CD-ROMs for Travel Planning

Article excerpt

Is there life for travel-related CD-ROMs now that the Web has spoiled us rotten with current information about airlines, airfares, train and bus schedules, hotels, bed-and-breakfast facilities, driving directions, road maps, and city maps covering all the continents? I think there is, especially for the ones that I have reviewed: Microsoft Expedia Trip Planner 98, Rand McNally TripMaker Deluxe 1998, and DeLorme's AAA Map'n'Go (version 4.0). All of them are well worth their purchase price--in each case less than $40. Just as travel guides and road maps are very popular items in public libraries, these CD-ROMs are much appreciated by the patrons.

Why the CD-ROM Versions?

The CD-ROM versions are ideal for those who really want to plan the old-fashioned family vacation: Dad, Mom, Junior, Sis, and Rover going cross-country in the family car or just doing a jaunt down Route 1. Using these CD-ROMs, you'll evoke images (except for the computer) from those 1960s-era magazine ads, where the family sits around the table with well-combed kids caressing a cat, Mom looking adoringly at Dad who maps out his plan for them in the pose of MacArthur briefing his men before the amphibious landing in the Philippines. Family trips by car still far outweigh flying.

Business people who often are on the road could also use these products, for example, to note kid-friendly hotels and motels--not to choose them, of course, but to avoid them! All these CD-ROM software products excel at providing highly customized itineraries with turn-by-turn directions; very good route maps; photos of landmarks; and listings of lodgings, amusement parks, zoos, aquariums, museums, colleges, and other sights along the way. Each has built-in features for using the Geographical Positioning System if you have the GPS receiver, but I did not test it.

Online sites may give you point-to-point directions, an exhaustive listing of tourist attractions in a town, and lists of hotels and motels across the country or even the world, but these CD-ROMs do it with a consistent and intuitive interface providing an integrated service for almost all of your travel needs.

One of the trip plans that I made to test these three CD-ROMs was from San Francisco to Las Vegas with a 3-day stopover in Monterey, California--so that Mom can attend Information Today, Inc.'s Internet Librarian conference--then an overnight stay in Santa Barbara. For the San Francisco-Santa Barbara leg of the trip the most scenic route was preferred, while for the Santa Barbara-Las Vegas leg the fastest route was needed. I did not plan a return trip using the CD-ROMs, assuming we'd fly home from Vegas after dipping into the kids' college fund to roll the dice just once more to recover previous losses at the roulette table.

With certain exceptions, I haven't ranked the three CD-ROMs, as much depends on your preferences. If you have used the Rand McNally maps in the past, you will choose that one. If you swear by AAA motel ratings, then DeLorme's CD-ROM will likely be your preference, no matter what. You cannot go wrong with any of the three travel planners. The maps, the itinerary choices, and layouts are very good in all. For my particular trip, all three offered almost identical routes taking between 735 and 737 miles. All have a variety of options to print out itineraries with and without maps, attaching descriptions of sights to see, lodgings, or restaurants. However, beyond the many common features, each has its own unique features, strengths, and weaknesses, and I will focus on those. When I travel, I don't do the driving myself (so picture me in that magazine ad looking adoringly at my wife), but I do use road maps, and I fervently seek out the best lodging deals. So I really am a travel planner, and CD-ROMs are not tota lly foreign to me.

Rand McNally TripMaker Deluxe 1998

First of all, don't even think about the regular version; the extra features of the deluxe edition (mentioned below) are well worth the difference in price. …