It's no wonder that some people opt for a cookie cutter, travel agent planned trip--or even an (ugh) bus tour. It must be easy to sit in someone's storefront and tell them your likes and dislikes and <P U F F>... all of a sudden, your trip is planned for you. Well, I've been planning every little detail of this trip for months. Yes, months. This week it's been getting the details of our technology straight. Skype. Dropbox. Global Calling options added to our cellphones. Making scans of documents to upload to Dropbox (just in case we loose something) or put on our Kindles and phones. Making certain we have all the cables labeled and ready to go. Getting a new charger that uses higher voltage and can quick charge up to 5 devices at once. Reading manuals for a new camera we got for the trip. Whew!
And maps. I'm still not quite done but getting there. I've used Google Earth to plan where to go and what to see--creating pin maps organized by folders (by region of our trip). I then saved each folder separately from Earth as a .kmz file which can be be copied to my PC, then onto either a smart phone or tablet. When I'm in a particular area I can load up "North Tuscany.kmz" and it will pop up in Google Earth! I can then plan our day before we leave our wifi equipped apartment.
As for actual driving routes, I've used Google MAPS to get DIRECTIONS for each specific route. Now the tricky part... After you name and save the resulting map in MY PLACES, then click on MY PLACES, click again on the new map name, and you'll see a little link called KML. This will let you save the map as a .KML file which also can load up into Google Earth! Slick.
For the more ad hoc driving around, I got a new Tom Tom GPS unit with the European maps already installed. I was trying to buy the Euro maps for my old Magellan but after a week of trying to download them with constant error messages I discovered from Magellan that no one in the world could get those maps due to server problems on their end. I couldn't even get them to send me a set on a memory stick (which is still an option on their web site for the same price as a direct download.) Anyway, the new Tom Tom is pretty easy to use and has some nice features. Plus, I'm adding addresses and phone numbers for all sorts of contacts in Italy.
Am I finished? Not by a long shot... but I'm getting close.