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Cool Programs For Making Travel Maps

Primap Travel Map

Example Map At http://www.primap.com/en/html/australian_journey_picture.html

 

In many instances of travel blogging you will want to share your route with your audience. Although I’ve looked at many travel blogs in my time, I’ve yet to find a consistent program or application that they all seem to be using to make travel maps. I think that’s more because there simply isn’t a front runner when it comes to creating routes. Given the wide variety of programs out there to display one’s route, I’d like to go through a few and illustrate, from a user perspective, what I consider to be the pros and cons of each.

In this article we’re going to look at the following FREE programs/applications for creating travel maps:

 

Travel Map Software

UMapper

Overview: This was the first application I was drawn to because at a surface level it seemed to have all the functionality that I desired. It is powered by Bing.

How It Works: Essentially you create flash maps on the website and then you can embed the source code in your post/page. The login that you create on UMapper.com hosts all of your maps, and as you update them, anywhere else that you embed them gets updated along with them, because they are all referencing the source. This is a really nice feature and allows you the flexibility to make simple changes later on without having to update everywhere you might have put it. In order to do this, however, you need the UMapper plugin. They have one for wordpress and drupal.

Account Types: UMapper has a free basic version as well as two paid levels, they discuss the differences in their comparison chart. Everything I discuss here is doable with the basic version.

Features: What I really like about UMapper is its ease of use. It’s pretty quick to get going and you don’t need a tutorial to start creating a map. They have a variety of templates (standard, weather maps, etc) that you can choose from. You can also custom load travel maps, though this is somewhat limited in how many with the basic version. You have full control over the style of the lines and markers and can include some basic text and pictures in the markers themselves.

It’s probably important to mention as well that UMapper has a bit of a social media side to it as well. We haven’t fooled around with it much but from what I gather you can tweet it and share it on facebook. There is also some opportunity to advertise with it (NOTE: not sure if you can do this is basic version), as most maps are public and can be viewed by other UMapper users depending on the privacy settings you have set.

Summary:

Pros:

  • Good control over the style of the travel map, including color of lines, markers and pictures
  • No fuss platform, easy to use, create, and integrate – pretty quick too
  • Changes update across all maps wherever they are embedded and all your maps are stored together in your profile/dashboard

Cons:

  • The maps are relatively basic and not dynamic. There is no way to turn it into an animated version simply from what you have here.
  • Requires flash and therefore is not visible on any computers that don’t have flash. Also, mobile devices like iphones/ipads don’t have flash (yet).

 

Tripline

Overview: I came across Tripline from another travel blog. It’s an application by google that allows you to create embeddable animated maps.

How It Works: In many ways it shares a lot of similarities to UMapper. Through the site you can create travel maps (public or private). You simply input the cities that you want, and the time frames that you’re there, and it does the rest. It also has an added functionality where you can upload pictures and it sorts them out by location and time frame, essentially building your trip for you based on your photographs.

Account Types: As far as I can tell there is only one, basic/free version.

Summary: Again, I praise this application for it’s ease of use, probably even easier than UMapper. Where I think it really lacks is in styling. As far as I can tell, you cannot even change the color of the line/route – it has to be red. In that sense, you have very little control over the style of your map and the template that it uses. As a result, all maps will pretty much look the same (with the exception, of course, of the route being different).

That said, there is what I’ll call a “bill board” functionality. That is, at each destination point, you can embed pictures and text that come up on click. This is really nice and more sophisticated than I think UMapper’s capability.

Also, the big thing is the animation. Tripline animates the route in the order where you hit the destinations, so in one map you have both a static AND a dynamic version. Frankly, it’s always nicer to have a dynamic option when available. Lastly, this has what seems to be a very thorough social media integration.

Pros:

  • Easy to use, can build travel maps quickly.
  • Both static AND dynamic maps (animated videos), which makes for a captivating user experience
  • Social Media integration – you can tweet it as well as follow other peoples’ maps to see how they update
  • Can add music to route, as well as photographs and text for contextual support

Cons:

  • Relatively poor ability to style it and make a travel map “one’s own”
  • The dynamic aspect supports very little control, for example, you can’t change the speed at which it traverses the route
  • Only one template, google maps, no way to custom upload as well

 

Primap

Overview: I would say right now Primap is probably my go to of the three. It is an entirely separate program that supports a wide variety of functionality.

How It Works: Primap is it’s own program that you download and use.

Account Types: There is a free version, a personal version and a professional version.

Summary: Primap is definitely the most complicated of the three and not the most user friendly but that’s a result of all the cool things you can do with it. If you are someone who really likes to have full control over their map experience then this is what I recommend. While creating the map is not the most intuitive process it comes with a tutorial on the website which highlights the major features and walks you through creating a map. The tutorial is very well written and while it doesn’t go over everything you get a sense for what you can and cannot do.

There is a wide variety of maps that you can choose from, often country specific. That said, as far as I can tell there is no way to upload a custom map so while there are many choices, they are the only ones. Once you pick a template it is fairly simple to create static maps and you have complete control over the style of the lines, markers, and images. Even more so, you can customize the look of the town markers, titles and labels. The only thing I dislike about the style is that in the free version they have obnoxiously put primap.com as repeating in the background (it’s not terribly visible but it’s certainly less than ideal).

When all is said and done it is relatively easy to change your static map to an animated map. Again, the theme is full control. You can customize the speed at which the route is traversed, if you want some lines to stay steady while others move. You can have pictures fade and react over time. Lastly, the best part is that all of this can be exported into a movie file that can be incorporated into a larger movie file, say if you’re highlighting your trip experience and want the route to be part of a larger video.

Pros:

  • This program was designed with the intent to allow you to freely customize your own map through a variety of style options.
  • Large variety of travel map templates to choose from
  • Easy transition from static map to dynamic map (also has a tutorial), which can also be integrated into another video file

Cons:

  • Not the quickest/easiest way to make a map, as compared to the other ones
  • No social media functionality if that is important
  • Cannot customize the travel map template
  • In the free version they put primap.com across the background of every map
Note: UMapper and Tripline are both new applications in Beta, and therefore have a much greater chance of evolving in the future – so be on the look out as they’re off to a great start!

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15 Responses to Cool Programs For Making Travel Maps

  1. awesome article, really helpful guys – thanks! 🙂

    johnny May 22, 2012 at 2:10 PM Reply
    • Thanks Johnny, later on I’ll be looking to see what other applications are out there and popular among travel bloggers as a way to expand this list. Let me know if you find any. I’d also like to include some more visual ques, like video tutorials on each of these – so stay tuned!

      I should also mention that the first two, UMapper and Tripline are in beta, and therefore might make up for some of their shortcomings later on.

      Dave and Vicky May 22, 2012 at 2:45 PM Reply
  2. Great resource, guys. Maybe I can embed an animated map showing my route thus far using one of these tools. Never thought that would be feasible before.

    Adam Pervez May 31, 2012 at 3:01 PM Reply
    • Absolutely, if you have any problems feel free to come back here and post a follow up comment. If it helps I could make a video of myself creating a map and walking through it…

      Dave May 31, 2012 at 3:27 PM Reply
  3. Was looking at the UMapper plug-in and it hasn’t been updated in almost 3 years… is that a reason to be concerned?

    Skott - Get Up and Globe August 4, 2012 at 11:05 AM Reply
    • yup – maybe. There is always a concern if something hasn’t been updated in so long. It could mean it will be incompatible with future versions of wordpress. I can say for sure the site has been update more recently than that, but it’s still listed as beta…

      Dave August 4, 2012 at 12:58 PM Reply
  4. For what it is worth, I have been mucking around with both UMapper and Tripline… from the perspective of a guy who is always complaining how un-tech savvy he is, Tripline was heads above UMapper IMHO. But again, thanks for this post, I would not have found either if it weren’t for your work.

    Skott - Get Up and Globe August 16, 2012 at 9:47 AM Reply
    • It’s worth a lot Skott – thanks. I really think Umapper has gone downhill a bit in the last two months or so…let me know if you come across any other programs.

      Dave and Vicky August 16, 2012 at 11:08 AM Reply
  5. Hey Dave & Vicky — a bit of a late response to this, but I wonder if you had a look at our mapping tool on Travellerspoint at all? I think it compares quite favourably to these, but would love to know your thoughts on it! 🙂

    Peter Daams February 25, 2013 at 6:06 AM Reply
    • Hey Peter – haven’t looked at it yet, thanks for bringing it to my attention. Once we do our next wrap up I’ll take a look and see if it will replace the one I’m currently using!

      Dave and Vicky February 25, 2013 at 10:17 AM Reply
  6. Hi, if anyone woul be searching for travel map creator – just check the wasthere.com approach! You create map with address yourname.wasthere.com (or, if you wish you can use alias: yourname.wa.sthe.re) Enjoy!

    traveler April 24, 2014 at 10:06 AM Reply
  7. check out http://www.tripmark.com/trip-planner (I know this is a old post, but it’s a modern HTML5 embedable map tool) — for those that are trying the above two sites and finding out they have not been updated.

    ASH May 18, 2014 at 6:23 PM Reply
    • Thanks for the tip!!

      Vicky June 25, 2014 at 5:45 AM Reply
  8. A very simple alternative is http://www.travelroutemap.com

    Just add locations to create a map that displays the route between cities.

    Ozzie December 24, 2014 at 4:36 AM Reply

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