June 1, 2009

Travel Tricks 1: Driving Directions

I love traveling to new places and sharing knowledge with others, but I dislike driving, so I avoid that whenever I can. Unless I have multiple engagements in the same area, I try to use hotel/airport shuttles or have someone pick me up whenever these options are available. This way I can reduce both travel expenses for my clients and stress for me. How? I avoid car costs and the possibility of getting lost. If you have to drive, I recommend that you always get a cell phone number for your contact at the new destination. Having their office phone is not enough because they may have left for the meeting place by the time you realize you need their help or want to follow-up on something.

As far as driving goes, I am directionally challenged and prefer to know if I need to turn left or right instead of North, South, East, West (N/S/E/W). From experience I know the driving instructions you download from the internet can tell you to turn right when you should have turned left. Then you end up miles out of your way (or the next town) before you stop to find someone to ask or pull out the cell to call your hotel or contact for directions. However, I learned to remedy this problem by making sure the instructions also include directions like N/S/E/W. Since the highway system uses compass directions on their signs, you can follow the signs to be sure you are turning the correct way. Remember, if you do get lost: (1) do not panic and put a fun spin on it by trying to think of it as an adventure (2) do not be embarrassed everyone gets lost occasionally so pick-up the phone and call for help when you need it.

I find most driving directions work great if you can arrive at your destination city during the daytime. However, driving after dark can be a little scary in a new place. Detours for out-of-towners can get us lost in the dark. I’ve also been in towns where I would swear they turned all the lights off by 10 PM, even on the highway signs. So I could not tell which exit was my road. I had realized I missed my turn when I saw my hotel go by. So of course I had to take the next exit and try to go back. Missed it again! I kept seeing it to my side or in rearview mirror. Once it took me 3 circles and 2 phone calls before I finally figured out how to pull into that hotel parking lot. Sometimes it helps to find out what the street before the one you need is so you can be looking for the correct turn as soon as you pass that one. That time, if I had just known MLK (it did have a light) was 3 streets before my hotel’s and that I needed to turn under the overpass (not right per my downloaded instructions) I would have found my hotel the first time.

I know some of you think with new technology, why download directions anymore? Instead why not just get yourself a GPS? I have tried multiple GPS products. Yes - most of the time these gadgets are great, but they too can make mistakes. I once had a GPS tell me to drive across a small lake to get where I wanted to go - the lake had no bridge! Most of the time the GPS tells you to drive on major highways and toll ways when you can sometimes get to your desired location in less time and miles using other roads. For this reason, I try to always pick up a map at the rental car place and check out the best possible route before driving off. You can verify your chosen routes with a local working at the rental car desk, in the hotel lobby, or call your contact. Another problem I had with one GPS was that it kept popping off the window and under the passenger seat at just the time I need to check a street name. If anyone knows of a GPS that will tell me the upcoming turn street names and exits rather than making me read them – I’d love to know about that product! Also, please share any other travel tips you may have for driving in an unknown area.

The next post will be some of my hotel experiences.

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