How to Calculate Travel Distances

Written by deborah cohn
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How to Calculate Travel Distances
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Whether you are taking a trip to the supermarket or a trip across the world, determining the distance is a vital step for managing your time. There are many websites you can use to calculate travel distances within cities, within countries, and between countries. Of course, you can also calculate distance by using a road atlas or a map.

When using online resources, there is a difference between driving distance calculators and flying distance calculators. If you are trying to travel between two points within the United States, popular map websites like MapQuest and Google Maps will map out the route as well as calculating the distance . If you are planning an international trip, you're better off using a site designed to calculate the distance between the two points without route planning.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Road atlas/map
  • Ruler
  • Household string

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  1. 1

    Head to the Mapquest or Google Maps Websites (see Resources) if you are making a local trip or travelling within the United States. Go to a travel distance calculator website (see Resources) if you are travelling to or within a country outside of the United States.

  2. 2

    Enter your starting location where indicated. Enter your ending location in its proper space. The more specific you can be, the more precise your results will be. When using Google Maps or Mapquest, the minimum information you need for locations is a city and a state.

    Some international travel distance only calculate distances between countries, others calculate distances between international cities and states, between United States and international cities and states, between countries, and even between airports worldwide.

  3. 3

    Click the "Get Directions" button.

  4. 4

    Look at the top left-hand corner of the results page if you are using Google Maps or Mapquest. This is where you will find total estimated distance. If you are using an international distance calculator, you will get a simple results page.

  1. 1

    Find the scale on the map key. Usually the map key is located at the bottom of the map. The scale will likely be a bar scale that looks like a ruler, but it will sometimes simply be an equation in words or numbers.

  2. 2

    Using the ruler, measure the distance between two places. If your route isn't a straight line, use a piece of string to follow the route, and then straighten the string. Measure the string's length.

  3. 3

    Use the map scale to equate the ruler unit measurement to distance in miles.

Tips and warnings

  • Keep in mind that many of the websites that calculate distances without offering routes and travel time give you the distance "as the crow flies." For instance, a straight line between two points.

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