by Laura Neilson
For globe-trotters looking to creatively plot out a future destination, A La Carte's hand-drawn maps buck the trend of the technology-driven applications in favor of a unique analog map that doubles as a crafty souvenir or an artful gift for an impending traveler.
Each beautifully-designed folding map comes with a welcome letter offering important information about the destination. It includes details like where to exchange money, how to get around, what to do on a rainy day, which gifts to bring home, crucial phone numbers and, along with a few insider tips such as where to discover free swing dancing at an old mansion in Washington D.C. or where to find a distinctly charming Japanese beer garden in Tokyo.
In addition to the hand-held map, users gain access to an online database for each city, which provides updated recommendations from residents in the know. You can even create your own personalized itinerary or, if you're feeling particularly adventurous, you can purchase and customize your own map with destinations and tips suited for a particular type of trip.
Founded by two Swiss travelers, A La Carte Maps cater specifically to the flashpacker—the "backpacker who loves to journey in style." With a strong emphasis on corporate social responsibility, as well as positive-impact travel, 10% of every city map's profit will go into a social project in that city.
Currently, guides are available for Washington DC, Barcelona, Munich, Zurich, Shanghai, Tokyo, with New York, Paris, London and Vienna guides in the works for early December 2009.
Maps run €9 each online from A La Carte.