Whether driving across country, or heading out for a weekend jaunt close to home, it’s easy
to get turned around, and before you know it, you’re wondering, “Where am I? Did I miss
that turn?” Microsoft Streets & Trips 2009 with GPS Locator – a travel and mapping
program that can plan trips, track mileage and locate more than 1.5 million points of
interest – can help you with this familiar traveler’s dilemma.
Streets & Trips has long
been a favorite with RVers for its easy-to-use functionality and reasonable price point,
but its new, detachable GPS allows you to add real-time GPS to any laptop, Windows
Mobile-based Pocket PC or smart phone.
I loaded the program on my laptop, which operates on
Windows Vista and has an Intel Pentium processor. Installing the software is easy: Simply
insert the DVD and follow the steps as they pop up on the computer screen. One important
thing to remember is not to insert the GPS locator until after the software has been
installed. I overlooked this instruction, and had to reinstall the program for it to
recognize and connect to the GPS.
Once the program is installed, the GPS can be plugged
into any one of your computer’s USB ports. The GPS comes with a 32-inch cable that’s
designed to improve reception in fringe areas. I tested the unit with and without the
cable, on flat highway and low mountain terrain, and never had a problem with the satellite
The program’s GPS pane allows you to input your starting and ending points, and any
destination along the way, then maps your route as you drive. The spoken, turn-by-turn
directions are a feature I found invaluable, especially on narrow roads and areas of heavy
congestion. It can easily be turned off if you find the audio directions distracting. While
the system is not without its quirks – I was amused to hear U.S. Highway 101 pronounced “us
highway one hundred and one” – they are minor and do not affect the accuracy of the
directions. Even when I intentionally drove off course, the GPS told me I was “off route”
before recalculating a new one and directing me back.
Streets & Trips 2009 with GPS
Locator has many other features that are sure to please: it calculates fuel economy, fuel
cost per trip and average driving speed; searches for a location by description; includes a
free trial membership to Entertainment Online, which includes a valuable coupon finder
function for special savings at restaurants and special events; and sends information to a
handheld device, like your cell phone (standard text messaging rates may apply).
Microsoft Streets & Trips 2009 with GPS
Locator retails for $69.95. You can try out the software (without GPS) yourself by
downloading a free 60-day trial version of the program from Microsoft.