Maps versus Navigation when traveling

All right.  Be honest?  Do you still have paper maps?  Or do you use a GPS device or navigation on your phone?  No judgement here…

I am a die hard cell phone navigator at home.  But, I adore paper maps when I am traveling.  I find them more reliable and interesting than device navigation.  I can follow along the map as we drive noting everything I am passing along the way.

Numerous times I have used the map to determine where our next unplanned stop with be.  My brothers and husband can attest to my forcing them to stop at every archaeological place of interest in the whole of Ireland “just to see what’s there.”

I brought along what was later coined “the Super Map” to Ireland the first time I went in 1999.  This map has traveled with me every time I have gone there marking every road I have driven or walked on.  It has helped enrich my trips and reference where I have been to and where I have yet to journey.  It is now as much of a souvenir as anything else I brought home with me.

In France I brought another paper map which helped guide us in driving through the entire country.  The map is a little worse for the wear being torn and folded and even used as a napkin from time to time.

How do you get around when traveling locally or internationally?



89 thoughts on “Maps versus Navigation when traveling

    • Me either but primarily because I typically don’t have cell service when I travel. And, it’s not as much fun that way! Don’t want my head stuck in the phone when I should be looking out the window!


  1. Love paper maps. When we’re in a new place, I’ll study the map to the point I drive around like a local. I think it’s the best way to learn a new area and writing little notes on the map only adds to the overall experience. I do use my phone to local stores or restaurants though.

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  2. Alway BOTH. We cruised on our boat for eleven years and always used both the GPS and the paper charts to mark our position. The electronics might just stop and then you would be lost at sea without the paper. Now, on land, we find that we still use both. Paper is much more reliable. The GPS has led us astray many times. We do tend to keep the GPS zoomed in so the maps give a wider context.

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  3. All of the above. Maps and Google Earth are great for route planning because we can see the whole picture. I use the phone and/or GPS for navigation. I love maps as mementos too; whether highlighted with the route taken or the notes shared by friends.

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  4. My wife is always arguing with our gps locally. I thought, maybe it was because there was another woman telling me where to go. But even after changing it to a man’s voice, she argues. She keeps telling me we have to switch to paper maps but we have yet to do so. We now take weekend drives not necessarily knowing where we will end up. But we always seem to make it back home!

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  5. I like a bit of both. GPS for someone to argue with and a paper map for when it gets lost. Once in Switzerland Kim did the navigation from a paper map and after a morning of motoring we stopped for lunch. This gave us time to examine the map again to find the most suitable route and Kim explained how she had carefully plotted a course to avoid places that the map helpfully pointed out as ‘worth a detour’. Kim had interpreted this information as ‘worth avoiding’ when of course it actually meant ‘worth going out of your way to take a look’. We laughed about that eventually!

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    • That’s great! And yes paper maps are perfect for when GPS fails because it always does. And yes many happy times have been had reading the map over a cup of coffee and a sweet somewhere along the way. Do you have any old maps you use over and over that are marked up? Or are you a pristine map folder who will never write on a map?


  6. To be honest, last time I bought a map was in France a few years ago as we planned driving from Paris to the Châteaux de la Loire, Nantes and Brittany. Trip went well. But i might now use other tools. Electronic. Old maps I hang on to are maps of Kenya, or India, or Africa. need to get them out of the Zanzibar chest where they’re stored. They’re like treasure maps, aren’t they?
    Great composition with your baguette sandwich on top of a map of Quercy.

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  7. Good subject for a post I must say. I used the same paper map in Hong Kong when I lived there for six months. I lived by it. Now I am home like you I use the phone or car GPS. Never paper maps. I do love a nice paper map though that has photos of all the places to visit. Lovely!!

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  8. I am a map junkie. There, I confessed. I don’t mind GPS, and there are times when I really appreciate it, like when I am in an unknown city, and it is after dark, and I’m by myself, and it is pouring down rain. Even then I become very nervous about not having control over where I am going. I have file drawers full of topo maps, and every other kind of map as well. 🙂 –Curt

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      • Good maps tell stories, which is one reason I’ve always loved topo maps. Like you, I need to see the bigger picture of where I have been and where I am going, with options. I’m busily planning our 10,000 mile journey around North America for March, April and May, which is based on my 10,000 mile solo bicycle trip I made in 1989 starting from Placerville/Diamond Springs. This time we will be traveling in our van, however. (Grin) I went out and bought a new road atlas and I still have a number of the AAA maps I used for the original planning. –Curt

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  9. Lots of interest in this post. It’s fun to read what everyone has to say, especially the person whose wife argued with his GPS. ha ha ha! I use GPS in the city, because it keeps track of one-way streets, and there are a lot here in Portland. Overseas I can’t rely on cell phone service. But that’s ok, because I love maps most of all. My fave maps are the topo maps I take backpacking. They get worn and stained and folded and scribbled on, but that shows how much they are loved.

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  10. I absolutely love a paper map in a new city or road trips. I find following a GPS often leads to being less aware of the surroundings and I don’t want to miss the random sideshow that comes with great travel.

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    • Thank you! Yes I agree with every word! (Sometimes it is a necessary evil though.) And if you read through some of the comments of my readers they have some witty and good reasons for GPS. 😉 Thanks for the comment! Welcome to the blog.


  11. A mix, usually. We always pick up a paper map when we can, as they’re just such a fun way to navigate by in a new place. On the other hand, while I prefer to not use a phone wherever possible while exploring – some apps can be pretty useful. My favourite is one which lets you download a city map before arriving, so you’ve got it when you go out of service, and then can also show you where you are via GPS if you ever really need it.

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