Digital Treasure Maps

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Long gone are the days when tourists relied solely on large printed foldout maps. These 2D tools may once have been the standard for adventure seekers, but today’s tech-savvy travelers have a variety of 21st century aids at their fingertips thanks to the Internet and ever-advancing mobile and satellite technology.

One tool that I have found to be especially helpful in planning travel excursions, particularly when you may not speak the native language of the locality, is the My Maps function on Google Maps (Note: you must create a Google account to use My Maps). After you’ve located the city you plan to travel to, it’s easy to create placemarkers for attractions, parks, restaurants and nightlife places that you’d like to visit.

Google Maps is a great tool to plan out your travel itinerary.

Photo Source: Google Maps

Travel guides, online travel communities and publications are just a few possible information sources available, many of which include pictures along with user ratings and reviews. It’s better to add more than less to your map since you never know when your travel itinerary might change based on weather or a whole host of other factors.

To create a placemarker, search for an attraction by name and/or address, and once Google Maps points to this attraction on the map, it will show you where you can add an upside teardrop marker. It may be helpful to add a description remind yourself of why you selected this attraction for your map. A simple phrase like “Best coffee in Barcelona” or “Great picnic place” will do.

If you have a type A personality like me, you may even want to create a detailed, mapped out itinerary that sets out the path or order in which you plan to visit attractions. You can do this by drawing a line to connect placemarkers.

When you’re creating your map, remember that you can also search for other public maps Google members have created by browsing the directory. The Top 50 Places to See Celebrities in NYC Map and the Best Seattle Photography Locations Map are two popular public maps that could be a great source of information for travelers planning to visit those cities. Be sure to mark any maps that you make public so that others can benefit from any itineraries you create!

Another great resource to tap into is Gridskipper, an international travel blog dedicated to themed plots dedicated to a variety of topics ranging from Sing Your Heart Out in San Francisco to Cupcake Consumption in London or even Eating with the Obamas in DC.

This Gridskipper map features cupcake shops and bakeries across London.

Photo Source: Gridskipper

If you have a PDA, discuss temporary international plans with your service provider that will enable you to access the Internet abroad for easy navigation with the maps you or others have created. If not, print the maps out before you leave. Be sure to pay special attention to the zoom level so that important street names are clearly labeled, otherwise your map won’t be much help. Happy navigating!


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