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Good sources for world maps

My wife and I are planning a couple of future trips -- One to Europe heading for UK, Netherlands, France and Italy. Another one in the pipeline will find us heading for Japan, probably in 2020. We really like looking at a wall map for planning travels but we're having trouble deciding on one. I've been drooling over the world maps at this site since they offer such large sizes but I can't seem to decide on one. They're also not cheap so I thought I'd ask if anyone had other recommendations.

Do you also use a printed map to make travel plans, and where do you shop for them?

Posted by
14920 posts

I don’t use actual wall maps, but I do use paper maps, usually the folded ones by Michelin. I get them at the Metsker map store here in Seattle.

My Japan maps are by a different company. I was able to look at various maps at the store and choose the one with graphics and print that I liked.

Posted by
6095 posts

Our host offers "planning maps" for Europe, which are probably useful for general planning purposes but don't have much detail, and are limited to Europe. The Michelin and Streetwise maps sold on this site (and elsewhere) are very good with lots of detail.

But I gather you're looking for a world map you can use to plan trips anywhere (on this planet anyway). Such a map may be a good thing to have at home, but you won't want to take it with you to any particular area, and it seems like it would lack the detail you'd want for planning. Consider one of my favorite planning tools, Google Earth. You can use it for broad-scale overviews or zoom in to particular streets and buildings. The "street view" feature gives you a preview of what neighborhoods and blocks are like, to help choose hotels and routes in cities. You can set it to show links to lodging, dining, transportation systems, attractions, etc. You can enter an address, or sometimes a hotel or other specific place, and it will zoom into it. You can ask it for routes, distances, and times (to be taken with a grain of salt) between places.

While I still like and use paper maps when traveling, Google Maps (similar to Google Earth) lets you download metropolitan area maps for offline use. I used these for a recent trip to Italy. They won't find routes offline but they will zoom in or out and can help a lot.

I used to love browsing the Metsker Maps store in Seattle and bought some great maps there, but getting to Seattle is now such an ordeal that I seldom make the trip. David understands I'm sure.

Posted by
10098 posts

I buy Michelin maps when driving. I get them at the Barnes and Noble stores or order from Amazon.
I wouldn’t want a wall map. If going to Europe, we use Rick Steve’s Europe Planning Map in addition to Michelin. In Italy I also use their auto club Touring Maps. I wouldn’t know where to hang a large wall map.

Posted by
3675 posts

When I was in high school, I went to a friend's house, and there was a large world map hanging on one of the breakfast nook walls. My friend and her brother had looked at that map at breakfast every morning for about 15 years. They knew their geography! If I had kids, I would emulate my friend's parents on breakfast nook decoration.

Posted by
6095 posts

Definitely, maps in the home can be wonderful for kids' unconscious (or conscious) learning. I love maps and travel like I love chicken and eggs -- whichever came first. It amazes and saddens me when I read about high percentages of American teens and adults who can't find well-known countries on a map. To some extent, a price we pay for being a continental nation separated by oceans from most of our neighbors.

Posted by
6245 posts

As a child, I had a large, very detailed world map covering most of my bedroom wall. It had everything, everywhere...I keenly recall seeing dotted lines between places like Bergen, Norway, and St. John's, Newfoundland (with stops at Lerwick, Torshavn, Reykjavik, Narsarsuak), labeled "steamship", others running up the NW coast of Canada linking places with names like Port Hardy, Bella Bella and Prince Rupert. It was an old map, and stubbornly still depicted dwindling colonial enclaves along the coasts of Africa, India and Asia (most of which no longer exist today as separate entities - Sidi Ifni, Walvis Bay, Goa, Pondichéry, Macao...).

Staring at that big, detailed map every day of my youth had a profound impact on my life, and I can still see it in my mind's eye. Among my prized possessions of the day were old atlases (that still showed huge swaths of the world claimed by European powers), and not just the complete Encyclopedia Britannica (which I spent countless hours reading, page by page), but most treasured of all: the gigantic Britannica World Atlas. That physically huge, massive book (it felt like a holy relic, or like something out of the Library of Alexandria) made a real impression on me -- surely the world was a vast place, filled with wonders worth exploring, far too big and complex to be reduced to something one could hold! Ahhh, maps...

I worry and feel sad for today's human population, who never having known a day without a GPS device in their hands, not only fails to appreciate the value, utility, and yes the beauty of a good map, (what a shame!) and from what I can tell, often seem completely helpless and unable to navigate to the nearest street corner when their gizmo fails.

Today, I still have a stack of heavy, large-format atlases at hand (best of the bunch: National Geographic's big blue tomes - if you know of a better one, please educate me!). We keep the NG Atlas of the World handy in our living room and consult it regularly (plus a growing stack of large format road atlases, from Rand McNally for the USA, to Michelin, Collins and more for Rest Of World)). Of course, I also make good use of the Google pretty much every day. And I'm lucky to live in a city that has a "map store" (Seattle's Metsker Maps, an institution here), so when I'm planning a trip that will involve driving, that's often my first stop (supplemented by amazon, for the more obscure maps of less-visited places).

For trip planning, I now make my own maps on the computer. It helps me "understand" the place and plan better. I know, not everyone's cup of tea; I enjoy it.

Cheers to all fellow cartophiles out there.

Posted by
2 posts

Awesome replies everyone! I love the Michelin road maps too! We'd definitely do the detailed planning on a digital platform such as Google Earth or Google Maps, but for the dreaming and 'where to next?' moments, we're thinking we want a large wall map. Beginning to think a huge world map mural would be amazing.

I also live near Seattle so I might have to stop by Metsker's as it's been a while for me.