On the rare occasion you've found out that you have a good length vacation, when thinking about flying out of the country for a quick escape
What would you do next?

Some people visit travel forums such as Tripadvisor for inspirations; some people use keywords to google travel journeys; others refer to the itinerary of the travel agents. All of this work and channels are for the first and foremost important step of traveling: choosing a destination.
As for me who's busy but always bored enough to think about where I'd go on the next trip, of course there's a bucket list ready for different types of vacations I get at work. Then? It's off to plan a virtual map of my travel itinerary!

Therefore, this article will mainly be about me sharing some of my favorite map tools when planning a backpacking get away. It's my effort of initiation for our readers to join the discussion and share their favorite tools and tips. We also hope other map creating fans can share their tips. The items introduced below will be in the trip planning order and the time where you'd use it.

Google My Maps

After deciding my coordinates of the journey, it's time to create a new map on Google My Maps with a new name. Get Started with the planning!

  • Layers
    My Maps offers multiple layers within a map, and my habit is to use the cities along the trip as a layer separation standard。
    For example, in my Baltics Sea trip, the route would pass through Finland's capital Helsinki, Estonia's capital Tallinn, and lastly Russia's St. Petersburg. I named my map as "The Baltics Sea" with layers under it named as "Helsinki", "Tallinn", "St. Petersberg"


Sometimes if I decide to grab a friend or someone to tag along for a trip, then I'd use the days on the trip to separate the layers. Such as "Day 1", "Day 2", "Day 3".


If your backpacking is more on the driving side, then no worries you can also separate the map layers by routes. Every time you click "Add a New Route" there will be a new layer of the map created. Within the layer it's set up to have the user put in your origin and destination, of course having stops and pauses in between are your choices as well.

  • Customization
    After all this is a customizable map, so taking advantage of the smaller icons in My Maps. These little features can ensure that your customized journey has crystal clear details and more interesting than plain maps.
    In mt own My Maps, I would always input the transportation method such as airports, train stations, subways, bus stations, or even ports, then the next categories are boarding and restaurants.!Even though we all know the process of manually entering locations and altering icons will take some time, it's never going to disappoint you during the trip. No matter how troubling and inconvenient the before preparation is, the effort will always be paid off during the trip.

  • Co-Edit and Sharing
    Using a Google application, the biggest advantage is that with features such as view/edit/save set as open, the file can be edited through different devices and users. As for group backpacking, all of your friends can put down their favorite and must go spots into one place, so it won't be a hassle when trying to come up with a unified itinerary and how to move between each spot. Then when you're comparing trip itineraries with fellow backpackers and whoever, simply fish out the document and you'd just save yourself 80% of the work! Lastly, when start accumulating your backpacking trips and can no longer keep track of all these details; you'd appreciate the effort spent recording and consolidating all these information in the first place, avoiding the awkward silence when trying to scrap some interesting facts!

  • Export to KML File
    In my personal opinion, the most important step of all these works is to export into .kml files! Why? Because this types of file allows you to follow the route you planned during the journey even when you don't have any sort of access to the local internet. But it's not just the exportation process, remember to download the .kml file onto your mobile device and at the same time find an app that can open such files, which is next on the list of what I'm going to introduce: MAPS.ME.

MAPS.ME (Maps with me)

To be considered a Must Have in my traveling tool pack, the first ever condition is to be free! Just as I'm searching and exploring hard on the market for an "easy to use off-line map", MAPS.ME came along! I think that the user interface of this app is easy to understand and use for first-timers, and it's available across all major platforms. Aside from providing some of the common informations that all travelers need such as markets, bathrooms, public transportation spots, and post offices, MAPS.ME also supports off-line search, enabling users to book marks places on your offline map and editing them as you travel through the world. These advantages have made MAPS.ME my first suggestion to all of my friends. Even when not traveling, it's still a must-have app on the phone. In order to write this article, I took another look at this app and still found it fascinating in the amount of details stored. Taipei Metro for example, MAPS.ME not only provides clear maps to each metro station's exits, the maps even have pins of where the water fountains are! Even though this app's editing latitude and altitude function isn't as strong as its other aspects, I would still put a positive notes on the future updates. (Still secretly hopes for a individual bookmarks within each map)

maps with me demo

Speaking of the .kml files in the last few paragraphs, after you've installed map reading apps like MAPS.ME, you're literally invincible on the trip! Even when you're in a situation without internet or in flight mode, it won't take forever to load your own customized map. With this feature you can instantly know where you are right now on your own map, adding and exporting touring spots at the click of your finger~

As our mobile devices continue to advance and informations continue to expand online, traveling is no longer an activity that requires the physical workouts of carrying a brick book traveling guide. The home-made electronic maps solve your over-weight issue at the airport counter, and also let you instantly check whether you're on track of your planned itinerary. The most magical part of this? I got asked by a local to provide directions for him/her! An experience full of awe and laughter afterwards.

"Backpacker's Tool Pack: Maps" will go ahead and end here, we as the usual welcome all of those travel spirited friends comment below what is your most important travel planning tool, We'll collect the informations and create a "Backpacker's Tool Pack II", looking forward for it!

Translates by Nasha
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