Friday, 18 May 2012

Navigation

Sat nav

As much as we may moan about little niggles, we simply could not be without our Sat Nav.  After much research and deliberation we opted for the TomTom XXL Western Europe and we’re pretty pleased with it.  There are more expensive models on the market with all sorts of added bells and whistles but this one does everything we need at an affordable price.  It comes pre-loaded with all the roads in Western Europe and is pretty darn accurate even down to small winding tracks.  It lets us know if the route includes toll roads so you can avoid them if you choose (we’ve so far made it from Dover to Asturias without paying a single toll).  You can personalise its suggestions in all sorts of ways to economise on fuel or cut down journey times and wherever possible it seems to avoid sending us through city centres which with some of the driving we’ve experienced so far is ESSENTIAL!  Lane guidance is probably the most useful gadget on the XXL as the road signs especially in Spain can be somewhat difficult to follow and lanes can disappear off as exits with little notice!  Thankfully the Sat Nav will always give us plenty of notice to move over!

Autoroute and POI maps

One of the oddest things about our plans is that we left the UK without a tangible road map.  I’ve always found them hard to follow and they just take up so much room we didn’t bother.  Instead we have Microsoft Autoroute Europe 2011 on the laptop.  It’s similar in style to google maps but does not need an internet connection.  We just use it alongside the sat nav for reference but there is a GPS version if you wanted to use it as a major form of navigation.  You can navigate through road maps or terrain maps and search for towns and cities quickly.  The best thing for us is the POI maps you can download for Autoroutes.  Our favourite and quite frankly our bible, was put together by Adam and Sophie over at Europebycamper and can be found here: http://www.europebycamper.com/2012/03/europe-gps-poi-files-for-autoroute.html

It puts together wild camping spots, aires, Lidls for cheap food, McdDonalds for free wifi amongst many other helpful points. We use this map whenever we’re headed off to a new place to see where to park.  We find the longitude and latitude, punch it into the sat nav and away we go.  It really is a fantastic help to have all the information in one place.  It may not be an ideal set up for some people who may prefer to find their own spots but considering our limited driving experience we’re not fans of just driving round cities looking for a parking spot as its often pretty stressful!  By all means, some of the spots are out of date and cannot be used anymore which is a frustration but we’re pretty flexible on our plans so we just move to the next one!

Tourist offices

Whenever we reach a new town the tourist office is always our first port of call.  Autoroutes will tell us where to find them, although they’re usually well signposted.  I’m always surprised at how even the smallest of towns have a tourist office so it’s always worth checking.  Tourist offices will always have a free map you can take away with all the major sites on, perfect for exploring.

As a side note, tourist offices are almost always the cheapest place to buy nice postcards from, often at half the price of the tourist shops!

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