Paper maps vs digital maps.  The right answer is both.

A traveler can’t have enough maps.

Paper or digital, each style of map has its own purpose. As the family navigator, I am the one who calls the shots on this subject.

Here are the maps we travel with and why they deserve a small corner of the limited space that exists on the console and passenger side of our truck.

Google Maps

In this case, familiarity has bred respect.  I love, love, love Google Maps.  The British lady who provides directions is friendly, courteous and generally correct.  Twenty years ago, she tried to direct us into a small lake in Connecticut, but I’ve forgiven her that fo paux. She was young and naive. 

When it comes to detail nothing beats Google Maps.  Generally, she will call out the turns at just the right time.  And perhaps most importantly, her mind doesn’t wander. She has one job and she does it very well. 

Garmin 890 GPS RV

This is a new addition to our navigating armamentarium.  As an East Coast American, I am nervous about driving a 27-foot travel trailer in mountainous regions.  The roads ascend.  Then they descend.  Some ascents and descents are deeper than others.  We have all heard about truck run-offs in case of brake failure. I’m thinking the Garmin RV 890 GPS will help us avoid such things because it prepares routes that are RV-friendly (meaning less steep).  I admit we haven’t tested this product yet. It’s sitting in the truck waiting for our next trip.

We also got the Garmin RV because we know from first-hand experience there are a lot of roads with low bridges.  The last thing we want to do is drive up to a bridge and learn we won’t fit. If we notice in time, we will have to back up, do a three-point turn and figure out a new route. 

This may not sound like a big deal, but check out these grimace-inducing YouTube videos.

Fancy Dancy Camper

Low Train Bridge

This motor home thought if he sped up it would help

This nice man at RV Geeks explains how to measure your RV. We haven’t done this yet, but  it’s on the ToDo list.

National Geographic Road Atlas (Adventure Edition)

I like this map because all the state maps are bound together in a spiral binding. I am confident that a state won’t fall between the seat and console of my truck. The Atlas has all 50 states and 10 Canadian provinces bound together in one handsome package. The bad news is that a bound Atlas is only good for looking at one state at a time.  Travel doesn’t work like that in the U.S.A.  We don’t (at least for now) ask for passports or customs checks when traveling across the state line  It can be frustrating flipping between Texas and Oklahoma, or Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.

AAA USA map and individual state maps

AAA makes great maps and they are free to members. The AAA USA map is indispensable when I’m planning a long trip.  It gives macro view that I can’t get from Google maps or the state maps.  That means I have a good idea of where I’m going and where I’ve been.  I also have to use a magnifying glass to read it. 

Using state AAA maps also requires constant folding and refolding. For some reason, I never quite mastered the art of map folding.

State Tourism Maps

I can usually read these maps without a magnifying glass. The disadvantage is they are filled with advertising and usually end up in the trash and contribute to  deforestation and landfill overuse.

My list of maps is almost embarrassing in length,  but I use all of them. And also I spend a lot of time sorting, moving, folding and refolding the maps so that I have a seat to sit on.

5 comments

  1. Maps are travelers’ savers. Even on the water, GoogleMaps has good routes that are confirmed by coastal. Navigation map systems.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great story. I remember the foldout maps from my childhood and 20s before Google maps came along. They add a sort of romance to a driving holiday. I also find it easier to use a hard copy map. One of the troubles is that you need a big picture of where you’re going as well as the detail at times.
    I have days where even my local spatial awareness is shot. It was really bad after the extended covid lockdowns we have here, which were compounded for me due to my health and I’ve had to work hard to get back to ground zero.
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

    Liked by 1 person

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