- Associated Press - Saturday, August 29, 2015

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - In a west Omaha strip mall, a small team is using a 4,000-year-old navigational tool to help cement travelers’ vacation plans: a map. You know, the printed kind.

Did you think they had been cast aside along the road to progress?

Nope. Despite being equipped with voice-guided directions, some Americans say they’d be lost without a paper map, the Omaha World-Herald (https://bit.ly/1Lvu7t5 ) reported.

For that reason, the AAA office at Omaha’s Clocktower Village near Westroads Mall hires an intern each year to keep up with the demand for custom-made map booklets to point the way for summer vacationers.

Its signature TripTik is still going strong, the auto club says, even in the age of in-dash GPS and Google Maps. The TripTiks come free with AAA membership.

Likewise, the drawing of maps - using aerial or satellite images or driving or even trekking through jungles - is still going strong at International Travel Maps and Books, a mapmaker and publisher based in Vancouver, Canada, that also has a brick-and-mortar store.

For the past decade, the company has sold about 20,000 paper maps each month, said owner Jack Joyce, who is about to embark on a mapping project in South America.

“They sell just as well as they did 10 years ago,” he said. “Business is good.”

Why would anyone need a paper map in this day and age?

Said Joyce: “You never have to recharge them, never have to worry about cell tower coverage. If the electronics fail, you can revert to paper.”

Those features are particularly important for hikers and travelers who take the road less traveled, where electronic connections can be spotty, he said.

There should be travelers aplenty over the coming Labor Day weekend, especially because of relatively low gas prices. Last year nearly 30 million Americans hit the road over Labor Day weekend - the highest volume since 2008, according to AAA.

And there is certainly a vacationers’ market to be tapped: Last year, direct spending on leisure-related travel totaled $644 billion in the United States. Of the $928 billion spent in 2014 on both leisure and business travel, $163 billion involved direct expenditures on auto transportation, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

To help with the surge of members seeking help with their summer auto excursions, the AAA office near Westroads still assembles TripTiks. Older versions of the guides, which were made of preprinted strips, have been replaced with computer-generated printouts that can pinpoint roadside attractions, lodging, campgrounds, obstructions - even the locations of electric charging stations for travelers with electric vehicles.

On a recent morning, Rod Wise of Omaha visited AAA for help planning a road trip to Ontario, Canada. Wise, who is retired, said he planned to go fishing with friends for walleye near Red Lake, in Ontario.

He knows the 983-mile route - “we’ve driven it before,” he said - but this year he wanted to know where he and his fishing buddies should expect highway construction delays. They’re towing an 18-foot boat behind their pickup truck.

For that information, Wise turned to Isaac Reilly, this summer’s AAA intern helping with the maps.

It took Reilly about seven minutes to map the route on a computer, print a paper copy, slice it up with a paper knife, then bind it into a neat, 51-page booklet.

Each day Reilly and two other employees produce 15 to 20 such TripTiks for AAA members - a number that’s held steady for the past several years.

Until this year, the Omaha office’s TripTiks were assembled in Milwaukee - a process that often took a week to 10 days, said AAA spokeswoman Rose White. Now they can be assembled at local AAA offices in a few minutes.

“All the construction is marked in yellow dots,” Reilly said as Wise flipped through the turn-by-turn directions and maps in his personalized guide. Wise said he just feels “more comfortable” having paper maps in hand.

Still not convinced there’s a market for the printed map when electronic cartography is just a few clicks away?

Joyce, the Canadian mapmaker, has an answer: “You can’t get the entire country of Armenia or the entire state of Nebraska or Iowa on a phone or computer screen.”

___

Information from: Omaha World-Herald, https://www.omaha.com

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