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MapQuest remaps itself

New options are intended to help people share personalized maps via social networks, plan a trip to include landmarks along the way, and find nearby hotels and restaurants.

The latest changes to the MapQuest site are designed for travelers who believe a trip is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.

The mapping and direction service launched a host of new options on Tuesday that the company hopes will make its site more intutive and help people plan and discover new places as they travel the roads.

MapQuest's new look and feel.
MapQuest's new look and feel. MapQuest

To start the journey, MapQuest has simplified its search box for locating directions and maps. The new, more user-friendly interface resembles the ones you'll find at Bing Maps and Google Maps--probably not a coincidence. Type your entire starting address in one field, your ending address in another, and you can then see the directions and mapped route side by side.

MapQuest's My Maps feature lets you save your own personalized maps and directions for future reference. Though this feature itself isn't new, you can now log into this service using an account from AOL, OpenID, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, or Twitter. The new MapQuest also taps into the world of social networking, letting you share your My Maps itineraries with other people through Facebook and Twitter.

To help travelers along the journey, MapQuest now lets you track down specific spots along your route. You can search for hotels, restaurants, gas stations, parks, garages, and even special events anywhere along your route. Each spot includes its address, Web site, and a link to grab specific directions to it.

Beyond that, MapQuest's search results now tap into Patch, a service that offers local news and information, which MapQuest's owner AOL acquired last year. The goal behind Patch, according to MapQuest, is to educate and inform travelers not only about where they're going but about what places they can find during their journey.

Only a small number of people will automatically see the new site immediately. But you can opt into the new MapQuest by clicking on its link at the old site or going directly there via the new address.

"We are committed to providing accurate maps and directions to millions of people every day," Christian Dwyer, Senior Vice President and General Manager of MapQuest, said in a statement. "And under the new leadership at AOL, we have invested in creating a new user experience that helps users discover what is there, nearby and along the way, making it more than how to get from Point A to Point B. The MapQuest evolution is underway and aims to transcend how consumers engage with maps by adding seamless context and sharing capabilities."

Once the top mapping site in the U.S., MapQuest is now number 2, having been overtaken by Google Maps, according to the latest data from ComScore.