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  1. Default Most Detailed Road Atlas?


    I have just recently joined the forum myself, despite lurking in the background and reading the interesting discussions and useful tips for a long time. :)

    Our road coast to coast trip for 2012 is still in the early planning stages, so I will probably come back with numerous questions in the future. For now, I would like to ask for some advice regarding road atlases. I live in Europe, and unfortunately, the bookstores in my city do not carry a large selection of US maps - which means I'll have to purchase a road atlas "blindly" over the internet. Despite all the reviews on Amazon, I have a hard time deciding on which atlas to choose - and I wonder if someone here would be able to recommend a good US road atlas based on first hand experience. I would like it to be spiral bound, as detailed as possible (I do realize, however, that no road atlas covering the entire USA is detailed enough, and I probably need separate maps for each region) - and preferably have a grind system so that you can follow a road from one page to the next, instead of having to refer to the index every time. We do have a GPS with US maps, but I still love having a good "old fashioned" road atlas to use as well. :)

    So far, I have found the following atlases:
    -Michelin Road Atlas 2011
    -Rand McNally Road Atlas 2011
    -AMC Road Atlas 2011
    -AA Big Road Atlas 2011

    I would be thankful for any advice! :)
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 12-26-2011 at 02:38 PM. Reason: fixing the book links

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Maps and Atlasses

    Hi and Welcome to RTA Forum.

    My experience has only been with Rand McNally, and I have found them to be quite detailed and really accurate. I have from time to time looked at the AAA Road Atlas and the Michelin Road Atlas, and must honestly say, have not found a great deal of difference. Though I should qualify that - I have not sat down to compare them in detail.

    I have never used a spiral bound one, and find the normal binding good. The map lays flat and the pages do not come loose. Even over a six month trip, I have not found the pages to wear. However, I would not yet buy one, as you will find that all the 2012 will be out over the next few months, and you may as well have the latest.

    As for maps of individual States, does your local Automobile club not have any? I find that I can get some locally. I would have thought that Europe would be the same. While there, ask if they have a reciprical arrangement with the AAA. If they do, it will be a great help with getting maps and tourist information when you are in the US.

    Other than that, can I recommend that you get a good sized wall map of the US. You will find that a great help in your initial planning with route layouts, etc. Leave the detail and minor routes till you have an Atlas. It is just good to get the overall view, and the perspective of where places are in relation to others.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Regional Specialists

    In the western states, the very best maps to carry are those produced by Benchmark. In the last twelve years, Benchmark Maps has established itself as the best source for detailed state road gazetteers. Unlike most road atlases, the Benchmark series uses landscape illustration to show mountains passes, marshes, canyons, and other geographical elements clearly. The maps look like aerial maps with elevations shown in relief, and it is easy to see at a glance if the roadway you are considering climbs up a steep pass or slogs through a swamp. These superb maps also identify little known locations, dirt roads, historical sites, and they provide the most extensive list of recreational opportunities we've ever seen in an atlas.

    For a single atlas, the one that I prefer is the Rand McNally deluxe version.

    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 12-26-2011 at 02:40 PM. Reason: fixing links as RTA bookstore is now closed

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    My staple is Rand McNally. I've never once been disappointed with them.

    A basic not spiral bound one is available at most big box stores in the US for $5-10, but I've got a "Truckers Edition" (as a very thoughtful and generous gift) that is laminated and spiral bound from about 5 years ago that is still going strong.

    There's not a ton of difference, and I can't speak specifically to the other brands you are looking at, but I have been a little disappointed by some lower end brands in the past and I've never had any problems with Rand McNally.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Another option is mapping software - the 2 "standards" here are Microsoft Streets & Trips and Delorme Street Atlas USA. The advantage to this is you can zoom in and out to get a "big picture" perspective or more and more local detail. Between that and a Rand McNally paper atlas and a GPS you would have everything covered. Mapping software is also GPS-compatible with a laptop and a USB module.

  6. Default

    Hi again,

    Many thanks for all the replies! It sounds like everyone has been quite happy with the Rand McNally, and since it looks like the 2012 version has been released already, I think I'll go ahead and get that one. :) It was also good to get your view on the spiral binding - for if this atlas actually does lay flat, without a "gap" in the middle, I will just go with the regular binding instead.

    I have a decent collection of maps for individual states (mostly guide books from the AAA) from the time I have lived and traveled in the US. They are mostly from 2001-2005, but I think I'll wait with trying to obtain the up-to-date versions until I know our exact route and which states I need. I'm quite sure our national automobile club has an agreement with the AAA indeed, so I will certainly look into that as well (I'm not a member of the club at the moment, living in a large city and not having much need for the services they offer; but with our trip in mind, I intend to join in the beginning of next year). The Benchmark Maps sound like something worth looking into, too - thank you very much for the tip!

    So far, we have been using a wall map (as some of you also suggested) and Google Maps to plan our route - of course, very roughly so far. I would love to get a good mapping software, but I have a hard time finding one for Mac. If someone can recommend a good, user-friendly program similar to Streets & Trips, I would love to hear. I have been creating a route on Google Maps and exporting it - bit by bit - to Google Earth, but it would be nice to have a more convenient program to use. I would be quite happy with Google Maps otherwise, but I find it extremely annoying that it doesn't seem to let you save a modified route to 'My Maps' (or maybe I just haven't figured out how to work around this yet?). If I save the map, I can see the waypoints - but all the routing is gone. This is why I have resorted to Google Earth to save the route.

    In any case, thank you again for the help. I'll keep soaking up all the tips and advice on the site, and I'll probably be back with more questions in the near future. :)

    Wishing you all a nice weekend,

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