Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Giftting 2016: DIY Travel Map

I love a good map. I blame this entirely on working in an engineering firm for seven years. I also love to travel. So once we were mostly settled into our house, I decided that one of my first house projects was going to be a DIY Travel Map.  This also makes a fabulous gift for a new homeowner, a traveler, or even someone with an apartment. It's a daily reminder of where you've been and where you want to go.

This is my travel map!
Before we get started, let's be honest about this level of DIY. It's pretty basic. I don't DIY.  I have super creative friends and I gladly pay them for their creativity and their work. I like to think I'm creative, but not in a DIY way. If you are in any way worried about whether or not you can do this, trust me, you can.

So, let's do this!

Step 1 - What kind of map do you want?

Selecting the type of map is key. A lot of research went in to the type of map I wanted.  We will mostly do domestic travel, but we've both done international travel and I wanted to capture that. You can get domestic maps or international maps. I also seriously contemplated getting one of each, but thought that might be a bit much.  If it's a gift, think about the type of travel the person does. For example, if I was making one for my friend that loves cruises, I'd do an international map. But if I was making one for my friend and her husband that love road trips, I'd probably do a US map.

Step 2 - How big do you want it?

Personally, I think Steps 1 and 2 can be done interchangeably, but I think it helps to determine which map you want first. I say that because if you're doing international,you are going to want a big map.  Mine is 24" x 36". It's a monster, but you can get larger ones! You will want a larger map for the level of detail you'll need.  If you're doing a domestic map, you can probably get away with smaller. Either way, you want it to be big enough that there are plenty of cities for pinning opportunities!

This is what a 24" x 36" map looks like on my wall upstairs.

Step 3 - Find your map!

Okay, we're starting to get to the actual DIY portion. I used a political map and they are available in many forms.  They aren't sold in your box stores, at least not that I found, but can probably be found in a teacher store or like a bookstore.  Most are going to be online. Here are some options from Amazon:

Domestic (US) Maps

International Maps

Step 4 - Gather your supplies.

You're going to need a frame, foam core, spray glue, and map pins. I recommend finding a frame that a) doesn't have glass and b) doesn't have a back. I bought mine for $15 at a home store and it had both. There were cuts and blood involved. If you do a 24" x 36" map, you can easily find foam core for that size at a craft store. If you get a weird size map, you'll have to cut it down.  We ended up shaving some of the foam core off to get it to fit in the frame. I found the spray glue at a hardware store.  For the map pins, I found those on Amazon.  Here's the ones I got:

Step 5 - Mount your map. 

This gets a little tricky.  If you use a rolled map, you'll want to flatten it a day or two ahead of time. That will help with mounting it.  Once the map is flat, you'll want to evenly cover the entire foam core with the spray glue. We did this in the garage and then carried it upstairs to the office to attach the map.  Once you've sprayed the glue, do your best to line the map up and place it where you want it on the foam core. It's not the easiest thing in the world to do and definitely easier with two people.  Weight it down and let it dry at least overnight.  I recommend old literature books for holding down the map!

Flattening the map with my literature books. You can see the foam core and frame in the back.
Step 6 - Frame it.

Once your map is dry, slide it into your frame. Mine doesn't have a back and it holds really well. 

Step 7 - Pin your destinations or give it to the person to pin theirs!

This is the fun part! I chose map pins that came in different colors because it was important to me to accurately map our travels since we've traveled independently and with each other. Our colors are as follows: Blue for Aaron, Yellow for Sarah, Green for both (yellow and blue mate green seal anyone?!) and Red for home. Some people do it differently and do one color for where they've traveled, one for their next destination and another for where they want to go. If you're giving this as a gift, maybe go ahead and mark where home is and then give them the map to pin themselves. Pinning where you've been and where you want to go next is the best part!

These are most of our pins. 

My one lone pin in Japan.
I also came up with ground rules for pinning. Cause that's how I roll.  They are:
  • You have to have actually spent time in the place. Long layovers don't count. Otherwise I would have a pin in Tokyo!
  • You have to remember it. A place that your parents took you as a baby doesn't count
  • You can pin all the major cities listed (if you've visited them), but if you're doing smaller cities that aren't on the map, only use one pin in an area. This helps keep your map pretty!
This project cost about $60 from beginning to end. You can buy ones already completed on Etsy or Amazon for $100 and up.  It was a fun project to do with the hubby and we had fun pinning our travel destinations.  I think it's an awesome gift for someone that loves to travel. And if you do a smaller map, it's probably a more cost effective product! It really is so much fun to put your pins up. When we came back from Alaska this summer, I was so stinking excited to put up all my new green pins! It's truly one of my favorite things in my house and such a good way to remember our vacations and time away.  So often I feel like we build the anticipation of the trip, take the trip and then forget that it happened. Finding ways to remember experiences is important to me and this one is no different. 


  1. What a great gift idea, especially for travel lovers! Thanks for sharing! :)

  2. This might actually get me motivated to travel!
    xo, Lee

  3. What a great way to keep track of your travels. This would also make a perfect give for a military family like mine. We can see all the places we have been as a family. Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. What a great gift idea. Love this.