Travel Mapping with iPhone or Airtags

Hey all,

My daughter’s about to embark on a 7 week holiday in Europe. She’ll be travelling with her iPhone and a number of airtags. She’s looking for a way to map her travels so she can print a large poster when she gets home.

We’ve searched the app stores and can’t find anything which does what she wants. There’s a couple of apps which do simple ‘pin drops’ but she wants to record places she stays as well as linear travel routes showing the entire journey (she’s doing a couple of over night train trips etc).

Can anyone suggest anything?

While it’s a rather weird use case, I recently did something similar using a protect called Tractive which is a tracker for your dog (or cat). It uses cellular service so it’s not limited the way an AirTag is. You have to pay a monthly fee for the service because of that, plus the cost of the device (which was about $35, I think).

What’s neat is the free Tractive software can create a map of exactly where your pet has gone. I used it on a 6,000-mile road trip I took with my dog last fall and when I got back, I had an exact map of the entire trip. That wasn’t my purpose for having Tractive, of course (I got it to be able to track my dog since I knew we were going remote places where AirTags wouldn’t be reliable), but it was a nice side benefit.

However, in addition to the fees, another disadvantage is that you do have to keep the tracker charged (it uses USB to recharge). During one part of the trip I wasn’t paying attention and didn’t realize the tracker died (I should have charged it the night before) so there’s a gap in one part of the map. I also have no idea if Tractive works in Europe – it might be the plan I signed up for is US-only but they could have foreign plans.

At any rate, it’s probably overkill/too expensive for your specific use, but I just thought I’d throw it out there since it does exactly what you need.

A better option would be an app that does what you want. There’s an app called Arc I’ve used that does this. I liked it for a while, but I stopped using it. I can’t remember why, but I think it was because it generated so much data (the idea is to leave it tracking your everyday life). It would probably be perfect for a limited-time use like you’re wanting.


I downloaded an app called Polarsteps a couple of years ago. You are supposed to be able to plan, track and journal your trip with it. I’d looked at a few in 2021 but I did it after my trip so I didn’t try the planning portion, and I honestly like writing things better on paper than on my phone. But here it is


Maybe some of the apps used by hikers/runners/etc. would work. I’ve been using Gaia GPS for years. It will record your track and can drop pins as needed. The free version might be enough but subscription gets you more maps and features.

Yeah, if it were me, that’s what I’d look into. (Actually I’d use my current Garmin watch, an Epix 2, not my phone. I’ve done just that in the past with previous Garmin devices.) Sign up for a free Strava account, download the Strava app, and use Strava to record GPS tracks. The only trouble that would cause is that GPS drains power from the phone, so carrying a spare battery will be necessary. I don’t know if airplane mode turns GPS off as well, so I’d experiment beforehand.

For travel around Australia, where cell-phone coverage is woeful, I like to use a Garmin inReach device. It communicates with satellites and so is always available, even in the event of natural disasters.

For a monthly subscription you can use it to send and receive text messages (not voice or images). It has an iPhone app that shows your position on a topographic map (great for hiking) and a feature called Mapshare where your family and friends can follow your progress via a password-protected web page. This includes tracking the journey.

It also has an SOS button that connects the user, via satellite, with a Garmin service that can alert emergency services.

It is relatively expensive but is worth considering for peace-of mind.

I use Gaia GPS to save tracks on my fishing trips. I also use it for planning using Google maps and other similar Norwegian web pages. I drop pins on places that look like good places to park and spots in the rivers that look like good fishing spots. I have also used it for vacation planning in European towns. You can download the maps on your iPhone when you do your planning and then use offline while traveling if you wish to use less cellular. GPS tracking works with Mobile Data deactivated.

On several European trips, I have use a free gps tracking app called gps4camera. It is very “bare bones” in that all that it does is create a gpx track of your movements. At the end of the day, it provides a QR image that you photograph that allows offline synchronization of the camera clock and gps locations to add the photo metadata. You can also export the gpx file to google maps to overlay the track.

Thanks to everyone for the suggestions - I’ve passed them along to my daughter.

PolarSteps looks interesting and it appears you can even print books of your travels. I’m about to head away for a few days and might try it out myself.

Can’t wait to hear what you think of it! Like some others, I’ve done on-the-fly mapping while driving/hiking/biking using my bike Garmin. That also allowed friends to track me, but when I hit no service areas they couldn’t see me because the tracking is from the GPS to the phone. And that didn’t allow me to map where I wanted to go in advance.


I think she might like MyTracks. You hit “Record” at the beginning of your trip, and you get a map (Standard, or Satellite, or Hybrid) of everywhere you’ve been. You can turn on/off Points of Interest (Shopping, Eating & Drinking, Transport, Accommodation, etc). Lots of other features. Up to three tracks are saved in the free version.

Thanks, definitely looks to be the sort of thing she’s after.

And here’s the link to it. Looks nice. Quite surprised it’s free actually.