I am often sent to far-off lands with little notice. the one bit of technology I never leave home without is my stand-alone GPS.
Whether I visit Miami, Milwaukee, Omaha or Orlando, I'm able to get around like a local. If I'm scheduled to meet a lawyer at a courthouse and then suddenly told to meet her at her uptown office, I don't need to waste time getting directions that are usually inaccurate anyway: "I think you go through 3 or 4 traffic lights -- look for a Bob's Big Boy on the corner, or it might be a Red Lobster…."
MapQuest was a blessing when it came out and Google maps can help you in a pinch, but nothing is as good as the dynamic mapping of a TomTom GPS unit.
Some people want their smartphones to act as their GPS guides, but I like a dedicated device with a large screen with all the bells and whistles. The newest TomTom GO Live 2535M has just enough skills to warrant the $299 price tag (it can be found for $210 online). It has a glorious 5-inch screen that is bright and wide and smart enough to dim down at night, so as to not upset your dilated pupils.
The newly designed suction cup attaches to the windshield the first time, every time (no more need to keep licking the plastic backing and try and jam it up against the glass). The housing feels solid and sleek and attaches to the mounting with a magnet. Power is provided through the vehicle's cigarette lighter (or are they now just called the cell phone/GPS charger outlet?).
There is constant construction, municipalities change streets to one-way and new neighborhoods are built. Roads change and maps need to be updated. Most providers charge large fees for quarterly updates (usually including Tom Tom), but the 2535M comes with a lifetime of free map updates. An invaluable gift, but one that requires frequent syncing with a PC or Mac to get the latest data.
Teriffic Traffic Navigation:
With the updated maps the directions are very accurate. The system knows the time of day and uses other drivers' experiences to map the shortest route for you. The killer application on this device, though, is its terrific traffic navigation.
Have you ever been waiting to enter the Lincoln Tunnel and you see an hour's worth of traffic in front of you? Well, I have, but my Tom Tom also recognized the traffic jam and figured out a back-road solution that got me to the front of the line in 14 minutes flat. It's also come in handy during construction or traffic jams in small towns by rerouting me around the delays.
The smarts also show when the GPS signal is lost. The GPS devices work by reading coordinates from satellites in the sky. If the units can't read the satellites' signal most units are useless. The Tom Tom is able to predict the course ahead, for a short period of time, when there is interference. This is great in a city like Houston, where narrow streets and tall buildings block the signal, or in Boston with those super-long underground tunnels.
The Tom Tom GPS will simply make any driving experience better. The countdown to the next turn allows you to keep your eyes on the road and not on a map. It has voice recognition: You speak addresses and the unit understands where you want to go. You can get instant weather updates and you can search for points of interest like a Texas Roadhouse restaurant or Mobil gas station along your route.
GPS devices are starting to be built into more and more cars, rental facilities rent them for $9 a day, and most modern phones have some sort of built in navigation. So Tom Tom and other GPS manufacturers are forced to innovate and improve their devices. If you drive a car you will not be disappointed with the Tom Tom Go Live 2535 M.