At a recent family gathering, a visiting relative mentioned he wanted to take a drive to the Berkshires, but didn’t know the best route. In response, three people pulled out cell phones to check travel apps and one person offered to loan him a GPS.

He looked around, astonished, and said, “doesn’t anyone have an actual map?

The question took us all by surprise — and for the most part, the answer was “no.” The best I could come up with was a tattered old Roadway Atlas that might have only had 48 states.

Time was everyone’s glove box was crammed with wadded-up maps from trips past and neatly-folded maps for trips yet to be taken. And while Smartphones, tablets and GPS devices have replaced the paper map for many, travel experts say there are plenty of people, like my relative, who prefer to use actual rather than virtual maps to mark routes and make notes.

“Absolutely, there is still a market for paper maps and atlases,” says Amy Krouse of Rand McNally. “Maps give perspective that GPS and small screen devices simply can’t.”

The company saw proof of that when it introduced “The Open Road: Rand McNally and the Story of the Great American Road Trip,” in June. The $14.99 gift set, which contains a 32-page book on road-side Americana and the birth of the road trip; an up-to-date mid-size Road Atlas and a wall map poster with the U.S. road network, has been selling out.

“People use maps and atlases for routing and to preserve memories of family road trips, as well,” says Krouse.

AAA spokeswoman Cindy Antrican, agrees.

“Though demand for paper maps has decreased, there’s a place for electronic mapping systems and there’s a place for maps,” says Antrican. “One doesn’t and shouldn’t replace the other. GPS systems can malfunction. A map lets you see the bigger picture, where you are and where you’re going. The safest way to travel is by using all the tools available.”

But finding maps, particularly free ones, is a little harder than it used to be when gas station counters sported displays filled with complimentary maps printed by Gulf, Texaco and other oil companies.

Connecticut residents can get state maps at no charge from the Department of Transportation. DOT communications director Judd Everhart emailed me the following information:

“The DOT produces and prints four different State of Connecticut maps, and has done so for as long as anyone here can remember. The traditional tourism map is by far the most popular and we receive requests from around the country all the time. We also print a farm map, a bicycle map and a motorcycle map. All of our maps are distributed for free.”

The Connecticut Office of Tourism distributes free maps and state guides at official state welcome centers.

Rand McNally sells state, regional and local maps on its website. Michelin Travel publishes more than 22 million maps and guides annually and sells them at here.

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, sells maps of all sorts.

AAA distributes free maps and tour guides to its members and sells atlases and other travel guides in its Travel Stores.

Tags: aaa, mapping, maps
Photo Credit: An AAA map of Pittsburgh, PA. david / Flickr