Does Anyone Still Use Paper Maps?

Turns out, what's old is new again.

Young Women With Paper Map in Car

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There’s no denying that smartphones have changed the world. Whether you’re watching a TikTok, reading a recipe, texting your bestie, watching a Dolly Parton video clip, or snapping a photo of your dog, smartphones are incredibly useful. One of the most helpful things smartphones have done, though, is make it nearly impossible to get lost. While we all have one parent who can still manage to go astray, smartphones with their built-in GPS and map apps mean that you can always find a gas station, a diner, or the fastest route to Nashville. So why are so many people returning to paper maps? Let’s take a deeper look. 

“A combination of maps as art and a search for a bigger picture from young travelers has sparked a sizable jump in sales,” reports NBC’s Sam Brock for TODAY on the recent surge in paper map sales. AAA made 123% more paper maps in 2022 than in 2021, according to TODAY. In fact, paper maps have been growing in popularity for a few years now, starting, as many things did, in the early days of the pandemic, when cars felt safer than trains, buses, or planes. That year, the United Kingdom’s national mapping service, Ordnance Survey, saw a whopping 144% rise in sales of paper maps in 2020, followed by a 28% rise the next year. 

So why are maps booming now when most of us have a GPS in our hands at all times? Tony Rodono owner of Charlotte, North Carolina.’s MapShop, told TODAY that it has to do with wanting to understand the world, not just drive through it. “If you simply want to get from Point A to Point B by all means listen to the GPS robot voice,” Rodono tells TODAY. “If you want to understand the world around you, the robot voice can’t help. Maps offer contexts and clues as to why a place is like it is and how you stand in relation to the places around you.”

As for why paper maps are returning to popularity,  Brock speculates that it may have to do with people spending more time in remote places like national parks where cell phones don’t work and paper maps are the only option. That means the next time you’re planning a road trip, bring your phone, but maybe pack a paper map, too, just so the kids will think you’re cool.

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