Your GPS is Ruining your Road Trip

Raise your hand if you’re reliant on your vehicle’s GPS.

My GPS - A Road Atlas

My GPS - The National Geographic Road Atlas - Adventure Edition

Shame on you.

I hate to say I know people who drive the same route to work every day but always program their GPS to guide them there. Drivers have lost their sense of adventure and built-in navigation abilities. Is your GPS really ruining you? I doubt it, but it is likely doing a good job at sucking the sense of adventure out of you.

I’ve seen way too many people panic when their GPS does something they don’t expect, it’s like we’ve stopped being able to think for ourselves. Who can enjoy a drive where every minute and second is ticked away by a GPS? If you miss a turn, what is the worst thing that can happen? Your GPS won’t explode and the road won’t turn into a car-eating lava monster.

It seems there is a GPS in almost every car now. I remember the first time I saw one, someone told me they had it only in case they got lost somewhere. Great! It was a back-up to their own driving skills. I don’t know when it changed…not long ago, but it seems that the GPS has taken centre stage as drivers get lazier and lazier. I don’t have a car GPS, nor have I ever paid for one in a rental car. I don’t plan to either.

The GPS-less Road Trip

I encourage everyone to turn off their GPS and try to remember how much fun driving can be. My GPS is a National Parks book from National Geographic, an Ontario Road Map and an odometer. Yep – old school. Sure, if you have a high profile meeting on a business trip I get the need for being on time and using a GPS. There is a time and place for every bit of technology – I just think the GPS is ruining road trips.

Why no GPS?

For car rentals, it’s a waste of money. You can pay for dinner with how much they charge you for daily GPS use. Plus – secret tip – if you rent from a big chain like National or Hertz, the GPS will likely be installed in the car anyway, meaning it is often available to use for free.

Road to Nowhere

Random Road in New Zealand. No GPS Required - Just head for the Mountains


How do I know that? Well, I’ll admit that I have tried the GPS that was included in some of my rental cars – but I’ve never paid for it.

Second, for any vehicle, I prefer to listen to the sounds of the road, chat with other passengers or listen to some music while on a road trip, not the beeps and voice of a GPS.

But, what if I get lost?

I do get lost. You will probably get lost without a GPS too. But, so what? That is part of the fun of road trips and part of what makes looking at a map exciting. Unlike a simple GPS, you can look at a map and see that in 20 miles or 30 kilometres, the road you’re on will intersect another road. You can see the ‘big picture’ of your road trip and change plans on the fly. So you don’t have to know exactly where you are at that moment, you just need to know where you want go next.

Saskatoon Map

So Many Choices...Every Road leads to Adventure


The worst thing you can do on a road trip is treat it like a race to the office to beat rush hour traffic, or a panicked drive to get to your gym class on time. Allow yourself some freedom. If you need to schedule things out, then schedule a few hours for doing nothing – because something always comes up.

Now, I am not saying to lose total control and end up in a ditch on a rural road somewhere. Just have a map in your car in case you do get lost, or use your car GPS or smart phone GPS if you have an emergency.

How will I know where I am going?

Well, remember that anywhere there are roads the sun will rise in the east and set in the west. If you know you need to head south, then it should be easy to figure out what general direction you need to drive. Highways and freeways are usually labelled north, south, east and west too, convenient huh?

Pick a National Park

Four Great National Parks - Pick a Road and Start Driving...


Plus, how does your GPS know where you’re going? Remember that your GPS can get lost too. What if it loses connection with a satellite? What if the map routes on your electronic device are out of date? If you’re going anywhere remote at all, have a backup plan that isn’t electronic – people have died because they blindly followed wrong directions given to them by their GPS!

Just try it on your next road trip. Put the digital tracking toys away and let your eyes, and a real paper map, guide you. Make a game of it even, take bets on how many times you’ll get lost or miss a turn. You may just be pleasantly surprised with what you discover when you’re lost and aren’t being controlled by a machine.

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About Red Hunt

A former journalist and business analyst that now works in the world of travel marketing. Based in Toronto, Red Hunt has travelled to more than 40 countries over the past 10 years. You can follow Red on Twitter @redhunttravel.