It sounds like an art deco fantasy from the 1933 World's Fair: ''In the future, people will plan car trips with computer programs that map routes, print itineraries, and give information on places to stay and visit.'' Well, based on interactive software from five different companies, it's still a fantasy.
The basic idea is sound: Input a starting point, a destination, and let software calculate the fastest or most scenic way to travel. The problem is that multimedia is still so primitive and computer memory so tight that each of these titles has had to make unacceptable compromises. Expert Travel Planner: Gold Edition (Expert Software, CD-ROM and floppy disc for Windows, floppy disc for DOS) includes useful 800 numbers for hotel chains and airports but lists only the largest towns. AAA Trip Planner (Compton's NewMedia, CD-ROM for Windows) has detailed hotel and restaurant listings, but you can't customize your road choices. You can highlight stages on both route and itinerary with Rand McNally Tripmaker (Rand McNally, floppy disc for Windows), but the maps show only major roads. Automap Road Atlas (Automap, CD-ROM and floppy disc for Windows, floppy disc for Mac and DOS) doesn't have much hotel information but has plenty of towns and a useful gas/mileage calculator. The best, Map'n'Go (DeLorme, CD-ROM for Windows), features close-up maps that look like actual geography instead of polygons, but it skimps on hotel listings. And all of the titles are lousy for urban travel, since they favor highways. For now, you're better off with a bound road atlas which the Travel Planner, TripMaker, and Map'n'Go packages thoughtfully include. Doesn't exactly inspire confidence, does it? AAA: C+