Thursday, June 03, 2010

The AAA TripTik

Poor AAA. Given the amount of travel information you can get on the internet for free these days, and as popular as GPS navigation is now, there doesn't seem to be much of a place for travel-agent-assisted travel anymore. Same goes for paper maps. Who needs a fold-out map and detailed driving directions when your GPS can do all that for you? Best of all, you don't have to fold up the GPS when you're done!

Yeah, well, I'm a map geek, so I still like my paper maps. Even though we'll have Jill (our GPS) with us on our Alaska trip, and detailed driving directions to go along with it (it's good to have a backup), we'll still have paper maps with us. And, we'll have a AAA TripTik, too.

For those who don't know what a TripTik is, it's a series of maps that a AAA travel agent puts together that diagrams your route from point A to point B. Sections of major routes all over the United States and Canada each have their own "strip map". For example, here's the "strip map" for I-74 between Indianapolis and Bloomington, IL:

The travel agent binds together the strip maps appropriate for your route, in order, so that all you have to do when you're driving is flip to the next map. (Usually the agent will choose the best route, but instead I diagrammed the route we wanted to take for her.) Then, the agent highlights the specific roads on each strip map that you should take and stamps "construction" a bunch of times, and there's your TripTik! In addition to singling out your route, TripTiks also provide other information, such as which interstate exits have gas/food/lodging, detailed mileage information, and narratives about the roads and towns you'll pass through. (For example: did you know that Herbert Hoover was born in West Branch, Iowa? I didn't!) TripTiks are prepared free of charge for AAA members, and, well, they're just cool.

We don't get a TripTik for every long drive we take, though. Only major routes (all interstates and a few U.S. roads, mostly) have their own TripTik strip maps. That means if you're going to take the "scenic route" - as we often do on our vacations - a TripTik won't do you much good. Most of US-50 is not covered by TripTik strip maps, for example. But we'll be taking through roads all the way to Alaska and back, so a TripTik was perfect for this trip. There are a few roads on our itinerary without TripTik coverage, but for the most part, we were covered. The only question was this: can you get a TripTik that goes all the way to Alaska and back, or do they stop at the Canadian border, or maybe in some arbitrary location between here and Alaska (say, Edmonton)? Luckily for us, yes, the Alaska Highway is entirely within the TripTik domain. The only catch is that the entire trip wouldn't fit in one binder, so they had to split up our TripTik into two separate binders.

How often do AAA offices get a request for such a massive TripTik? I have to wonder, because this actually isn't the longest TripTik I've ever had. When I was a kid - I was just as much of a map geek back then - my mom got me a really huge TripTik - also split up into two sections - that went all over the country, just for fun. I don't remember where all it went - I think it went all the way across the country and back, and to Canada, and maybe criss-crossed and doubled back a few times - but I thought it was the coolest thing ever. That TripTik was a little longer than this one. By the way, I found it amusing that they put the total trip mileage and drive time on the cover: 9,368 miles, and 157:31. Aww yeah. That's not even the entire drive, either - it doesn't include the side trip to Skagway, or any other side trips we will make.

I don't know how popular AAA's TripTiks are anymore, or even paper maps in general, but we're happy to have them.


James Allen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James Allen said...

I have completed my own custom TripTik for most of your Alaska trip. Check it out!

(this one is formatted more correctly)

Spartangoogle said...

We haven't gotten a Trip tik for out west yet, just got overall driving directions online. Some choices seem odd - San Antonio to Big Bend via Del Rio (maybe we'll see Jack) rather than I-10.
Might get the trip tik too though, as gas stations may be scarce out there.

Laurence Penney said...

Great story about the long TripTiks! Do the AAA still issue them?

Heather said...

I remember Trip Tiks from road trips with my dad. Thanks.