Road Trip

Here's how to research the perfect road trip

Make sure you pick the right vehicle. The one shown here is the one millionth Porsche 911 that was produced.

Photo courtesy of Porsche AG

The United States is opening back up for businesses. You might not want to hop on a plane anytime soon, but you can't kick the feeling that you want to get away. Enter: the road trip.

In a recent interview with Porsche, Stefan Bogner, creative director, Curves magazine, divulged his tips for preparing the perfect road trip as part of the #GetCreativeWithPorsche series. Here are some of Bogner's top tips, paired with insight from the AutomotiveMap team.

Take your time.

It's never too early to start planning, even if you're just looking.

"The most important thing is to take your time," said Bogner. "If you were planning a month-long holiday, you'd take a long time getting it all just right. It's the same with a road trip: preparation is key."

Use a variety of sources to gather information.

Porsche maps display office research

Photo courtesy of Porsche AG

Don't just rely on sites like TripAdvisor. Hotels.com, or Yelp to shape your itinerary. Use them as a starting point. Ask your friends and family for recommendations. Read blogs, check out the visitors and convention bureau website, and browse local publications for insights on local flavor.

Brush up on how to read a map.

"I am old-school and I love to study paper maps and guide books," shared Bogner. "Get to grips with reading a map and you'll get a better sense of place and perspective."

If you're someone who gets lost even when looking at the "downtown area" handout hotels give out, perhaps it's time to invest a few hours in honing your skills.

Don't forget to check the weather.

Check out predicted weather when you begin planning and keep an eye on it in the weeks and days leading up to the trip. If you've had a particularly wet spell, some roads may not be passable, nature preserves may be closed, and low-lying areas may be impassible. Consider getting a professional-grade weather app for your phone.

If your road trip includes going off-road (or even on the road less traveled), learn to read basic topographic maps.

Porsche maps

Photo courtesy of Porsche AG

Bogner explains: "Look for the green roads, as these are the scenic ones, and pay attention to the contour lines to get an idea of the topography. When you really study a physical map, the brain starts to absorb the information and when you come to drive a route, you'll know much better where you are."

Timing is everything.

"My one timing rule is to avoid school holidays," said Bogner in the interview. "I never go anywhere in July and August. Don't be afraid to ask the locals the best time of year to visit their area, as no one will know the answer better than them. I was once planning a trip to Scotland and thought the summer would be the perfect time to go but a friend advised me to wait until October. I had the most amazing two weeks of sunshine with no rain. In Scotland!"

Time of day is important too. Try for a mid-week visit to a popular museum, late afternoon visit to a park, a morning walk along the waterway to watch the sunrise. Don't be afraid to contact an attraction and ask when their least busy times are and find out when school groups tend to arrive.

Plan for hours and miles.

Bogner says it best, "Have a rough idea of how far you want to drive each day but make sure you give yourself time to enjoy the trip, rather than running a tight schedule and insisting on being in a certain place by a precise time. Savour the scenery and enjoy the driving. If you take your time and you're open to conversations when you fill up with fuel you'll meet interesting people along the way."

Use social media to find out what to expect.

Want to visit a museum or park? Don't just look at the sanitized version that their PR team puts out on social media. Many social media platforms allow users to tag themselves as being at a location. Click on those tags and find out more about what you can expect.

See if a driving tour is offered.

Porsche 911 Maria, Texas

Photo courtesy of Porsche AG

Many localities offer a driving tour of their local attractions, countryside, etc. Want to discover local agriculture? Plan a wine tasting spree? See a series of historical sites? Just want to go for a drive? There is probably a map for that. Local motorcycle enthusiasts often chart their drives on MotorcycleRoads.com, which can be used as a resource as well.

Ask for recommendations once you arrive.

​"Local contacts can also suggest their favorite museums (I have discovered some amazing private air museums in America this way) and restaurants," Bogner said. "I am a real foodie so I enjoy researching amazing places to eat."

Be sure to ask locals for restaurant recommendations, and not just he concierge staff at the hotel. When you ask, find out what dishes they recommend. If you do stay in a hotel with a concierge, ask them if there anything you need to know when making a reservation. Sometimes, they have line-skipping tricks up their sleeve.

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What was your best car-related experience this year?

Chris Teague

This year has been a lot of things, but it hasn't been boring. Even if we focus only on the car world, there's plenty to talk about, from microchip-related new vehicle shortages to the wave of new electric vehicles hitting the market. That leaves us with a question for all of you: What was the best or most memorable car moment for you in 2021? I'll get the conversation started.

Porsche Cayenne GTS My SoCal Cayenne śaw snow for the first time in its nearly 200k-mile life last week.Chris Teague

I'd spent a good portion of 2021 wanting a new-old car to drive when I wasn't testing a new vehicle. That's harder than you'd think for someone who thinks, talks, and writes about cars all day, because there are so many interesting, risky, and downright funky options out there in every price range. The added headache for me was that I'd chosen to shop for a "fun" car in one of the most volatile car markets ever seen. Even the extremely high-mileage "untouchable" European cars I wanted to buy were commanding ridiculous prices.

After a solid few months of waffling between various rattletrap Mercedes-AMG, BMW M, and Audi S/RS cars, I landed on an option that had escaped me before: The Porsche Cayenne. First-generation Cayennes are a real bargain now, but the 955/957 (Porsche's internal code for the SUVs) can experience major problems that occur with or without regular maintenance and care. I was determined to buy one, and wasn't overly concerned about mileage, as long as I could count the number of owners on one hand. There was a beautiful 2009 Cayenne GTS with 90,000 miles but nine owners, a gorgeous 2004 Cayenne Turbo with a concerning engine tick, and many more just like them. Finally, I decided to risky-click a 196,000-mile Cayenne GTS in Southern California. It had one owner and one dealer-owner for a month or two prior to sale, its condition looked decent in photos, and I was able to negotiate a reasonable enough price that shipping it from San Diego to Maine wasn't a huge problem.

Porsche Cayenne GTS The pics look great, but hands-on tells another story.Chris Teague

I had two traveling Euro mechanics check the car out, and both confirmed that it was well-worn but mechanically sound, so I jumped. Ten days later, on a snowy, icy, dark Maine afternoon, the Cayenne arrived. Cosmetically, there were a few things the dealer and mechanics failed to mention, but overall, it looked good. The SUV passed Maine safety and emissions testing without problem, got a new set of Michelins, and I was on my way.

Porsche Cayenne GTS I'm in danger, but thankfully this should be a reasonable fix.Chris Teague

A few days of driving revealed what I was really in for. A check engine light revealed a camshaft position sensor error and the Cayenne displayed a nasty vibration at idle. A new sensor and motor mounts, and I'm on my way. I'll update you as more things break or miraculously work, but I want to hear your memories from 2021.

Email me at chris@automotivemap.com, and I will compile the best and most interesting stories for a story on New Year's Day. May you all have a wonderful 2022.

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Software updates

BMW issues OTA update for iDrive 7

BMW owners with iDrive7 will see a wealth of new tech features with the update.

BMW

In-car technology is progressing quickly, to the point that the cars we drive today would be completely foreign to people even just a decade ago. Over-the-air updates allow automakers to add new features and refresh existing functionality, and BMW is taking advantage of that functionality to update its vehicles for 2022. Cars running iDrive 7 will receive an update that brings new functions and refines others.

New features include a warning feature that suppresses lane departure and steering interventions on roads without clearly marked lanes. A real-time traffic information system can now process data from congestion in turning lanes and automatically route the driver around the issue for faster transit and more accurate estimation of arrival time. The system now includes an advanced volume control function for Android smartphones that provides enhanced sound for streaming and podcasts. The driver profile recognition system has also been improved to recognize drivers when the key fob is in odd locations, such as in a purse in the back seat.

THE M3. (G80.2020) youtu.be

The M3 and M4 get enhancements to their interior engine audio systems, which pump engine sounds into the cabin. BMW says the new system now provides clearer audio confirmation of gear shifts and a refined startup sound. Changing the cars’ drive modes changes the sounds, and a quieter mode can be selected to reduce distraction.

Updated vehicles get built-in access to Spotify podcasts and Pandora radio, and BMW’s News app has been updated with better on-demand features and podcasts. The app filters news and other content for the user, providing a personalized experience. Finally, BMW’s Digital Key will be available for select Android phones.

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