1. Travel Maps for Beginners

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Are you interested in creating your very own personalized travel map? This guide will walk you through creating your data set, importing your data into Tableau, and generating a map. I will also walk through a few ways to customize your image.

If at any time you have issues through these steps, feel free to shoot me an email at You can also check out Tableau’s help forums, and post your issues for Tableau experts to help you out. Keep in mind that you should be using a laptop or desktop to use Tableau. You cannot create these maps on your phone.

This guide was created for use with Tableau Public version 2018.2. If you are using a different version of Tableau, your screen may look different.

Getting Tableau

Tableau is a data visualization and analytical software. Tableau Desktop, the main version of Tableau, does cost money. You can download a free 14 day trial of Tableau Desktop, or if you are student with a student email you can get access to Tableau Desktop for free for a year. A third option is for you to use Tableau Public, which is completely free.

Tableau Public is essentially the same as Tableau Desktop – the only difference is, you cannot save workbooks (Tableau files) privately to your own computer. Everything that you create and want to save will have to be published to the Tableau Public site. When workbooks are published to Tableau Public, anyone can see and download your work. This also means that they will have access to the data that you post. As long as you don’t have any private data, this is a fine option. If you are nervous, you can get the free trial.

Download Tableau off of their website, and come back here for the next steps.

Creating the Data Set

Whether you decide to cave and order a map from Travel After Five, or you want to just continue on, you will need to create your data set. The data set is a spreadsheet that contains the information that you want to map!

TAF-Travel-Map-Data Excel Sheet Download | TAF-Travel-Map-Data on Google Sheets

You can download the template spreadsheet I have created above. You can either download the excel spreadsheet, or view the spreadsheet on Google Sheets. I recommend opening up your own copy in Excel, and saving it as a .xls file. The first tab of the spreadsheet is the template – the data that you will need to fill out. The second tab of the spreadsheet is the Data Dictionary. This explains what the headers in the spreadsheet mean, and what the data may look like.

Once you complete the “Map Data” spreadsheet of the areas that you would like to map, save the file on your computer where you can easily locate it later. Here is the example data that I will be using for this tutorial:

I am going to create a map of everywhere my husband and I went on our honeymoon! My husband and I did a one week road trip followed by a one week cruise. If I wanted to, instead of the Category “Honeymoon”, I could have labeled my data “Road Trip” versus “Cruise” as the category names. I decided to keep it simple here.

Opening Tableau and Importing Your Data

Once Tableau is downloaded onto your computer, open the program and you will be brought to the welcome page. Before we can begin creating our visualization, you will need to import your data set. Select “Microsoft Excel” on the left side here.

Navigate your spreadsheet, and double click on it. Your spreadsheet should have imported into Tableau. On the left, if you used the Excel template, you can see the two tabs that we had in the spreadsheet: Map Data and Data Dictionary. Drag the Map Data tab into the main pane. Your data should then appear in the preview below.

Select Sheet 1 at the bottom of the screen. Here is the area where you will create your visualization on a worksheet. A worksheet is a single graph or map.


Here is the area where you will create your visualization on a worksheet. A worksheet is a single graph or map.

You can either double click on the city, state, or country field. This will automatically put fields into the Columns, Rows, and Marks panels of Tableau. See the highlighted areas in the screenshot below.

Since my data set does not have states, the State field is throwing my data off. I will drag this field out of the Marks panel. Then, Tableau automatically populates my map:

Let’s say you would rather see a filled map of countries, rather than individual cities. Maybe you only included countries in your data set. In this case, remove all of the blue and green pills from the Columns, Rows, and Marks so you have a blank slate. Now, simply double click on Country.

Tableau should have filled in the countries for you. If Tableau shows dots instead, then select the Show Me button in the top right. In the drop down,  select a Filled Map.

And there it is, your map is populated! The next step is to customize your map, and format it to look pretty. If your map looks correct, move onto -> 2. Formatting your travel map.

If your data seems off, or you receive an error such as a null value, check out -> Troubleshooting your travel map. I am currently working on this guide to troubleshooting your map. Bare with me!

Michelle Maraj is a consultant who frequently gets the opportunity to travel for work. Michelle loves pretending she knows how to use a camera, seeing new cities, and visiting touristy attractions. Michelle currently runs

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