From tracking the sun with a sextant, to loyally following your satnav underwater, there are many ways to plan a car journey, each with their pros and cons.
If you find yourself wondering whether recent technology will kill the ancient and noble art of map-reading, perhaps you should take responsibility for keeping it alive! There's something deeply satisfying about maps, whether you're gazing at them to ponder possible journeys, or poring over them, country-roadside, figuring out how to reach that tempting valley. Map-reading can take a little practise, but its lots of fun.
The downside is, it slows you down a bit; if you're travelling alone, you must pull over to read your map safely, and if you're co-piloting you will need to pay attention, since "we were supposed to turn left back there" rarely goes down well. You might want to get a compass, too - they're only a few pounds, which isn't much compared to a satnav.
The AA and RAC, amongst others, offer step-by-step instructions for one-off journeys, which you print out from their websites. These are normally accompanied by a little map, and will tell you which roads to follow and where to turn off. All you do is enter your starting point and destination. They factor in planned major roadworks but can't take accidents or random congestion into consideration, so they're not much good when you have to take an alternative route. The map that comes with them often lacks detail, especially if you're travelling long distance and have zoomed out to get the whole route inside the printer margins. For this reason, it's best to take a road atlas with you, just in case.
Satnavs are dropping in price and certainly take all the thought out of route-finding - everyone's heard a story about someone who followed their satnav so faithfully that they "turned left" into a river, or some other hazard. Satnavs are particularly useful when they're hooked up to live traffic information, although this option is usually more expensive.
If you normally only drive locally, a money-saving solution might be to borrow or rent a good one only when you need to go on a long trip. This is also a good idea when you're driving abroad, and need a satnav that's programmed with foreign maps. It's still clever to take a road map as well, in case your satnav stops working, and always look before you turn - driving into rivers is rarely ideal.
Zen-navigation, a.k.a. following your nose (and maybe some signposts)
You have to be really confident for this one, especially if you're going somewhere new, but it can be deeply liberating to leave all the technology at home, tuck a road atlas under the passenger seat in case you totally lose your sense of direction, and simply strike out towards your destination. This method's success depends on your spatial awareness and how well the roads are signposted. And if you really do know how to navigate using the sun and stars, you probably needn't have read this article...