As a tourist I don’t usually do a great deal of research in advance. I do like to find out what are some of the most popular tourist destinations. And to look for those things I like a great deal, such as hiking.
I useful find myself with a list of things I want to do and a place to stay. Sometimes I had an idea of where things we located and what might be good to do on the same day. But often, I did not. I would sometimes get a list of good restaurants but I would almost never actually get to them.
I do like walking around in a new city and getting a feel for things. Using a good old fashion map worked for this. But I would often waste a fair amount of time when I got lost. GPS mapping seemed like a perfect solution for my travel needs.
While I have been using the internet a long time, I have never had a smart phone. But I got an iPad mini and decided to test out my idea of using GPS and mapping as I walked around. Looking at the options, I decided I would rather create my own map so I could have the details I cared about.
I tried in out (I bought an iPad mainly for this mapping function but also to use as a book reader) in China (Hong Kong, Guilin, Yangshuo, Yunnan and Shanghai) and it went very well. Here is my map for Shanghai:
I am now making Curious Cat Tourist Maps available online. I used Open Maps (and umap) which I am very pleased with (Here is a link to the Curious Cat Hong Kong Tourist map as another example). I can include those items that interest me (tourist destination, lodging, eating and transit) and include background info (like what subway stop for a particular designation etc.).
I’ll also be adding a few popular choices that I didn’t care about (for example, I don’t care about any shopping but if that city has some popular spots I might add them; also I’ll add a few more lodging options). For the tourist destinations I’ll include links to my photos and write-ups.
Anyone can embed the maps on their web site and blogs (like I did above). They default to a really small map and don’t have the best zoom defaults in my opinion. I wrote a blog post on how to specify your size and zoom focus when embedding Open Maps.
If you just open a specific map on your smart phone or tablet you can use GPS to track where you are on the map. If you finish early you can look and see what options you have. I included information on the destinations (such as hours, directions – for example what subway station – and phone numbers) and links to web sites, if available. This worked very well. If you are hungry you can see what is nearby. I found it a great use while I was traveling. I have maps for my next two destinations in progress (Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Thailand).
I wanted to use things like trip advisor to find nearby restaurants and it worked sometimes. But often the results wouldn’t show me nearby places. Basically the apps (Trip Advisor and others) were not very user friendly in my opinion at all. And if I could find nearby ones trying to limit them to certain criteria either was impossible or pitifully done. Having my own map was much better.
Related: Floating Down River in Yangshuo, China on a Bamboo Raft – Curious Cat China Travel Photos – Digital Nomad Guide to Chiang Mai, Thailand (with customized map)