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Navigating the Roads

A photo of a stand alone GPS unit, mounted on a car dashboard, showing which route to drive.

A stand alone GPS or a GPS app is essential.

I used to have a stand alone Garmin GPS unit that I left in the car. When it became obsolete after 10 years of service, I bought the Garmin app for my phone. These days I use my iPhone and Apple Maps, thanks to an affordable data plan from my cellular provider.

At the time of this writing, it is illegal to attach a GPS or phone to the car windshield in some States. Since the laws change all the time, you’d be better off using a suction cup mount on the dashboard, or a heavy non slip base, so you can move the unit around more easily.

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The only downside to the suction mount, is that it always seems to come loose over time. So after trying several suction mounts without much success, I switched to a holder that clips onto my car’s air vent.

I always use my maps app, even in my own city. It’s always finding me new ways to get to old places. Plus, it’s gotten me out countless traffic jams.

The maps make it super easy to get driving directions to any address. I can tell it to find things like hotels, restaurants, parks and gas stations near my current location. Plus I can enter an address in another city, making it great for trip planning.

That said, never trust a map (GPS or printed) more than a year old. That’s because roads, especially highway onramps and exits, change on a continual basis. If you have an old map, you might end up taking the wrong exit, and drive half way to Albuquerque before you realize the mistake.

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To keep your GPS maps up to date, you can purchase yearly updates, or purchase the lifetime maps option when you buy the GPS. If you use a maps app, the maps should update automatically.

Should you buy a stand alone GPS or use your phone? A GPS works just about anywhere, except in some downtown areas with lots of tall buildings that block signals. The phones usually need a decent data plan, because it uses the cellular signal to locate you, in addition to monitoring traffic conditions.

Do a few searches and read some reviews prior to your purchase. Then get the one you feel best about.

One thing’s for sure, don’t bother your partner with navigational duties. Just accept the fact that if you’re the driver, you’ll be expected to know the way too. Enter it into your maps app or GPS and drive with confidence. And heck, if you do get lost, you can always stop and ask for directions.

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