Family Road Trip USA

A Vacation and an Adventure




Our Family Road Trips

48 state trip

Other Vacation Trips

Cross-country transfer


Our Favorite Road Trip Planning Tool:

With GPS for Laptop


Laptop--The Ultimate Road Trip Tool

In our opinion, a laptop computer is the most versatile tool for a family road trip.  Because it has so many uses, it has saved us from lots of independent purchases.  The laptop we use is a fairly cheep $800 dollar version from Dell.  It is plenty good to provide lots of road trip uses.

The primary, and most important purpose of the laptop was a navigation devise.  With a mapping program on it (we used Microsoft Streets and Trips), we are able to view detailed road maps of any place in the United States.  You can easily calculate the distance between any two destinations, and get accurate directions between them.  You can zoom out to get an overall view of the land, or quickly zoom in to get street level information. 

We always start a trip with our trip plan loaded on the computer.  If we are frequently moving between sites we get up in the morning, get in the car, and have detailed directions on how to get to the next destination already calculated.  If we had an idea for a side trip or diversion, we would type in the location and the program would tell us exactly how long it would take to get there.  If our side trip still looked like a good idea, the new destination would be included it in our itinerary.  If we need to find a restaurant or a grocery store, we simply type in the address or look for a store already loaded in the program.  We get point to point directions with a map pulled up quickly.    The program also told us where the toll roads were and helped us plan routes avoiding them. 

We also used the laptop as a DVD player.  If you were to buy a standalone portable DVD player you would probably spend at least $300, and that is for a pretty small 7Ē screen.  A standard laptop computer screen is about than twice that big.  With a $10 adapter, we were able to pipe the sound for the movie from the laptop into the carís stereo system.  We used our laptop so much in the car that we also needed a DC to AC power inverter to power the laptop while driving.  

With a set of computer speakers the laptop was a great way to watch DVDs in the RV.  We thought we might want to watch TV in the evenings in the trailer.  For less than $100, we bought an external TV tuner to plug into the laptop, making the laptop a pretty decent TV.  As it ended up, we were rarely interested in TV on the trip, so I wish I had not spent the money on the TV tuner. 

The laptop also ended up being a video game terminal for the kids who had brought some of their computer games.  We donít have an MP3 player, but the laptop served that purpose as well, especially for playing audio books that we had downloaded off of the internet. 

In addition to the navigational and entertainment value of the laptop, we used it for other purposes like keeping a journal of the trip, archiving our digital pictures, and getting online to get news and information about places we were visiting.  I donít know how we could have gotten through our 48 state trip without it.  Even for shorter day trips, the laptop is our most valuable tool.  If I were to buy one thing to take on a road trip, it would definitely be a laptop.