Travel Advice - Buy a map that meets your needs
preparing for vacation, many travelers ignore buying a good quality map.
Instead, they use one provided by the rental car agency, a clerk at a
hotel, or one on the back of a brochure. If you are looking for a way to
make a journey difficult, not having a good map is one of your best
bets. A good quality map adds a geographical context to your vacation
and serves as your guide to safe travel.
The type of map that you need for a trip depends on the type of
vacation that you will take. We advise you to consider buying a map and
using it as an integral part of the planning process and for navigation
or reference during the trip.
• If you are planning on an extensive driving vacation in one
country, your best bet is to purchase a "Road Atlas" that contains
highly detailed maps of the country’s entire road network (see
How to select a good map and
Who produces the best maps where?).
• Conversely, if you will be intensively driving only a region of a
country, we advise you to purchase a high quality, folded map of the
region. These maps are known as "sectional maps" to denote that they are
part of a series that "fit" together.
• If you will be driving through several countries, we urge you to
collect an integrated set of high quality folded, sectional, roadmaps
usually designated as touring maps.
• If you will be staying in a city and pursuing mainly local
activities, you should buy a high quality street map focused on tourism.
However, if you will be exploring only the tourist areas of a major
city, better hotels and most information bureaus will have a map that
will adequately meet your needs. Take two copies, as the maps are
usually printed on thin paper that has a very limited durability.
• If you will be hiking, biking, or adventuring in one way or
another, we suggest purchasing a local set of topographic maps,
produced by the official mapping agency of the country that you are
• If you are taking a cruise, we suggest that you take a concise,
pocket-sized world atlas, which will allow you to follow your route and
note the geographical setting of your ports of call. Most cruise lines
will provide useful maps of the local ports symbolized with the location
of most tourist highlights. Note: these maps usually focus on
limited areas and are not good references for street names and are of
little value if you need to find where you are located by referring to
• If you are taking a tour, you will not need a map for navigation
but we suggest taking a generalized map of the area you will be
visiting. The best of these types of maps contain both a country map and
inset maps that cover (in limited detail) major cities and significant
places of interest.
In preparation for a recent driving vacation in France, we examined a
variety of products ranging from road maps of France (a single sheet
showing a generalized road network) that were inexpensively priced to
Road Atlases of France (a multiple page atlas showing highly detailed
road network) that were relatively expensive.
We knew that we would start the trip in Calais, tour through Normandy, and
then head wherever we wanted for another week or two. Our footloose
planning made it impossible to map routes before we left and we wanted
detailed, up-to-date maps featuring countrywide coverage for our
touring. Since we were uncertain where that tour would take us, we
decided that we would benefit from a detailed, road atlas product.
At the end of our deliberations, we purchased the Michelin “France Tourist
and Motoring Atlas” which covers the entire country at a relatively
large scale. Although the Michelin product was expensive, the atlas
proved an indispensable aid due to its comprehensive portrayal of the
road network in France.
Top of page
Maps and Guides Home
If you need to find information about Destinations or other Things
Travelers Need To Know, try Googling ThereArePlaces.