Make interactive maps to track your trip

Maps aren't just for navigation. Here's how you can keep track of your trip and share the journey with friends by making interactive maps.

Lexy Savvides Principal Video Producer
Lexy is an on-air presenter and award-winning producer who covers consumer tech, including the latest smartphones, wearables and emerging trends like assistive robotics. She's won two Gold Telly Awards for her video series Beta Test. Prior to her career at CNET, she was a magazine editor, radio announcer and DJ. Lexy is based in San Francisco.
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Lexy Savvides
4 min read

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Planning a holiday? Apart from working out an itinerary and places to stay, you may want to keep track of your journey along the way by making an interactive map.

Whether you're an app fan or prefer a dedicated GPS device, there are many different tools available to suit all budgets. Share the journey with friends and family, or just keep the map as a memento of your trip.

Here are just a few of the many ways you can make interactive maps to track your trip.

Google Maps Engine

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Often the first port of call for those who already have a Google account, the search giant's map offering is fairly robust when it comes to creating custom maps if you want to input everything manually.

To get started on desktop, head to maps.google.com. In the top left corner, hover over the search bar and select "Create". This will open up the Maps Engine -- or you can bookmark that link and go straight there.

From here, you can plot your route manually by using the search box to enter in location names. Then, drop the marker tool over starting points, or points of interest. Once the marker tool is in place, you have the option to enter a name and notes for the pin.

Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

Along the route in selected locations where you drop pins, you can add photos and videos that appear alongside the pin. Unfortunately, Google Maps doesn't support uploading images through the interface directly. Instead, you'll need to upload them in a separate location or from a photo-sharing service and paste the link. Otherwise, you can do a Google image or YouTube search to add relevant photos and videos.

From here, create a driving, biking, or walking route to trace your trip using the drawing tool. The mapping tool also offers some extra control by giving distance measurements, layer settings and directions. Sharing is as simple as selecting the "Share" option from the top right of the screen.

If this all sounds like too much, don't worry. Plenty of the following tools and apps feature tight integration with Google Maps so all the hard work is done for you.

Hema Explorer

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Designed for the keen roadtripper, Hema Explorer is a fully-fledged navigation and mapping app for Australian roads that runs on iOS and Android. It supports online and offline GPS navigation and is one of the most comprehensive apps available to keep track of your trip.

The app comes with a variety of different maps including street, terrain, and satellite. A weather radar overlay adds another level of granularity -- plus there are over 40,000 points of interest included to give you information about sights and locations.

Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

Hema Explorer also supports adding custom waypoints to keep a track of your specific journey. Using your device's built-in camera, you can add geotagged photos to a particular waypoint.

The app also supports syncing trips via the Hema Explorer Cloud. This transfers waypoints, photos with geotagged information, and track recordings to your online account which can then be shared via Facebook, Twitter or a custom link.

Magellan eXplorist 610

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For those who want to get serious about mapping and prefer to carry a dedicated GPS device, the Magellan eXplorist range may be for you. Powered by two AA batteries, the unit acts as a navigation device and comes equipped with a 3.2-megapixel camera, microphone and touchscreen to record your trip.

Once the device calibrates your position, it can act as a navigator or a tool to track your progress. You can create waypoints and routes, while images taken using the device's camera are geotagged and placed on the map. Maps include road routes for Australia, United States, Canada, and Western Europe, with other major roads elsewhere in the world available on the default world map.

Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

Using the free VantagePoint software, you can import these tracks and geotagged images to see them overlaid on a satellite map. Alternatively, you can convert the GPX file created by the eXplorist to a KML file for easy importing into Google Maps or Google Earth.

The Traveler

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Available for Android, this free app provides a centralised way to keep tabs on your journey. Create a trip in the app by entering a name and optional parameters like a start/end date.

Once this is established, you can record a path that uses your smartphone or tablet's location to keep track of where you have been until you stop recording. On top of location mapping, the app lets you add photos, video, audio, notes and markers to your trip.

Plus, you can automatically import photos taken with the default camera app when recording a path, so you don't manually need to enter into the Traveler app and use the camera from there each time you want to take a photo.

Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

The Traveler includes S Pen support for some Samsung Galaxy Note handsets that lets you add sketches to a trip. Plus, if you are a Google Glass user, there are plenty of options for tracking your trip on the go.

Exporting is a one-touch process, with the option to send the route straight to Google Maps or to play the path via Google Earth.


For iOS users, TrackMyTour offers similar functionality to The Traveler, but lets your friends and family follow along with the journey (though not in real time). As it's not a real time GPS tracker, battery consumption should be reduced.

You can add waypoints even if you don't have a data connection, and then sync these when in Wi-Fi or data range. This app offers the most scope for acting as a travel diary as well as a route tracker, with captions and note-taking facilities available to document different stops along the way.

Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

While TrackMyTour is free, you are limited to two maps. An extra purchase is required to unlock more maps.

Sharing options are provided via email, Twitter or Facebook integration.