Personally, I have a horrible sense of direction and get lost fairly easily. When you add that to the fact that I take quite a few road trips, a GPS device can be invaluable for me. My Windows Phone does a great job of keeping me on track, though (when its directions are accurate).

If you’re making a long trip (more than 30 minutes), it can sometimes be a bit much to try to use your phone to keep you on your route, though. However, a few minor tweaks can make your phone ready to guide you through a trip up to 3 or 4 hours long.

Before I get into that, though; if you have a car charger for your phone that you use regularly and you have an unlimited data plan, you probably don’t have to worry about any of this. In my case, though, my data plan is limited to 200 megabytes per month, and the power outlet in my car is usually occupied by my Zune FM Transmitter; so I have to save data usage and power on my phone while I’m driving.

Saving Power

To start with, there are two minor tweaks you can make to your phone before you start your trip that will make the power last longer.

First, you can go to Settings -> Battery Saver and turn on the battery saver mode. This mode stops your phone from running some background processes that tend to use a lot of power (like constantly checking for email messages, etc.).

If you’re driving at night, you can go to Settings -> Brightness, turn off automatic brightness and set your screen’s brightness to “low”. If you’re driving during the day, you might want to skip this step, as it can be extremely difficult to see your phone’s screen when it’s set this way.

Saving Data

One of the best things about Bing Maps on Windows Phone is that it gathers all of the information it really needs when you first retrieve your route. Therefore, you can actually turn off your cellular data while you’re driving, and the phone will keep plugging along without any trouble. The maps shown on the screen may be a bit pixelated, because they aren’t redrawn when data is disabled, but they’re still effective and the GPS portion still functions (showing you where you are on your route).

To turn off data, simply go to Settings -> Cellular and turn off the “data connection”.

If you keep your data connection turned on, Bing Maps will constantly attempt to gather new map data as you drive along; redrawing each map to show more detail about where you currently are on your route. With data turned off, though, you can avoid this usage and still get where you’re headed.

Using Bing Maps While Driving

Bing Maps doesn’t automatically prompt you for each step in your directions the way a dedicated GPS device would. For instance, when you’re coming up on a turn, it doesn’t announce “turn right in 200 yards”. Instead, you have to tap your phone’s screen to have it read out the next set of directions.

As you finish one instruction in your directions, your phone will chime letting you know that you’ve moved onto the next instruction. At that point, you can tap your phone’s screen twice to have it read out the next instruction.

If you make a wrong turn or deviate from the directions, your phone will make a different sound and inform you that “you’ve gone a different way; tap anywhere to get new directions.” If you have data turned off, you’ll need to turn it back on in order to get new directions. However, depending on how far you’ve gone off-course, you might be able to just follow the map to get yourself back to where you need to be. If you do get back on course before requesting new directions, Bing Maps will pick up where you left off, and will continue along your original route.