and adding road trip attractions using Things to Do features. I’ll also create a printout of my trip and download TripMaker and my trip into a Rand McNally GPS device.
Finding and Adding Road Trip Attractions
TripMaker is an online road trip planner with stops selected by Rand McNally editors. Its Things to Do options include amenities like Food & Drink, Rest Areas, or Shopping as well as special-interest road trip attractions with themes like Amusement, Arts & Music, the Great Outdoors, History & Heritage, Science & Tech, and Sports Fan. Scenic, untrammeled, unique places are featured in Picture Perfect, Small-Town Gems, or (my personal favorite) Quirky & Oddball. What’s more, you’re often spoiled for choice within each category!
To get my wheels turning, I focused on the first 48-hour segment of my trip: Denver, Moab, Williams, and Sedona. With the map set to find things within 5 miles On My Way, I selected Things to Do and then Quirky & Oddball. Several pushpins for road trip attractions in this category appeared on the map, and, clicking on any of them resulted in a dialog box with the option to get More Info or Add to Trip. Because I love classic American restaurants, I added the Galaxy Diner on Route 66 in Flagstaff. The Chapel of the Holy Cross, just south of Sedona, also intrigued me, so I added it to my trip, too.
In addition to letting me find and add things within 5 miles On My Way, TripMaker also let me search for places 1 or 15, 30, or 60 miles in all directions off my route. Very cool! Although on this segment of my trip I was pressed for time, I still appreciated being able to search for farther-flung road trip attractions. And the number of pushpins went from several to dozens by doing so. (Again, spoiled for choice!)
Just to see what might be happening during my trip I also investigated options in another fun Things to Do category: Festivals. Turns out, I’ll miss the Mike the Headless Chicken Festival (no, I’m not making this up), in Fruita, CO, near Grand Junction and the Utah border. But it’s good to know that such quirky festivals exist—and that TripMaker can recommend them!
E-mailing and Printing a Road Trip Itinerary
With the first segment created, it was time to make everything easily accessible from the road. Both the Email and Print functions created a list version of my road trip itinerary. Atop the list, I found start and end points; the overall Estimated Fuel Costs; Total Trip Length; and Total Drive Time. Following that, was a numbered list of my destinations and places of interest, with step-by-step directions to and from each.
At the end of the email and printout lists, TripMaker also provided summaries of my selected Things to Do, with their descriptions, addresses, websites, and phone numbers—super handy reminders of why I picked each stop! Before printing, I also ticked the box next to Print the Map so that it would appear at the end of the document.
Downloading TripMaker into a Rand McNally GPS
When I first got my Rand McNally GPS, which works well as both a car and an RV trip planner, I downloaded the free Dock Software to my computer (a one-time-only step). Next, I plugged the unit into my computer, and clicked Send to GPS at the bottom of My Trips—which, by the way, opens a window with clear instructions for importing. I then went to the Dock software, and clicked Import, which took me to the list of My Trips.
I selected Send to Device from the My Trip list. (Note: as it was my first time connecting the device, I had to enter a pass phrase, another one-time step, to sync it with TripMaker.) I then ejected the device, disconnected it from my computer, and plugged it into my car, whereupon the device asked me if I wanted to Start Import. I did, and after a few seconds of importing, the device opened, and my trip was literally ready to go!
Stay tuned for my experiences visiting the attractions I found while planning my road trip itinerary, celebrating my birthday at the Grand Canyon, and adding other oddball (or historic or quirky) Things to Do to my road trip out west using TripMaker. Right now, it’s time to pack. Printout? Check. Computer? Check. Rand McNally GPS? Check.