RVers love their GPS units. Can you imagine traveling without one?
But do you know that many of today's most popular units can be customized to show the special places you are most interested in? Called POIs – short for Points of Interest – there are so many lists of them available now that downloading them to your GPS unit can make travel much more efficient and convenient.
You need to have a stand alone GPS unit that can connect to your computer to be able to download POIs. Tom Tom, Magellan, Garmin and Rand MacNally all work with external POI files. There may be others. I use the Rand McNally RVND 7720 seven inch unit in my RV. My Roadtrek has a built in unit from Pioneer and it does a great job. But its integrated into my dash entertainment system and I can't add files to it. The RVND-7720 is aimed strictly at RVers and it comes with guaranteed lifetime updates and the ability to add POI files. I connect it to my computer from time to time and it automatically downloads the latest maps, construction alerts and detours .
But it also can download files called POIs. Many of you now I am also an NBC-TV technology reporter. I do a weekly segment for all 215 NBC affiliate stations called PC Mike and I recently did one on POIs in which I found several sources for POI files.
What sort of POI files, you ask? Well, I downloaded a list of every Cracker Barrel restaurant (a great place to overnight, free). We downloaded the locations of all Olive Garden restaurats (Jennifer says the all-you-can-eat soup and salad menu item there is a good and healthy food choice, as long as I eat only one serving. We downloaded a list of health clubs (when we travel my job is to get her to a gym at least four times a week). I have a list of all WalMarts (overnight camping again), unusual highway attractions (I'm a sucker for giant balls of string and places like the Barbed Wire Museum) and a list of 14,357 campgrounds.
All were free to download and install in my GPS and I can set my unit to alert me when I am approaching one of these POIs or search for them right from the screen.
There are several places online where you can find POI files.
I’ve gotten hooked on the POI Factory, a repository of downloadable GPS files that you can install on many of today’s most popular GPS units, like Garmin, Rand Macnally and Tom Tom. Basically, you browse the categories and find Points of Interest you’d like. And then, as you approach them in your travels, you can see them on a map, find and get to them with turn by turn directions.
Here’s another resource… the POI Plaza. This lists POIs from all over the world. Search by countries. It too works with lots of applications and GPS platforms, listing thousands of places and GPS coordinates. Pick the right format for your device and download it to your computer. Then, just plug your GPS unit into the computer and transfer it over.
One more. Download POI. If you couldn’t find files for your unit on the other sites, try this one. Just choose a country, the brand of GPS you have and download what you want. You’re good to go!
Here's my NBC report on POIs: