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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Google is taking over the world

I must confess that I'm addicted to Google's "My Maps" feature.

I use it to plan business trips. I use it for online supplemental material for stories I write for Lake Erie Living. And now, I have discovered that it works great for creating travel itineraries for foreign travel, too (as long as Google has mapped the country).

So, I tried it out for my upcoming trip to Ecuador next month (Oct. 9-14, 2008). I was able to find lodging close to the South American Explorers Clubhouse that I want to visit on my first day. (South American Explorers is the organization for which I volunteered in Peru for five months in 2004; and in Buenos Aires in 2006.) And I was able to change the icons on the map, so I can quickly see what points are restaurants, hotels, shops, transportation hubs or tourist attractions.

And voilá:

Laura's Ecuador Itinerary

View Larger Map

With My Maps, you can create customized maps in which you can add placemarks for the locations you want to visit. If a place already exists in Google's extensive database, then all the contact information appears at the placemark. If Google doesn't recognize the location, you can add it, then enter information about the place.

Once you have created a map, you can embed photos and videos; share the map with others; give other people permission to edit the map; import KML or GeoRSS to the map; open it in Google Earth; and embed it in a Web site, such as this blog! AND it's dynamic, so you can move the map around, and click on all the points of interest to get more information.

Lonely Planet may still be my primary travel planning companion, but with "My Maps," I can simplify the abundant information and plot only the things that I'm interested in doing.

Google has it all mapped out.

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