The Internet is a wondrous, seemingly infinite vortex of information. That being said, I recently used it to do something productive. I was able to make a detailed plan for a riveting trip to southwestern Utah. The technology I love so much has taken the terror out of trip planning and allows the road tripper to sit back and enjoy the ride.
Back in the day, it wasn't uncommon to load the family into a Datsun station wagon with a cooler, an atlas and the family dog. Then it was off into the sunset with tapes of the Eagles and no air conditioning. Those days are long gone. Everything you need for a family vacation or weekend road trip can be found online. For starters, it's a good idea to check weather in the area you are traveling to. It would be horrible to have to wear a heavy wool coat during an unseasonable warm spell in an otherwise cold location. If you're driving, be sure to take into account the road conditions on your plotted course. Road construction and mountain passes can cause a real travel travesty if not factored into the equation.
Rather than packing along your father's trusty atlas, it's much easier to get your driving directions on the Web. Yahoo maps and Mapquest are two vital resources in the war on wrong turns and unplanned detours. Simply type in the starting and ending points and the brilliance of the Internet takes care of the rest. Right down to the last right turn, these online navigation aids take the worry out of any road trip. If you're even more serious about staying on track, there are several makes and models of aftermarket navigation systems that can be installed in your vehicle for additional peace of mind.
Being on the road isn't all about the driving. If you bite off a significant chunk of road time, there has to be a little play time factored in. The Web serves as fun broker as well as a navigator. Do a little research about what lies on the road between pit stops and the final destination. You may discover the lovely back country has more to offer than just a nice view out the window. Take the opportunity to see something you haven't seen or may not see again. This tactic can also apply to finding a good time in a city you may not be familiar with. CitySearch.com is a useful resource when trying to drum up some nighttime fun in cities around the United States.
After all the virtual fun-seeking, the Web can also be used for even more of your trip planning. There are a growing number of sites that allow Web users to book hotels and arrange for other services, right from the comfort of your desktop. Travelocity, Expedia and Hotels.com all have comprehensive listings for lodging for seemingly every city in the country. Each site gives a detailed breakdown of what the hotels have to offer as well as links to make reservations. It is my experience that hotels usually portray themselves accurately, but it's helpful to read some of the reviews from people who have actually stayed in the hotel you're considering. To add some liveliness to your trip, stay in a themed hotel or one that's rumored to be haunted.