GPS question

Mar 30th, 2013, 06:56 PM
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Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 11,810
GPS question

I'm considering getting a GPS for my next trip to Europe. I have a history of getting lost and walking much farther than I need.

I called a store that sells personal GPS systems. When i said I wanted to use the GPS for a trip to Europe, the clerk said I could download Garmin on my computer. Does anyone know about this process? How complicated is it?
Pegontheroad is offline  
Mar 30th, 2013, 07:13 PM
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Do you have an iPhone?
There's an app for that.
tomfuller is offline  
Mar 30th, 2013, 07:22 PM
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No, I don't have much in the way of electronics.
Pegontheroad is offline  
Mar 30th, 2013, 07:33 PM
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Peg, I have a Garmin and can download the Europe maps direct to it via USB connection. Haven't done it yet but it seems simple enough.
jaja is offline  
Mar 30th, 2013, 07:42 PM
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The iPhone mapping (apple, google and other GPS apps) tends to work better than one of the stand alone GPS systems and is far more useful. You might want to reconsider just how good a decent smart phone (iPhone is one of the best when traveling) is and how handy it can be.

A quick look at the map will tell you where you are in the maze and how to get to the next destination.
Robert2533 is offline  
Mar 30th, 2013, 09:26 PM
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Hi There

I am about to leave for Europe in a few weeks and have purchased a Garmin 3490lmt and the Europe maps . I have also downloaded a program Garmin Base camp (utube has some training-videos)which after some trial and error have plotted most of the way points and created a route.
I am quite impressed so far seeing how it goes is another. You can the view it on google earth
paul_hudson_399 is offline  
Mar 30th, 2013, 10:25 PM
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Looks like your application is for walking?

The computer step is an intermediate step to download the map from the Garmin site to your computer, then you have to download the map from the computer to your standalone Garmin GPS unit using a USB cable. I have used GPS in Europe and there are pros and cons.

- A dedicated unit is usually easier to use since it is the only thing it does. It is best to download waypoints onto the GPS unit at home when you have time, so that you can find locations easier. The downside of the dedicated unit is that you have yet one more gadget to carry. Unless you buy a hiker's type of unit with large batteries meant to be used away from the civilization, the car GPS units have only a few hours of battery life. Why is this a problem? Because GPS units take several minutes to lock in the position, so unless you leave the unit on, in which case the battery is probably drained when you need it, you have to turn it on and wait several minutes to find where you are -- that is if the GPS unit locks to the satellite at all. In dense narrow streets surrounded by buildings, you often don't get any signal at all or because of reflections from the buildings, the location jumps from street to street.

- A smartphone GPS eliminates a need to carry another gadget. It also has a battery life issue since the GPS hardware is a prodigious consumer of power. The issue here is also the map. 1. If you don't plan to use mobile internet, you have to have offline maps. For an Android phone, you can cache in 6 offline maps at any one time free of charge from the Google map. If you need more maps, you can delete the maps you no longer need and cache in new maps, preferable using Wifi when you are at hotel. Each offline google map size is limited and is usually sufficient for most European cities. For iPhone, you have to buy an offline map. 2. If you have a local SIM data plan with large amount of data allowance, you can fetch the map online as you go. If you are operating on International data roaming plan, you might have to ration the map downloading as loading a map in a new area can consume several MBs at a time and you can eat up your data allowance quickly.

You will find various opinions on how useful GPS is for walking due to the difference in environments as well the unit's capability.
greg is offline  
Mar 31st, 2013, 05:00 AM
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Downloading "Garmin to your computer" was pretty useless advice from the store! LOL

I have 3 TomToms, one in each car for our household. I love them. And they work great.

But any dedicated GPS will have a hard time in a city with all the buildings blocking the satellites. It's not so bad when in a car because you are moving more quickly than a pedestrian and the device can re acquire a signal as it moves down a street. Battery life is often quite short for dedicated units too. And they are bulky compared to a phone. And European maps can be pricey.

So I agree that the smartphone route is best for you. Did you know you can buy a used iPhone 3GS for as little as $100? Look on Kijiji, Craigslist etc. Look for independent phone shops. Ask friends... people often have a new phone and their older model that's perfectly good is languishing in a drawer. If you can have the phone unlocked to use in Europe all the better. But even if it remains locked you'll still be able to use the GPS feature. Got any friends with teens or 20 something kids? They'll be able to steer you right! ;^)
ParisAmsterdam is offline  
Mar 31st, 2013, 05:05 AM
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Peg - it's not only the $100 for the phone; my phone plan charges an additional $30 per month for a smart phone.

Perhaps better maps are the key. I hate the maps you get from hotels as there is so much advertising there's not enough room for the streets.

I use Streetwise and recently bought a Rough Guide map which is larger than the Streetwise but it's much easier to read.
adrienne is offline  
Mar 31st, 2013, 05:19 AM
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I just did a quick search on Craigslist for the Spokane area...
Used iPhone 3GS
Good Condition
Scratch free screen.
Used for approx 10 months.
Asking $80.

Using "iphone" as the search term the first ad that came up
is above. Good deal. The second one is even unlocked so you could use a local SIM card for Europe:

Iphone 3GS UNLOCKED - $125 (Cheney)
for sale is a used iphone 3GG, 8GB, black, 6.1.3 currently using on t-mobile but is unlocked, used but in good shape. sale is for phone only, no case, no charger. $125 cash, and must be picked up

Tough to beat prices like that to get into a smartphone and GPS!
ParisAmsterdam is offline  
Mar 31st, 2013, 07:14 AM
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Hi Peg,

Is a good map and a small compass not an alternative?

ira is offline  
Mar 31st, 2013, 07:59 AM
Original Poster
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I had pretty much decided that getting a GPS and loading maps was going to be too complicated for a brain which is mostly geared toward Shakespeare and Hemingway--not toward electronics...then I read these posts, which confirmed my realization.

I appreciate everybody's suggestions, but you are all way too smart for me.

I think I'll go with Ira's and Adrienne's suggestion. I bought the little compass last year but haven't used it, and I will get better maps than the ones in Frommers.

Thanks all the same.
Pegontheroad is offline  
Mar 31st, 2013, 10:22 AM
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I think your problem is that you are using really bad maps.

Those in guidebooks are basic and do not include many streets.

So - either get a good quality map (will be several pages for a larger city) or just go to a mapping website and download very detailed pages showing all of the streets near your hotel and to and fro major sites. (Hotel maps are even worse than those in guide books - neither is good enough to avoid getting lost except in quite small towns.
nytraveler is offline  
Mar 31st, 2013, 10:44 AM
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Peg, I honestly think a really good map and an understanding of scale is going to be a better option for you than a GPS. I know there are people who swear by GPS, but they don't work well in urban areas where there are tall buildings, and frankly, the one and only time I have really been lost in Europe was when I had a GPS system in a rental car - totally useless. Maps are a wonderful thing!
StCirq is offline  
Mar 31st, 2013, 10:49 AM
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I bought a miniSD card with Europe maps to insert in my Garmin. But always have a map.
It would tell us to exit the autostrada too early and put us on local roads. Other than that issue(learned to ignore that advice)it was helpful with finding our hotels.
HappyTrvlr is online now  
Apr 3rd, 2013, 06:10 AM
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getting a GPS and loading maps was going to be too complicated for a brain

Peg, I really think you are selling yourself short. You can obviously work a computer. A smart phone is simply a small hand held computer that also makes phone calls! ;^) You really would be able to handle it!
ParisAmsterdam is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2013, 06:27 AM
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Don't forget with a smart phone, you'll also have to pay for a data plan. The cost of the phone, a monthly contract, plus the data plan will really add up.
Mimar is offline  

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