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Maps and Guidebooks

Use maps as planning tools.  Mark your route, destinations, and places to see on the map.  The map is a spatial itinerary that you should make part travel planning and your travel. 


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<ravel Advice - Using maps and directions to keep on your route

Discovering that you are “lost” is scary, demoralizing, and discomforting: when it happens during vacation travel, it is even more upsetting.  In the article that follows, we give you some general guidelines for avoiding losing your way. In addition, we offer some guidance on how to get back on track if you become lost.

Plans, Maps and Routes

Every vacationer carries an itinerary to guide them during their travels. Just as you plan the major stops on your trip, you should plan each day’s activities using a map and marking it with the destinations you will visit that day. Doing so will help you understand where these attractions are located with respect to your base of operations. In addition, laying the destinations out on a map will help you decide how to travel between the sites.

  • If you are going to take a taxi to the destinations on your tour, you need only mark key locations such as your hotel and the places you will visit.
  • If you are going to take public transit, you need to make sure that you mark the hotel, transit stop (handy for your return trip), as well at the location of the day’s activities.
  • If you are going to walk, you should mark your hotel, the locations you intend to visit, as well as the general path that you will take.


When you are touring, be aware of your surroundings and keep a running, mental focus that includes your location relative to easily recognizable features (street or highway names, landmarks, buildings, museums, etc.). If you become lost, finding your way back is much easier if you can review both your mental and mapped itineraries.

If you become lost, the first thing you should do is consult your map and determine your position on the map (See How to search a map to determine where you are).

  • The easiest way to locate yourself is to find the street signs for the street you are on and a crossing street. Find this point on the map.
    • Once you have done this, you know, generally, where you are and should compare this location with your original destination on a map, presuming that you remembered to mark your hotel and destinations on the map.
  • You will need to pass a second intersection to determine the direction in which you want to head.
    • Once you have reached a second intersection along the street, examine your map to determine whether you have moved closer to or further away from your destination.
    • If you are a block closer to your goal, you are headed in the correct direction. If not closer, turn around.

When driving, it is even more important to make sure that you have created a plan and marked a route on your map before you start driving (See How to search a map to determine where you are).

Trying to decide the correct turns and maneuvers while driving usually leads to arguments, if you are accompanied, or unsafe driving, if you are alone and trying to read the map while driving. (Various Rental Car companies, (for example, Hertz and Avis) rent cars equipped with navigation systems that make it extremely hard to lose your way while driving (See Navigation Aids)).


  • If you have to stop to ask for directions, be sure to write down the directions provided and follow them.
    • Most often, drivers stop, ask a question, and zoom off trying to follow the guidance that was provided. It is unlikely that you will clearly remember what was said, unless you take the time to write it down.
  • If possible, write down the directions and ask the person to outline them on the map (if they are able).
    • Remember, the person who is giving you the directions has “their” mental map of where you need to go but the mental map they are thinking about always has landmarks that they forget to mention (because “everybody knows that place”).
  • Always ask about significant landmarks along the way and write these down, as landmarks are the most useful way-finding information people provide.

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