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The two best mapping tools to help you plan your trip

Posted by travelgear.com.au on

There are a few good resources to help you plan your trip. You could make a custom Google Map or simply draw on a paper map but there are several online tools to help you create a map of your trip

There are several online options including Google Maps but the two options I would recommend are Alpaca Maps and Travellerspoint. Although there are a lot of other options, they are poorly designed and difficult to use.

Like us, both Alpaca Maps and Travellerspoint are Melbourne-based companies.

Travellerspoint

Travellerspoint is by far the easiest option to map your next trip. Log in, click the ‘create a travel map’ button and enter each place you’re going to. And, bam, you have a map. Easy.

By default Travellerspoint will create a map that has curved lines linking the spots on your itinerary, which will look a lot like an airline route map from an in-flight magazine. It is a simple, uncluttered map that is easy to follow.

If you prefer to make a more geographically accurate map of your route you can edit the mode of travel between each point on your itinerary. This will change the curved line to a line that follows a road or railway line. The options go as far as choosing a specific bus route (there may be several bus routes between two destinations, each following a different road) or a train operated by a specific railway company (for instance there are three railway companies operating between London and Birmingham and choosing Chiltern Railways over Virgin Trains will change the route the train takes). 

Simply changing the mode of travel gives me quite a different looking map for the same itinerary.

It is a great way to plan a trip with other people as you can invite friends and family to work on the trip with you. You get a nice map that you can print out and you can also print out your itinerary to either take with you or leave with friends at home so they can track your progress.

With Travellerspoint, you can email your map, share your map on social media (either Facebook, Reddit or Twitter) or embed it in another website.

Alpaca Maps

Alpaca Maps takes a similar approach. However, if your trip is focused on outdoor activities like hiking or kayaking then Alpaca Maps goes one step further and lets you plot a route that follows hiking trails and even rivers.

It works in a similar manner to the maps on Travellerspoint but it does take longer to create your map.

If it is a complex route (like a hiking trail or canoe trip) that you want to be geographically accurate you may have to spend a lot of time creating waypoints to ensure that your route does not stray from the path. For instance, the following Alpaca map for a four-day canoe trip in New Zealand took hours to make (I was very fussy about making sure that the route followed the path of the river) but the Travellerspoint map (above) for a three-week trip around England took only five minutes to make.

Alpaca Maps can be embedded in other websites and you can share your map on Facebook or Twitter.

Which mapping tool should you use?

It really comes down to how detailed you want your maps to be and how much time you want to spend making maps.

Most people want the easiest option and Travellerspoint is certainly the quickest and easiest way to map your itinerary. The average person simply won't be travelling by canoe and would simply be wasting their time with a more complex solution.

However, if you need your map to be more accurate (for instance if it is being used for navigation) and you will be spending time hiking or kayaking then Alpaca Maps is worth a look. It is particularly handy if you’re planning the route for your hiking club’s next big trip and it is important that everyone takes the same route.

Both options are free and are perfect for people who love planning their trips or if you simply want to keep a record of the trips you have been on.

Our recommendation is to try Travellerspoint first and move up to Alpaca Maps if you need a bit more detail.

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