Planning a Road Trip to the Olympic Peninsula: New Ways vs. Old Ways

How on earth did we plan a trip before the internet?

In July 2014 I decided to see if planning a road trip the new way, using Google maps, internet and travel apps, was any better/easier than planning a trip the old way. The test was a five-day road trip through the Olympic Peninsula of western Washington.

As soon as I logged in I was immediately overwhelmed by the amount of online information out there. How on earth does anyone sift through it all?

The only thing I managed to get from my first foray into the internet was this wordy but intriguing description of a scenic drive on the Washington State Tourism site: http://www.experiencewa.com/articles/drive-101.

Googling ‘road trip apps’ got me Roadtrippers (more about that below).

The US is all about National Parks, and Olympic National Park is smack-dab in the middle of this trip. Googling ‘national park apps’ got me Chimani and National Geographic (more about those below).

All these apps were free (at least for the basic version), and so worth trying out. But ultimately confusing. Even though I knew my approximate route, none of them really allowed me to plan the details.

Anyway, I quickly went back to my old ways.

  • First stop: a trip to AAA to pick up maps and a tour book for Washington. Much easier!

Their maps shows all the potential roads with green dotted lines indicating scenic routes (and I like scenic routes!)

AAA map showing the scenic route

a tiny portion of the AAA map of Washington showing two scenic route possibilities: Chuckanut Drive and Hwy 20 on Whidbey Island.

The Tour Book has information about everything including the AAA’s recommendations for eating and sleeping. It’s a great way to plan a trip and easy to take along with you on the road for reference. Plus you get road assistance if you need it and discounts on accommodation. Win-win.

AAA Map and Tour Book for Washington

AAA Map and Tour Book for Washington

  • My next stop was the Library which I used to check out guides. There are lots of guides out there with all sorts of price ranges. Some have pictures; some don’t. I found these two guides, with lots of scenic road trips, to contain the type of information I was looking for when planning a trip:
  1.  Reader’s Digest, The Most Scenic Drives in America – 120 Spectacular Road Trips
  2. DK Eyewitness Travel, Pacific Northwest

My favourite books for trip planningOnce I had a better idea of what stops I wanted I went back to the internet and started googling the various destination spots I had picked out. Flickr and Google Images were both great ways to check out photo ops on our route. Booking.com took care of our first night motel.

But ultimately I ended up with this hand-drawn low tech map of our potential route:my Washington Scenic Drive map

And now back to the apps:

Roadtrippers

This is a fun app with a lot of potential. But at the moment there are a lot of cons.

  • tricky for planning a route – it wants to go from A to B and doesn’t seem to get the concept of a ‘loop’ – to my mind the best sort of road trip. My first attempt of Vancouver to Vancouver via the Olympic Peninsula failed to go anywhere. And the potential sights on the Olympic Peninsula had me doubling back and forth all over the place.

Roadtrippers Olympic Peninsula plan

  • it doesn’t recognize cities as a legitimate destination. So you have to check out their map and select an attraction in the city where you want to go. This should be an easy fix. You can already filter for whatever you’re interested in; cities could be one of them.
  • Although they have lots of scenic drives on their website (https://roadtrippers.com/welcome?mode=explore), this has not yet been translated over to the app.
  • It doesn’t work off-line and I don’t have data. So it won’t be useful while we’re on the road trip, especially in the Olympic Peninsula where wifi is sparse. My blogging buddy, who has data, is planning to test this app as well.
National Geographic National Parks app

The free bit doesn’t tell you much and it’s $13.99 for the entire set of parks.

Chimani National Parks app

I used their Olympic Park app for this trip, noting that it worked offline as well – kind of essential for any road trip app! Although not perfect, it shows important things like campsites, washrooms, hiking trails and view points. But ultimately all the National Parks have great maps and info at the park office so once you’ve used this app to find that the rest is superfluous.
Port Townsend Traffic Lights After we do the trip I’ll write up what worked and what didn’t. Anyone else have any road trip apps / internet sites that they’ve found helpful?

Test Road Trip to the Olympic Peninsula
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One response to “Planning a Road Trip to the Olympic Peninsula: New Ways vs. Old Ways

  1. Pingback: State Parks on Whidbey Island, Washington | Albatz Travel Adventures·

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