Tips for creating travel directions and maps for your next trip

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Very few things make us grouchy right off the bat. But getting lost does. And to be honest, our grouchiness probably ends up inhibiting our ability to regroup and find our way.

That’s why we always take detailed maps and travel directions wherever we go. Plus a GPS. For us, knowing how to get where we’re going is a trip planning essential that makes travel a lot easier.

Use Google maps

Websites like Google Maps and Via Michelin let you get detailed point-to-point driving directions and generate your own travel maps quickly and easily.

But for a three-week trip, that’s a lot of paper to carry, especially when you add email confirmations, and other documents.

For our upcoming trip to France, we wanted to figure out a way to take our maps and travel directions without hauling around a lot of hardcopy. And since cell service and Internet access aren’t always givens, we wanted something that would always be available – even when those weren’t.

Our solution: a netbook and screen captures.

The netbook gives us most of the benefits of a laptop computer – Internet access and a nearly full-size keyboard and monitor for easy reading. And it does it all in a lightweight, pintsized package.

We used Google Maps and Via Michelin to get travel directions to the places we planned to visit, and to create local maps for the attractions near our hotels.

Then we did screen grabs of the maps, so that we would always have a digital image on hand.

If you have a Mac, it’s really simple. Just hold down the Apple key, the shift key, and the number four. Your pointer will turn into a crosshair icon that you drag to form a border around the area you want to capture.

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When you release the mouse, you’ll hear a shutter click and have a PNG or ping file called Picture 1 placed on your desktop. Rename it, file it, and you’re all set. You can see your map any time, just by clicking on the PNG file.

Screen captures aren’t just for web pages either. You can grab a picture of an email, a photograph, or anything else on your desktop.

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