Long before we took to the road in our RV, we had a computer training center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida called Computer Savvy. We were a Microsoft Authorized Training Center and one of the classes was Mappoint. Mappoint was a very expensive mapping, routing, and demographics database program. As an authorized training center we had our own copies of all the software, including Mappoint. So, after we sold the training center and became RVers – we figured we’d give Mappoint a try for planning and navigating our travels. Mappoint’s inexpensive little brother is called Streets and Trips. We installed it on our laptop, bought the USB GPS receiver for it and found a place to mount the laptop in the cab of our 30 foot Class C motorhome. That was our sole mapping and navigation program for our first few years on the road – 2003-6.
Here’s the very first video we made about MS Streets and Trips.
Then came the Garmin dashboard GPS, the Rand McNally, and Google Maps on our Android smartphones. Streets and Trips had to take a backseat while we played with all these new toys. But, we still used Streets and Trips when we had time to sit at our computers and dream about our future plans. There’s a lot of good things to be said about all of those while you’re driving and want voice-directed turn by turn directions, but nothing beats Streets and Trips for the planning part. Now, with our new MS Surface Tablet that can run Streets and Trips, we may even start navigating with it again.
Planning a Summer’s Travels
We plan our entire summer. The specifics will change many times, but we like having an idea of the long term plan. This year we’re leaving Florida and going to Gillette, Wyoming. In S&T I entered a starting point of Fort Lauderdale, Florida – an end point of Gillette, Wyoming and route options that we only drive about 4 hours/day. It plots a course and shows me with a little moon icon where we’ll need to stop. Now comes the fun part – finding places where we want to stay.
I love the little moons that indicate the general area we should get to at the end of each day. That gives me a starting location to look for places to stay. Thousands of places are built in to the software and you can see them by zooming in to a place and finding nearby places, like campgrounds. But, there are some campgrounds that I will go out of my way for, so I like to see them on the big picture. Thousand Trails is one of those. We have a membership and have paid for the year regardless of how often we stay at a Thousand Trails park. Like a gym membership, it’s more valuable the more you use it, so we want to use it at every possible chance.
The POI Megafile
A special file that you can download for S&T is called the POI Megafile. POI stands for Points of Interest, and this megafile combines hundreds of sets of them, including Thousand Trails. Once I open the POI Megafile and find the Thousand Trails pushpin set, I can set it to be visible and I will see the Thousand Trails logo at any place on the map where a TT park exists. Another set I like is Elks Lodges with RV parking – we joined Elks a few years ago and enjoy using their RV parking amenities. Then there are specialty points of interest like waterfalls and hot springs – two of our favorite things where we like to stop.
Sharing your S&T File with Dropbox
One problem with Streets and Trips has been solved by the Cloud Computing system called Dropbox. You see, Streets and Trips is a regular old computer program that creates a file for your work. So, if Jim created our summer travel plans and I wanted to look at it, I would have to go to his computer. Or, I would ask him to give me the file on a thumb drive so I could look at in on my computer. And, if I made any changes, I would need to re-save it to the thumb drive and give it back to him – making sure he updated his computer file with my new file. That just didn’t work.
Enter Dropbox. When you sign up for a Dropbox.com account, it creates a folder on your computer called Dropbox. This is a magic folder! Jim now saves the SummerTravelPlan.est file in his Dropbox folder and ‘shares’ it with me. I have also installed dropbox so I have the magic folder also. Whenever we are connected to the Internet (most of the time) Dropbox will check our shared dropbox files and make sure they are synchronized. It goes like this: Jim adds a stop to our summer plan on Streets and Trips, saves and closes the file. Dropbox notices that the file has been updated and uploads the trip file to the Cloud and, since it is shared with me, it also downloads the new file to my computer’s dropbox folder. Next time I open up our summer plan, I am seeing the latest file that Jim worked on. Now I make a change and the process continues in reverse. My dropbox notices my change and synchronizes up to the cloud and down to Jim’s computer. It’s our own private network.
Learn to Use Streets and Trips
On our Geeks on Tour Learning Library, there are 13 video lessons on how to use Streets and Trips, about an hour and a half. The first 3 are free for anyone to watch, the rest require a Geeks on Tour membership.