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GPS travel tips

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The upcoming Easter weekend and the winter school holidays represent a getaway chance for many people. With the cost of airline tickets expected to go through the roof, a lot of families are considering road trips as a way to get out of town. Yet petrol prices are at an all time high with no decline in sight. Whether flying or driving, vacationers should be especially careful to get the most out of their travel budgets. Global Positioning Technology can help a great deal with the expensive challenge of travel. IRVINE AITCHESON, director sub-Saharan Africa, NAVTEQ gives a few GPS travel Tips.

Global positioning devices, also known as ‚nav’ devices, whether inside your car or just for walking around, can help you save money and save time. They also provide great convenience and are more stylish than a cumbersome paper map.

How GPS works

Portable navigation products can guide you to your destination accurately, because they can identify your current position by connecting with a network of satellites that collectively form the Global Position System—GPS for short. GPS is comprised of over two dozen satellites that circle the planet. By locking on to at least three of these satellites at the same time, they are able to figure out your position. They do this by means of some complicated calculations known as triangulation. The process of triangulation allows a GPS device to establish your position to within a designated range. It then takes this positioning data and applies it to a database of digital maps that allow it to display and track your exact location. In order for GPS information collected to be useful, the data must be used in conjunction with accurate, up-to-date digital maps.

Beyond turn-by-turn directions

GPS is really powerful when combined with digital street maps. In fact, consider that your GPS system is only as good as its map if you are navigating on land. It is like having a trusted travel companion beside you as you decide where to go next. Today’s GPS systems have gone well beyond providing door-to-door routing. Now devices are feature-rich and can be quite affordable: in-car or handheld nav devices provide precise directions as you navigate unfamiliar territory. Information on hotels, ATMs and petrol stations are just a few of the categories that are now built into the digital maps (known as points of interest or POIs) used by GPS systems. Other features that can be offered by your nav device are numerous, below are a few of the main ones to consider.

• Find the places most important to you

A nav device can help you navigate a strange city. With a good nav device you can search and find the places that are most important to you such as landmark buildings, movie theaters, hotels or shopping spots. Shop around for a device that has a large database of points of interest (POIs).

• Avoid road delays

Devices around the world are increasingly incorporate live traffic information. This feature likely carries a monthly fee. Immediate traffic information helps you avoid gridlock and save travel time. You can also find alternate routes or follow recommended detours. Idling less in traffic can add up to better fuel efficiency, a huge benefit given petrol prices of late.

• Hear your directions

A well placed and broad screen helps as you drive, but it doesn’t equal the ease of a spoken direction. Nav devices with text-to-speech capability read commands aloud so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road. Look for a device that announces direction, distance and street names.

Vacation Travel

Navigate to points of interest with your GPS, including mapping software specific for the regions in which you travel. Find hotels, restaurants, petrol stations, sightseeing points and much more, by simply selecting or entering the coordinates and letting your GPS receiver guide you there.

Avoid being scammed by unethical taxi drivers. With a GPS you know if a “short cut”” really is a short cut and that you’re not being taken on a longer route at a higher fare. Your visit will be more fun with a GPS device since it allows you to enjoy a trip without worrying so much about how to get around.

Business Travel

If you are a road warrior or just an occasional business traveler, nav devices can provide a great solution to help you get around, and concentrate on your work projects rather than complicated maps. GPS navigation simplifies everything for you. While you concentrate on the road and the business ahead, your GPS receiver guides the way.

With your receiver and mapping software you can avoid delays due to heavy traffic, construction work, or road accidents so that you can arrive on-time and be ready to do business. Your business is important, so arrive more worry-free and on-time.

Nav devices can give updates on your estimated time of arrival, so you will worry less if you’ll reach your destination on time even if there’s a surprise in your schedule. Your GPS mapping software can show you the impact a schedule change will have, so you can, for example, phone ahead to advise colleagues of your updated time of arrival. This will help improve your professional image.

Dealing with other languages

If you are traveling abroad it can be difficult to navigate a new city, particularly if signs are in a language you don’t understand. With a nav device, you can pinpoint directions‚Äîgetting there and then returning to your hotel with little stress.

If you are purchasing a new GPS unit

Plan carefully before you shop for a GPS unit. The map display you’ll want in your car is different than the one you’ll want as you walk around an unfamiliar city. Trail GPS units are helpful to hikers while marine units are designed for boating. Read consumer reviews and talk to salespeople as you shop. Whatever GPS device you decide on, make sure it is easy to use and offers a display screen that works for you. Look for a bright color screen. You’ll drive more safely and have more fun walking around if you don’t have to squint to read a device’s screen.

Budget options

Depending on the intended use of your nav device, you may want to ask yourself if you really need a dedicated system. Perhaps a less expensive option might meet your needs. GPS add-ons are available for many gadgets. You’ll find them for some music players, PDAs and mobile phones. See what’s available at your local electronics store.

Most of these add-on options are relatively inexpensive, but you may give up some convenience. They could be smaller or more difficult to read than the interface of a dedicated GPS device.

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