GeekMom Secret – Where to Find the Best (Free!) Map.

Since we’re a family that moves quite a bit, we have a large collection of maps. The first thing we do, after hubby comes home with the news that we’re packing up again, is collect as many maps as we can, of our new home region.

Photo: Judy Berna

This recent move, from NY to Colorado, left me with tall stack of maps, because we explored so many amazing places near our upstate home. Just to name a few, I have NYC subway maps, Boston walking maps, maps of the best way to get to JFK airport at any given time of day, and maps that showed me the route to the four IKEA stores in my vicinity.

Back when we lived in Utah, I accidentally discovered a source for my favorite maps. The best part was, they were free.

My dad had come to visit us, from Missouri, and when he left, he thoughtfully left behind the map that had come with his rental car. I tucked it behind the seat, knowing I had plenty of maps already. Then one day I got stuck. Hubby had borrowed the maps out of my van, to research an upcoming trip. I was in the middle of Salt Lake City, and not really sure where I was going.

I reached behind the seat and pulled out my dad’s leftover map. It was laid out beautifully and got me where I needed to be, with no confusion. I found myself turning to that simple map over and over, even after my ‘real’ maps were returned to my van (with only minimal fussing at hubby for almost leaving me stranded).

Once I realized I was almost exclusively using my rental agency map, I stopped by the local copy shop and had it laminated. For the next two years, it was my favorite go- to map, every time we had a new location to find in Salt Lake City.

I had forgotten about my trusty Utah map until just recently. We bought all the varieties of maps when we moved to New York and I never thought about picking up a new version at the rental car agency. Then, in the middle of our chaotic move out to Colorado, I rented a van for a few days. Laying in the passenger seat was a complimentary map.

Bells went off in my head and I not only snatched it up, I grabbed an extra at the check in desk when I returned the van.

I’m not sure where the closest copy shop is, here in my new town, but I used one of my favorite “teacher tricks” to laminate my trusty new maps – clear packing tape, covering the whole area, then trimming the edges.

I’m not sure why the rental car companies are so good at making maps. I can easily ignore all the tiny logos, that show where their stores are located, because the rest of the city is laid out so clearly. So if you’re in the market for a map, a good, clear map, that will lay out your home town in the most logical way possible, stop by the rental car office. They have free treasures, just laying there on the check-in counter.