With all the iPhone hysteria, I missed last week's Q&A--shame on me. Fortunately, the dust has mostly settled, so I'm getting back on track. And believe it or not, this week's question isn't about the iPhone 3G and its GPS capabilities--mostly because I haven't had the opportunity to try it out yet--but I could also use the iBreak. So let's get on with it, shall we?
Q: I need a unit that I can plug 10 to 15 addresses into and it will map out a route hitting all the addresses in the most efficient and orderly manner. Am I dreaming? --Annette via e-mail
A: 'Tis no dream, Annette. There are quite a number of portable navigation systems that support multidestination routing, even up to 15 stops. All the major manufacturers, including Magellan, TomTom, and Garmin, offer models with this functionality. Typically, there are two methods for creating these multistop itineraries. First, you can plan a trip from point A to point B like you normally would and then go back and add "Via Points" to that route. Alternatively, some models offer a Trip Planner (or Itinerary Planning--the name of the tool differs from brand to brand) where you can input all your stops at once and save and name your trip for use later.
As for routing, Magellan and Garmin offer route optimization, which should give you the most efficient course, but I'd double-check the directions before taking off. I've read that some systems are smarter than others. Unfortunately, TomTom does not have this feature at all. Keeping that in mind, Annette, here are several product recommendations. I'm not sure what your budget is for buying a new GPS, but I've tried to give you a good range here.
I'd also invite the readers to pass along any suggestions. After all, you guys use these devices day in and day out, and I want this to be an open forum. Also, keep those questions coming!