In a world where "customization" has become a marketing mantra, it should come as no surprise that the best map out there is the map you make, and the best vacation is the vacation you design. So toss those crumpled road maps and check out Rand McNally's TripMaker.
With a database of more than 640,000 miles of roads, 125,000 cities and towns, and 28,000 attractions, TripMaker enables you to plan vacations and chart routes based on your personal preferences.
Pat White, 40, of Crestview, Florida, uses TripMaker to plan her annual roadtrip to visit her mother-in-law in Lenoir, North Carolina. Before she packs her Ford Aerostar, she fires up Rand McNally's TripMaker on her Pentium 66.
"I plug in my average driving speed, the roads I prefer -- a mixture of backroads and highways," she says. "Then TripMaker makes a profile based on my preferences and pulls up a route with suggested places to visit. I just point, click, and view a picture or live video of an historical site or amusement park."
Last summer, White's trip north coincided with the Olympics in Atlanta. "TripMaker was my lifesaver. I plugged in my driving speed and it calculated when I'd reach Atlanta. Every other year, I left Crestview at 4 AM This year, I knew to leave at 10 AM so I'd pass through Atlanta in the middle of the night, and avoid gridlock."
Instead of heading up Rte. 331 to Rte. 65 through Montgomery, Alabama, TripMaker suggested a route that consisted mostly of backroads and shortcuts. As a result, White shaved two hours off her driving time. At half past noon she pulled up to her mother-in-law's house in Lenior -- just in time for lunch.
Coordinates: $40. Rand McNally's TripMaker, 800-671-5006, ext. 450; http://www.randmcnally.com.