GETTING THERE

Microsoft Streets and Trips is a $40 program that has been around for many years but is still popular with many, especially the recreational vehicle crowd, despite the existence of free Google maps, cheap GPS devices, and recommendation sites like Yelp. There’s a major difference here: You have to be able to get online with the Internet to use Google Maps, but Street and Trips works from information on a DVD or one-time download of the program.

We did a comparison between the online Google Maps and the offline Streets and Trips on our Windows laptop. We chose Newport Beach, California (Joy’s hometown and the site of our most recent trip) as our base.  Streets and Trips found 236 restaurants near our hotel, neatly categorized by type –all within a two mile radius. Google Maps found just as many, but uncategorized by type. Score one for Streets and Trips.

It’s a lot easier to personalize a map with Streets and Trips than with Google Maps, Bing or MapQuest. On our Newport Beach map, we wrote little notes about reservations and highlighted areas we wanted to remember.

Streets and Trips also lets you plan a route with the types of roads you like. But it’s not perfect. For instance we thought about driving the Lake Michigan Circle Tour, hitting Milwaukee, Mackinac Island,Traverse Bayand the Michigan beach towns. But the program wouldn’t route us along the lake all the way. In fact, at first it couldn’t even find Sheridan Road, which takes you along Lake Michigan through Chicago and its northern suburbs. But when we tried searching using “Rd” instead of “Road,” it understood what we were talking about.  Their so-called “Preferred roads” were all Interstates, highways, toll roads, and “arterial roads,” few of which are scenic. (It reminded Bob of asking directions inCalifornia, where everyone tells you how to get there using what they call “Freeways,” and never tell you about local roads.)

On the plus side, Microsoft has added 150,000 new miles of roads since the 2011 version came out and more than 2.5 million points of interest. There’s a 14-day free trial at Microsoft.com/Streets.

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