Traditional paper-based maps are still really handy if you get lost and it certainly doesn't rely on electricity like a satnav. But the hassle of planning a route yourself using a map is long gone thanks to a number of free mapping sites which do all the work for you.
Best of all, many online route planners are free. So you can literally search a journey, choose the route you like best and print off the details, or save it as a PDF and load it on your tablet. There are also loads of extras to make use of too, such as avoiding tolls, fuel costs, live traffic information and places of interest to stop off. These are ideal if you don’t own a satnav and want to organise yourself in advance instead. Here are some of the best out there:
Google Maps has become a staple for online mapping and its online route planner doesn’t disappoint either.
Google lets you choose from a wide variety of modes of transport - including car, rail, foot, bicycle, and air - using one of the simplest mapping layouts around. You can easily select alternative routes from the map, with a number of customisable route options such as avoiding tolls and motorways. You can even add a stop off too if you like.
There are some traffic warnings on the maps, although they’re not incredibly detailed. You also don’t get predicted fuel costs like other sites.
Google will show you suggest places of interest when you zoom in though, including essentials like restaurants and petrol stations.
You can even make a print friendly copy of your journey, which you can print off at home. Alternatively, if you’ve got an Android smartphone you can have the full route sent to your phone.
An alternative and rival to Google Maps is Here. It works and looks very similar to Google’s offering, although the choice of transportation is a little more limited to car, public transit and foot.
Here also allows you to print a detailed route plan for your journey, but it doesn’t include a preview of the map itself.
You can use the Near panel to show you an extensive number of amenities nearby, including tours, places to eat, parking, petrol stations, banks, cabstands, places to rent a car and pharmacies.
Fuel costs aren’t provided and traffic are limited, simply providing a status on how heavy its expected to be rather than detailing exactly where.
However, you can make multiple stops if you’re dotting around – a maximum of eight.
For those who want something from a company with a bit more motoring heritage, RAC is a good shot too.
The company’s online mapping services uses Google Maps to plan routes just by car and foot, but instead the map shows clear live incidents provided by RAC’s own Accident Car.
And if weather’s an issue for you, RAC will also show you whether you can expect sun, rain or dreaded snow.
Plus the advanced options can provide you with predicted fuel costs and route refinements (such as avoiding tolls). Should you need to make multiple stops, RAC will let you set ten places. You can also highlight garages, National Trust places of interest and hotels provided by laterooms.com.
A print-optimised version of your journey can be made too – or you can email and share it via social media.
Michelin’s online mapping service lets you generate routes for car, motorbike, bicycle or foot.
ViaMichelin is great if you’re using a caravan as it’ll allow you to factor the extension into your journey.
Like many of the others it lets you block tolls and calculate fuel costs, but in true Michelin style you can also bring up restaurants, hotels and tourist sites – so maybe a nice stop off on your journey could be factored.
ViaMichelin is also print-friendly and provides detailed traffic impacts that may slow your journey down.
And if you need to make multiple stops you’re in luck, as you can add another six stops to your route.
Waze aimed purely at those traveling on the road and is one of the best ways to avoid traffic, as it’s powered by its userbase. Those with the Waze smartphone app on Android or iOS open as they drive contribute real-time information on the roads, which are give you the chance of finding the least congested journey.
For this reason Waze’s traffic data is detailed and very up to date. What’s more, you can choose the time you’ll be travelling and it’ll use previous data to predict how the traffic should be. While this is by far Waze’s strength, don’t expect extras like multiple stops, places to get a bite to eat or fuel stop.
The Waze website allows you to prepare your journey in advance using the data from user’s smartphones to give you the quickest possible route – however, it only appears to work when calculating a route within the same country (so there’s no luck planning a trip across the continent with your car). Sadly it doesn’t format it for printing so it might be worth getting hold of the smartphone apps if you can too.