Google Maps is probably my most used travel app. I have been sharing my tips and tricks for using it for travel for years. Since these are questions I get over and over it is definitely time to share this article. If you have any questions or additional tips to share please leave them in the comments.
Download Maps For Offline Use
If you are traveling abroad, or have limited data, Google offers the ability to download maps for offline use. The maps stay in your files for one year. If you are on data when using this feature it will alert you how much data is necessary for the download. Try to remember to do this when you have access to WiFi. Once you download a map you can access it when you do not have service.
Access Google Maps Without Data or WiFi
An alternative to downloading the map is to load the map. This has been a “hack” of mine that I discovered by accident years ago. You load the area you need by zooming in and out to allow the buildings and streets to load. You can exit the app but do not close it out completely. Now, once you are without access to data or WiFi you can still access your map. Because your location is determined by GPS in your phone you will still receive an approximate of your location. It might be a few feet off but with access to street names you can figure out where you are with ease without dealing with paper maps.
Check Busy Times and Other Important Info
If you select a business on Google Maps you are given a lot of information providing that the business itself has offered it to Google. One of the most useful items, especially for busy establishments like museums or other tourist places, is busy times. From this, you can determine the best time to go to avoid long lines or crowds. Also from this page, you can see the full address, daily hours, phone number, website, reviews, photos, and upcoming events.
Save Places for Future Reference
I’m not sure what I would do without this feature. I use it an embarrassingly amount of times. Saving places gives you the ability to privately bookmark locations either with a heart for favorites, a star for whatever, a flag for want to go, and the ability to create your own list for marking. When using this feature at home I like to use Want to go flags for restaurants I want to try or new businesses to check out. Next time my friends want to meet for a meal I check my map and easily see all of the new choices.
I talk about this in more detail and how to use it in my article on how to create a travel itinerary.
Create Your Own Map
(Desktop Only) You can create your own maps which can be used to share with others or just for personal use. I create maps to post on blog posts to share sightseeing points and restaurant recommendations for other travelers.
To start, click on menu, then Your Places, Maps, and then Create Map. You will then have a screen like this:
- Click here to change the name and description of your map.
- Click on add layer and then the three dots to rename the layer. As you can see the blue bar on the left signifies that is the current layer selected.
- To select an area for your map use the search bar at the top.
You can create your own layers, routes, choose colors and icons to make the map more visually appealing.
- You can see Cathedrale Notre-Dame is marked with a unique blue pointer. If you look at my layers you can see it there under Sightseeing.
- When adding a location you can click on the map or use the search bar. Once you select a location a menu like this will pop up. You can use the paint can icon to change the colors and icons of that location. You can also provide a photo and additional information for those viewing your map.
- Here you can see the second location added with its custom icon. I like to match colors with layers, and will sometimes use different icons especially in a food layer to distinguish between coffee shops, food, fast food, and bars.
Here is an example of a shared map that I created where I included some more information and photos for some items. Click the menu on the top left to pull up a view of my layers and each item.
Traffic and Public Transport Layer
Traffic layer is another very useful item to see at a glance which is the best route to take. It also tells you when there are road closures, construction, or an accident. I use this regularly even when driving around my area because it saves me from sitting in traffic.
The transport layer is also great! If you are somewhere like London, Paris, or even Budapest with metro, train, or tram system you can see the lines of the routes over the map which can be super helpful in showing you which lines to take or best routes for the day.
Walking and Biking Routes and Times
You don’t just have driving directions on Google Maps but also walking, biking, taxi, and even public transport (when available). Whenever I go to London this is indispensable because I can pop in any location and it tells me the buses I can take and their times. As you see above you can see walking routes and times. You can also use the public transport layer to see if the route you are taking runs along one of those. I always use this feature, especially in large cities or somewhere new.
Mark Your Parking Place
This is one I learned about recently and it is so clever. Normally I just take a picture or place a star but now you can mark a temporary marker saying you parked somewhere and remove it when you are finished. When you click on the place where you parked, click the three dots at the top right, then Set as parking location. It should then look like the middle image. When you are done click the point on the map and click clear. Easy!
As always thank you so much for taking the time to read this post and I hope that it was helpful for you. If you have any other useful tips feel free to share them in the comments! If you want to follow along on my daily adventures check out my Instagram and Twitter.
Owner of wanderinghelene.com. Anthropologist, content creator, castle explorer, coffee drinker, and lover of markets and very old places!