florida: satnav or maps?

Posted on May 10, 2013

a lot of people ask "do i need a satnav, and should i hire one from the car hire place"...

the answers to that are "need? no, but it definitely makes things easier, and rent from car hire? HELL NO!"

a satnav to hire as part of your car deal will probably cost you the best part of £100. a complete waste of money!


so what are the options?

paper maps. fine, but i'm a geek, and i LOVE shiny new gadgets. plus, with a satnav, you end up arguing a lot less with your navigator because they are rubbish at reading maps/roadsigns. also, a satnav takes one of the biggest stresses out of driving in an unknown place. it guides you, so you are free to concentrate on the actual driving... one map i definitely recommend is steve (aka mapman)'s map. it contains loads of useful information and is updated regularly. but the villa we stay in is just off the bottom of the map, so has its flaws. i find it good to just look over it beforehand though, use it for inspiration of places to go/eat more than actual navigation. proper roadmaps are another option, but once you get a satnav, these things just sit in your boot taking up room as they are just so fiddly to look at when driving! 🙂

the roads in florida are pretty easy to navigate, so you could always do without, but again, i find a satnav reduces the chances of an argument and getting lost. even seasoned florida travellers still get lost occasionally (friends had a posh meal booked and got so lost they ended up coming home with mcdonalds. they bought a satnav after that!)

so, in my opinion, its a no-brainer... but then theres loads of options....

  • plenty of people  have hired before they go from ebay/etc and im not aware of many problems doing that it usually costs £20-30 for a two week trip and you just post it back to them when you get home.
  • personally though, if you already have a uk satnav, i would see how much it costs to add US maps to that one instead. my current one was £35 during a tomtom sale, but i also had an £8 off code (theres always loads floating around, just google "tomtom £8" or "tomtom code" for current ones (or try hotukdeals to see if they are on there). garmin do their on SD cards, i believe ebay could be a source of those, but i wouldnt know)
  • dont worry too much about it having "old" maps on it either... even if its a few years old, there wont be *that* many changes to the roads, and youll still evetually get to your destination - you just need to use common sense and read road signs instead of blindly relying on where the satnav tells you to go!
  • theres also the option of buying a cheap one out there. you can get them for as little as £35 or so from walmart. look on the walmart website for whats available. refurbished units are a good option on there, but they are only usually available as the "deliver and collect from chosen store" or deliver to your hotel/villa options, you cant just walk into a store and get one usually. If you can do without for the trip from the airport to your accommodation (or use a paper map/smartphone) then this is a viable and well priced option. plus, you could always sell it back on to someone else once you get back home and make back the bulk of what it cost you (or more in some cases!)
  • finally, theres smartphones/tablets. google maps with pre-cached areas, navfree, or loads of other free/cheap satnav apps. preload the maps, turn data off so it just uses gps (be careful about making sure this is done properly!) and make sure you have a car charger as they drain your battery pretty quick. its an option, and i used to swear by my old nokia with tomtom mobile on it, but these days i would much rather have a dedicated unit. ive got my phone as a backup, but i would never choose it as my primary navigation device. other people swear by them though. i guess its what you are used to and how much money you want to spend on something...

theres plenty of people who will disagree and say driving over there without a satnav is easy... but i *guarantee* you, once theyve gotten lost, had a massive argument with their partner and come home with a big mac instead of an extremely posh romantic meal in their belly... they too will be bigging up satnavs as well. do you want to take that risk? 🙂

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