|by Sean O'Neill||Helpful Websites||4|
Schmap.com offers free travel guides to more than 200 places in the U.S., Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Schmap mashes up local listings with zoomable city maps. Restaurants, museums, and stores are marked with icons. You can bookmark favorite attractions for printing out later.
The website makes it easy to find what you want. Click on a city name, such as Miami, then click on your interest, such as "top attractions," and then scroll through a list of attractions matched with photos and descriptions written by professionals (such as the writers of WCities guidebooks) and amateurs. The company says that more than 50 million Schmap Guides have been downloaded in the past couple of years.
I found that the guides are great for planning out a day's itinerary, especially because of a tool that lets you measure the footsteps between two destinations. But I found the guides to be weak on trustworthy recommendations about what to see.
Schmap.com also offers free software you can download to your PC to build your own custom guide for sharing or printing. Unlike the travel guides described above, I found the tool for creating custom maps wasn't as easy or speedy to use as other services, such as Trip It, which we've blogged about previously.
People who upload images to the photo-sharing website Flickr and who add descriptive tags to their photos may receive an email in their in-box, inviting them to contribute their photo to a Schmap map. You won't get paid for the privilege, but you'll be able to feel satisfaction that your photo of a hotel room, restaurant, or attraction will help other people plan a better vacation. Editors from Schmap troll Flickr for photos they like, so you never know...