How to Easily Create a Travel Itinerary Map in OS X

Have you had an opportunity to use the Photo Book feature in iPhoto on the Mac? I’ve been using it for years, and have consistently found the quality of these books - paper, covers and color fidelity - to match the quality of and attention to detail that has come to be expected of Apple. I’ve given photo books as gifts on many occasions over the years. The books are great to present to a happy bride and groom after their wedding event. I have also used the books professionally for client photography.

An ideal use for Photo Books is for the creation of travelogues. iPhoto offers several travel themes to choose from that you can apply to your book layout, such as Tropical, Asian, and Old World Travel. 

A travel itinerary map of Italy created in iPhoto

This beautiful travel itinerary map is easy to create in iPhoto

Here’s one of my favorite features: iPhoto can automatically create beautiful maps showing all or part of a travel itinerary - precisely laying out your travel route from country to country and city to city. The trip destinations are accurately plotted, and a number of map styles can be selected.

That’s all well and good, but what if you don’t care about making a book and want to have iPhoto just create the map for you to use elsewhere? Perhaps you would like just the map of your travels to use in a Keynote presentation, to paste in a document, or to simply print out  to frame and hang on a wall.

Let me show you how to customize a travel map in iPhoto, then export just the map in PDF format. From there, you can use that PDF map file any way you’d like.

Creating your map in iPhoto

For the purposes of this article, the instructions and illustrations are based on iPhoto 9.5.1 running in OS X Mavericks 10.9.2. In order for the maps to work in iPhoto, you need to be connected to Internet.

  • Launch iPhoto. Select either Events or Photos from the Library section of the Source List on the left.
  • Make sure that no photos or events are selected in the main window. You can use File > Select None.
  • Create a new Photo Book project by first clicking on the Share button on the bottom toolbar. A selection panel pops up; choose Book from the Create section.
  • If you have no pictures selected, you should next see a warning about creating an “empty project.” That’s fine; click Continue.

The Photo Book Selection page in iPhoto

Select a Picture Book theme then click on Create

  • In the Picture Book setup panel that appears next, you need to select from one of several book themes available. There are some travel-specific themes, but you can use these steps for any theme. Click open the Picture Book popup menu at the top. For this article, I am using the standard “Travel” theme selectable from the bottom of the list of themes.
  • Click on the Create button found at the bottom of the main panel. iPhoto sets up the book template with the required minimum 20 pages. You will be working on just one page to create the map; the rest don’t matter.
  • Select the Cover Page by clicking on it. A heavy blue selection stroke will indicate the selection.
  • Click on the Add Page button in the bottom-right toolbar. A new Photo Book page is added after the Cover Page, and should be numbered as page 1, but ultimately, the page number doesn’t matter.
  • Click on the newly created page to select it. Next, you will format this page as your map page.
  • Click on the Layout button found at the bottom of the main panel. This will open the Layout Panel on the right.
  • In the Layout panel, click on the Layout popup menu, and select Map. One or more Map Styles appear. 

The Photo Book Layout panels in iPhoto

In Photo Book Layout, with the map page selected (1),you can select the background color (2), 
the map layout (3), and the map style (4).

  • At this point, don't be concerned about the location that the map thumbnails are depicting. These simply act as placeholders. Eventually, the correct locations from your itinerary will automatically be plotted on the maps.
  • Select the desired Map Style, and make sure the Include Text checkbox is NOT ticked. You will see that map style reflected in the thumbnail representing your selected page.
  • If you will be using a Map Style that includes a colored mat or border, you can select the color from the swatches at the top of the Layout Panel.
  • You are now ready to work on the map itself. Click on the Options button at the bottom of the main panel.
  • Double-click on your new map page to be editing. This will isolate the page and zoom in.

The Photo Book Layout panels in iPhoto

Set up your map with your destinations, the proper map will be generated
by iPhoto and your destinations plotted. Turn on Lines for added effect

  • Before proceeding, you must select the map on the page - not the page itself. Click on the center of the map to select it. This will bring up all your map editing tools and options on the right-hand panel.
  • Select a Map Style from the top by clicking on one of the sample thumbnails. You’re offered a number of classy-looking map designs. Try them all to see which one works best for you. By the way, you can change the map style at any time.
  • Do you want iPhoto to plot travel lines from location to location on the map? If so, go to the Line popup menu, and select either Curved or Straight.
  • Begin populating the places you are visiting, or have visited. This is done in the Places section in the Options panel. Use the familiar + button at the bottom of the Places list box and start adding your locations. Simply start typing the city and country. iPhoto will start auto-filling the location, and you can choose from a list, if necessary. If you plan to use connecting lines, it’s best if you enter the locations in the proper travel sequence. However, you can always change the order of the location entries later by dragging them up and down within the list.

This is where iPhoto needs the Internet connection for it to work its magic. Enter the city, or major point-of-interest - like an airport. iPhoto uses on-line data from Apple Maps to offer you the proper choices based on your input. As you enter locations, the appropriate map is plotted for you real-time, with or without lines depicting your route, and integrates it into the Map Style you selected earlier. It’s a beautiful thing to behold!

  • Check out other options available to you in the Show section of the Options panel.
  • At any point in this entire process, don’t forget that you can change the map zoom setting via the slider in the bottom toolbar all the way to the left. At the same time, you can drag the actual map around to position it  properly within the page. As a valuable bonus, you can select any text that iPhoto generates on the map, then format the text using the text formatting tools that will appear in the right panel.

Exporting your map from iPhoto

  • Once your map is just the way you want it, go to File > Print

The Print dialog in iPhoto

In the Print dialog, navigate to the map page you created, select Single page printing, click on PDF and select Save as PDF

  • Inside the Print dialog, flip through the page thumbnails until you see your map. Do this via the little arrow buttons directly below the page thumbnail.
  • Still within the Print dialog, select Single in the “Pages:” popup menu above the thumbnail. This will ensure that you will end up with just the map page, not all 20-some pages.
  • To create a PDF file of your map, click on the PDF button at the bottom of the Print dialog. From the resulting popup menu, select Save as PDF to save to disk. You can also choose to Open in Preview if you want to do some annotating first.

Finally, once you’ve created your map in iPhoto, remember that it’s part of a Photo Book project, and it will be saved in iPhoto. Unless you delete the book, it’s always accessible to you in the Projects section at the bottom of the Source List in iPhoto’s left-hand panel. Keep the Photo Book project in iPhoto so you can edit your map at any time without starting from scratch.

Creating a nice travel itinerary map for any document, presentation or slide show is a great way to add a professional touch to your efforts.