Trip Planning Made Easy with Map'n'Go 6

SAN FRANCISCO (08/28/2000) - Sure, you can find long-distance driving directions online. But what about pinpointing points of interest or tourist traps along the way? DeLorme's newest update of its AAA Map'n'Go software makes easy work of finding thousands of hotels and restaurants--along with the requisite point-to-point driving directions, destination information, and basic mapping at street level for 240 urban centers.

AAA Map'n'Go 6 has data culled from the most recent collection of AAA recommendations, covering more than 66,000 places to eat, stay, and sightsee in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The software also encompasses 1 million miles of roads, with detailed maps of more than 240 urban locations. In my tests of the shipping version, the software performed admirably, finding quick routes to destinations and recommending worthy points of interest. One exception: Not all rural addresses showed up.

Compatible with Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 9x, NT, and 2000, the latest Map'n'Go packs its wealth of information in a single CD-ROM. At start- up, a cartoonlike interface launches--it resembles a car's dashboard. This interface includes an illustration that highlights the program's most often used features. When you make a selection, the interface changes to look more like an ordinary Windows application.

I did have to poke around a bit before I found the text-box screens that allowed me to start trip planning. After you enter start and destination points, the software highlights the route for you on a map that you can print or download to a Palm or Windows CE handheld device. Though the program's mapping information is detailed for roads, highways, and those 240 metro areas, it isn't designed as a street-level guide for other areas. For that, you'll need a separate software package.

Map'n'Go's on-screen help function explains each step of the process, complete with illustrations and buttons to launch the necessary commands. I found the printed manual, however, disappointing and weak on detail.

The software's hotel and restaurant recommendations are excellent--short and well researched. To find them, right-click on the relevant spot on your map and then choose a radius (10, 20, or 50 miles) within which you would like to find information.

Priced at $30 ($25 on the company's Web site), AAA Map'n'Go 6 is a steal, with its winning combination of accurate route mapping and aggregated travel resources. The program provides a good balance that most online mapping and destination sources just don't achieve.

--Paul Heltzel

DeLorme AAA Map'n'Go 6

PRO: Excellent tool for making the most of any long-distance car trip.

CON: Not all rural areas included.

VALUE: Don't leave home without using it to plan your trip.

Street price: $30, $25 at company Web

siteDeLorme800/452-5931www.delorme.com/mapngo

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