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Unlock the Secrets of Self-Drive Exploration w/ GPS & Maps


Navigation is an essential part of any self-drive exploration, whether you are travelling by car, RV, or motorcycle. A GPS (Global Positioning System) and a selection of maps are two of the best tools available for navigating your way to your destination, especially if you are travelling in unfamiliar territory. This guide will provide you with an introduction to the basics of GPS navigation and different types of maps. You will also learn how to use GPS and maps together, find the best navigation apps, as well as tips and tricks for successful road trips.

GPS Basics

GPS (Global Positioning System) is a satellite-based navigation system that helps people find their way around. It has become an essential tool for self-drive exploration, providing accurate directions and detailed maps. In this section, we will cover the fundamentals of GPS navigation, including common terms, navigation options, and devices that can be used.

Common GPS Terms

Before getting started with using GPS, it’s important to understand the terminology associated with it. Below are some key terms to familiarize yourself with:

  • Latitude and Longitude: The two coordinates used to pinpoint a location on earth. GPS devices provide both of these numbers.
  • Waypoints: A specific spot on a map or route that a user wants to note or remember.
  • Route: The path you plan to take from one location to another.
  • Breadcrumbs: Gathered GPS data points that are saved over time and can be recalled or shared with others.

GPS Navigation Options

GPS systems offer multiple navigation options to help users get to their destination. Some of the most common are:

  • Point-to-Point Navigations: Automatically reroute if you take a wrong turn
  • City Navigation: Set a start and end point and your device will give you the best route within the city limits.
  • Multi-Destination Navigation: Allows you to input multiple addresses to generate the best route possible.
  • Off-Road Navigation: Accurately navigates in unknown or remote areas.

Devices That Can Use GPS

GPS navigation requires a device that can receive the signals from satellites. Fortunately, there are many different types of gadgets available for use. Some of the most popular are:

  • Smartphones: Most smartphones come with built-in GPS capabilities and mapping apps.
  • Tablets: Many tablets also feature built-in GPS or GPS apps.
  • Portable GPS Units: Stand-alone devices that have been specifically designed for navigation and mapping purposes.
  • GPS Wristwatches: These wearables contain GPS components to track your position and provide directions.

Now that you understand the basics of GPS navigation, let’s move on to discussing types of maps.

Types of Maps

Maps can help us make sense of our surroundings and provides the ability to track our location in relation to certain points of interest or important landmarks. But not all maps are created equal, and depending on your needs, you may need a specific type of map.

The most common type of map is the road map. These are used for navigating the major highways, roads, and streets found in urban and rural settings. They show the layout of towns, cities, and residential areas, and can help you plan the best route from one destination to the next. Road maps are typically available in paper form, but can also be accessed digitally via various apps.

A topographical map is another type of map that shows not only the roads, but also elevation and terrain information. Topographical maps can be especially helpful when hiking, camping, or engaging in other outdoor activities as they provide valuable insight into the land, allowing you to plan your route well in advance.

Other types of maps exist as well, such as tourist maps, transit maps, and trail maps. Tourist maps provide information on popular attractions and activities in a particular area, while transit maps help in navigating public transportation systems. Trail maps show the paths or trails that may be suitable for biking, hiking, or backpacking.

Knowing how to read a map is equally important as having access to the right kind of map. Most maps include a legend or key which explains what each symbol or color means. Additionally, most maps have a scale which provides information on how far apart two points may be. With an understanding of the legend, symbols, and scale, you’ll be able to make the most of any map.

How to Use GPS and Maps Together

Using both GPS and maps together is an effective way to ensure you have the most up-to-date and accurate information available when you are exploring. Here’s an outline of how to combine the two for the best results:

  • Set up your GPS device with your desired route, destinations, and waypoints.
  • Gather paper maps for the areas you will be driving through.
  • Verify that the route you have set up on your GPS device matches the route on your paper maps.
  • If you need to make changes to your route or want to explore something new, use your paper map to find alternative routes, landmarks, and other points of interest.
  • If you come to a fork in the road, consult both your GPS and your map to decide which path is the safest and best one to take.
  • Continue to use both tools as you explore, checking off points of interest on both your GPS and your map.

By using GPS and maps together, you can ensure you have the most up-to-date and accurate information while you explore. Plus, you can take advantage of the benefits that each type of tool provides. For example, your GPS can give you turn-by-turn directions while your paper map can help you discover points of interest or alternate routes.

GPS and Maps App Guide

GPS and maps apps are a great way to make sure you’re always up-to-date on the latest navigation information. With just a few clicks, you can access accurate directions, nearby points of interest, and other helpful features.

To get started, check out some of the top GPS and map apps available for mobile devices. Here’s a quick overview of what they offer:

  • Google Maps: One of the most popular GPS and map apps, Google Maps provides a comprehensive suite of features including turn-by-turn navigation, detailed street view imagery, and comprehensive public transit information.
  • Waze: This app is optimized for drivers with its live traffic updates, road hazard warnings, and real-time alerts to help you get to your destination quicker. Plus, you can join a local Waze community for more personalized insights into your route.
  • Mapquest: Mapquest has been helping people navigate since before GPS navigation became popular. In addition to turn-by-turn navigation, this app also offers gas prices, hotel booking options, and other travel-related features.
  • Apple Maps: The native mapping service of Apple devices, Apple Maps offers a wide range of features including 3D views, satellite imagery, and in-depth public transit options.

These GPS and map apps can help you stay on top of the latest navigation information no matter where you go. From turn-by-turn directions to gas prices to traffic alerts, you’ll have all the information you need right at your fingertips.

Travel Tips and Tricks

When planning your self-drive exploration trip, there are some important tips you should keep in mind. Before you set off on your journey, make sure to plan out your route using as many roads as possible. This will give you the most efficient and direct route, while also creating a much better physical map of your journey. Additionally, always check the weather before setting off, as you may run into unexpected storms or other conditions that could slow down or even halt your progress. It is also beneficial to become familiar with the terrain and landmarks in the area, so if you find yourself lost or off track, you can use these as reference points to make it back onto a known road.

Another important tip is to carry a paper map with you, just in case your GPS fails or the batteries die. This is especially important if you are travelling in remote areas, where there may be limited cell phone reception and access to digital maps.

Finally, it’s always beneficial to have someone else with you who can read a map or navigate using a GPS. This can provide extra help in case you get lost or just need an extra set of eyes to confirm the route.


Navigating with GPS and maps provides a powerful toolset to those looking to explore the world. Understanding the basics of both technologies is essential if you want to get the most out of your journey.

GPS systems provide you with live directions that can make navigating unfamiliar areas far easier than relying on paper maps alone. By combining the two, you can ensure you always have access to up-to-date information, no matter where you are in the world.

In this guide, we have provided an introduction to GPS and maps, as well as some tips and tricks for using them together to make your travels even more enjoyable. We have also included a glossary of terms, more resources, and a troubleshooting guide to help you in any navigation issue you may face. With this knowledge in hand, you’ll be ready to start your self-drive exploration journey.

Further Reading Links

Planning a self-drive exploration trip can be difficult and overwhelming. Fortunately, there are plenty of useful resources available to help you every step of the way. Here are some helpful resources to get you started.

You should also consider signing up for newsletters and other related services that will provide up-to-date information on travel options and safety tips. Additionally, doing research online can help you find articles, reviews, and other helpful advice from fellow travelers.

Troubleshooting Common GPS and Maps Issues

Navigating with GPS and maps can sometimes be difficult. Here are some common issues you may encounter when using both, and the solutions to those problems:

  • Loss of GPS or Map Signal: GPS signals can be blocked by tall buildings or mountains, so if you lose your signal, try switching directions or moving to a different location. If you’re using a map, check your route to make sure you’re still on track.
  • Inaccurate Directions: If your GPS or map is giving you inaccurate directions, make sure you have the latest updates installed on your device. If this doesn’t help, try changing your navigation mode from ‘shortest route’ to ‘most direct’.
  • Poor Battery Life: When navigating for an extended time, your device’s battery can quickly be drained. Make sure you bring extra batteries or a charging cable to keep your device running in case of emergencies.
  • Lag Time: GPS and map apps can experience lag times due to poor internet connections. If your connection is slow, try turning off all unnecessary apps and background processes that may be using up your device’s resources.

By following these tips, you should be able to navigate with GPS and maps with ease.

Glossary of Terms

GPS stands for Global Positioning System, a system of satellites that transmits positioning information to devices on the ground. In addition to GPS, there are several other terms related to maps and navigation that you may come across. Here is a quick overview of some of these terms:

  • Waypoint: A point on the map that marks a specific geographical location.
  • Navigation System: A device or app that helps you find your way by displaying a map and providing directions to your destination.
  • Cartography: The art and science of creating maps.
  • Geocaching: A type of outdoor treasure hunt where participants use GPS devices to locate hidden items.
  • Topographic Map: A map that shows the shape, elevation, and relief features of an area.

Learning the terms used in GPS and map navigation will help you better understand how to use them. By familiarizing yourself with the terminology used in this guide, you can become more comfortable and confident in navigating with GPS and maps.

Resource List for GPS and Maps Navigation

Navigating with GPS and maps can be an invaluable tool for self-drive exploration. In order to make the most use of these tools, it’s important to have the right resources at your disposal. Here are some websites, software, and hardware that are available for your trips.


  • GPS and Maps, a comprehensive website for finding and learning about GPS and map navigation.
  • Road Trippers, a website specialising in discovering new destinations, and guides for navigating there without getting lost.
  • MapQuest, a website designed for finding directions between places, and discovering interesting cultural points of interest.


  • Google Maps, available for both Android and iOS devices.
  • Waze GPS and Maps, an app that provides real-time traffic updates so you can better plan your route.
  • Mapstr Street Explorer, a mobile app that helps you find places and points of interest while on the go.



When it comes to using GPS and Maps, there are some questions that come up quite frequently. Here are some of the most popular questions we hear about navigating with GPS and maps:

  • What is GPS? GPS stands for Global Positioning System. It’s a satellite navigation system that allows you to track your location and find directions to where you want to go.
  • Can I use a smartphone or tablet for GPS navigation? Yes, you can use mobile devices to access maps and GPS navigation features. There are a variety of apps available that make it easy to use GPS on your device.
  • Do I need an internet connection for GPS navigation? No, you don’t need an internet connection in order to use a GPS. Most GPS units have a built-in feature that allows them to store maps even when offline.
  • What are the benefits of using both GPS and paper maps?The combination of GPS and paper maps allows you to get the most up-to-date and accurate information for your self-drive exploration trip. Paper maps can provide additional details that you may not be able to get with just a GPS.

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