For a recent road trip, I knew I wanted to see several destinations scattered across a wide area. But I struggled to puzzle out a sensible sequence for visiting these places. I soon discovered that Mapquest has a unique tool for planning road trips. The tool is still in beta-testing, but I find it works quite well as it is. Here's the skinny:
Go to mapquest.com/maps-directions and enter your potential destinations in any order. You can enter an intersection, a street address, or the name of a town. Mapquest will plot these destinations on an online map. When you click on the word "reorder," the website allows you to move the destinations into different sequences, straightening out any loops or zigzags in your original itinerary. This tool also provides estimated driving times between each destination, assuring that you'll reach key destinations on time. (Bonus: If you prefer a scenic route, you can click on "avoid highways" to receive appropriate driving directions.)
It took me a few minutes to learn how to use this feature on Mapquest. But once I mastered it, I found that it spared me a lot of wrong turns during my trip.