Archive for the ‘Tools’ Category

10 Best Mapping Tools to Never Get Lost Again

by admin

Mapping Resources

Like the majority of travelers, I like to get the most out of every trip I go on.  This includes not getting lost and wasting a precious vacation day driving around aimlessly.  I remember when I was a teenager on Easter break with my family in Florida in the mid 90s, I spent a whole day riding around in the family Dodge RAM conversion van because my parents were relying on their 1976 road atlas.

In today’s digital age, there are numerous tools out there to make sure this never happens to you.  You can go pretty much anywhere in the world and have your roads, tourist sites, hotels, and any other hidden places mapped out for you ahead of time, or even while you’re traveling.  Here’s a list of the top resources to cover all of your mapping needs:

1. Google Maps – Google Map’s immense feature list and easy of use makes them my default link for online mapping.  Get driving instructions around the world, live feeds of traffic conditions and street views in major US cities, view the current location of your friends, and addresses, phone numbers, and web site links of the locations you’re mapping.  And you don’t have to stick with the default route generated either.  You can dynamically change the mapped route by dragging points on the route to other areas on the map.  This makes it easy to avoid bad traffic and plan a trip with multiple stops.  Other cool features include viewing photos, videos, and wikipedia links of relevant points on the map.

2. Microsoft Live Search – Another great tool for creating routes on the web.  It has many of the same features as Google Maps (interactive maps, live traffic reports, world directions, location information, etc.), while offering a few different competing features.  These include the ability to view 3D cities with high resolution imagery and export your maps in various GPS formats (KML, GPX, and GeoRSS), which can be sent to any personal navigation device.

3. Viamichelin – One of the best online, interactive mapping tools for driving directions in Europe.  This site allows you to scan information on 4.4 million miles of road across 42 European countries.  The mapping features include: displaying maps and locating places on them, route planning, service station locations, finding hotels and restaurants, tourist sights, speed trap locations, and traffic and weather information.  This service is also available on mobile phones and PDAs.

4. Garmin GPS – Garmin provides GPS devices for travelers finding their way via road, water, or trails around the world.  In the US, Australia, Brazil, China, and many other countries, Garmin’s devices offer a plethora of maps to help you reach your destination effortlessly while getting the most out of your journey.  Unlike other major GPS device manufacturers, they offer US based customer support, which keeps you from pulling your hair out when trying to get help from the guy in India who knows about 50 words of English.  Also, the ease of exchanging waypoint files between devices, easy-to-use menus, and constant addition of new and intuitive features bring this company’s GPS devices to the front of the pack.  I would choose the Nuvi 880 if you’re a high end user looking for all the bells and whistles, or the Nuvi 760 for the more mainstream user.

PHYSICAL MAPS – It’s always good to have a comprehensive map of the country you’re traveling in.  Online mapping sites don’t always offer all of the information you need, and it’s sometimes hard to put together all of your printouts in a manageable format.  Check out the following sites to order a diverse range of map types for pretty much all locations in the world:
5. Omni Resources Map Catalog – Not only offers road maps to most world locations, but also bicycling, railway, topographic, nautical, and many other types of maps.

6. – Tout themselves as the world’s largest map store for travel, wall, and digital maps.

7. Trimble Outdoors – Trimble Outdoors is a set of subscription based software tools used to show you exactly where you are and where you have been.  They allow you to use your GPS-enabled cell phone to navigate trails and highways (street, satellite, and topological maps), track your fitness performance (by recording your jog or bike route), geocache (a pastime in which objects are hidden at secret locations for participants to find using GPS positions), and create, manage and share your trips and maps with others.  The cost for this software package is $7 per month.  While most major cell phone carriers support some of Timble’s apps, Sprint is the only carrier supporting all of them.

8. Urban Rail – Very useful site when you’re relying on metro transit in a new city.  Offers subway maps for many major cities worldwide.  UrbanRail.Net gives you a general overview (including fare prices, times, and history), and a color coded map of each city’s metro system.

9. Google Transit – (a Google Maps feature) is growing rapidly and offers directions on mass transit systems in major cities around the world.

10. Local tourist office – If you don’t have time to gather your map data ahead of time, you’re spontaneous and like to figure things out when you arrive, or you want the most up-to-date information, local tourist offices (airports and hotels also) usually offer some of the best maps of roads and attractions for free.