Hidden a Tap or Two Away
My friends frequently say “Whoa! I wish I’d known this sooner” when I share these Google Maps tips and tricks with them.
These tricks aren’t buried deep within Google Maps or anything. They’re only a tap or two away. The problem is Google doesn’t make them obvious and not everyone has the time I do to mess around with the app to find them.
So let me share with you what I’ve found, my favorite not-so-secret Google Maps tips and tricks.
Maybe one or two will make you say, “I wish I’d known this sooner.”
9 Google Maps Tips
Google Maps Tip 1 of 9:
Download and Use Google Maps Offline
Just Say “No” to Screenshots
Instead of relying on the screenshots you take before leaving WiFi behind, download the map of the area you’re traveling to and use Google Maps offline.
Even when you’re not traveling it makes sense to download the offline map of your home city too. It loads faster and saves you data.
There are a couple of ways to download Google Maps for offline use now. I prefer this one:
- When connected to the internet, open Google Maps and zoom in/out to the area you wish to save online.
- Type “ok maps” in the search bar and click Search.
- Confirm the area and download.
- When you no longer need the offline map, click the three horizontal lines on the top left -> Offline maps -> Select the map to delete -> Press delete.
Google Maps Tip 2 of 9:
Save Google My Maps to Your Phone
Save Others’ Google My Maps to Your Phone
“Google My Maps” are maps like this example:
Helpful bloggers like Kim and I make them to show our readers the exact locations of points of interest we recommend with custom locations and symbols.
But we don’t want you to just look at them…
Take them with you!
Save these Google My Maps to your phone so that you can still see and access all their info on your Google Maps.
How to Save a Google My Map
Any time you see a Google My Map you’d like to refer to later on your phone, click the rectangle icon on the top right corner. This will open the map up in Google Maps on your phone and automatically save it on your Google account.
How to Use Google My Maps Offline
Annoyingly, we need a workaround to use Google My Maps offline because there is no built-in way.
Here are the steps:
- On your phone’s Google Maps, click the three horizontal lines on the top left.
- Tap “Your Places.”
- In “Your Places” tap “Maps” on the upper right of your screen.
- Locate the Google My Map you want to see and use offline and tap it to open it up on your screen. The map will then be accessible for offline use
- Don’t exit Google Maps! You can switch to other apps, but don’t close Google Maps entirely or else the cache will be wiped out and you will no longer be able to see your desired Google My Map offline.
Note: You can only have up to 5 Google My Maps visible on your Google Maps at a time.
Google Maps Tip 3 of 9:
Make Your Own Customized Google My Map
I don’t recommend creating Google My Maps for travel planning unless it’s for a blog or to otherwise share with many others.
Instead, I recommend everyone use Saved Places, which we’ll cover below. Saved Places is less customizable, but much easier to edit on the fly on your phone than Google MyMaps.
…Unless You Really Want These Functionalities
Google My Maps has some functionalities that Saved Places doesn’t have that might make it useful for specific needs:
- More customizable. Custom icons, lines, and directions.
- Collaborative. You can work with others on the same map.
How to Make Your Own Google My Map
If you really want the functionalities or are just curious to see for yourself:
- On your desktop, log in to your Google account.
- Open the Google My Maps page.
- Click “+ Create a New Map.”
- Type in the search box to begin adding locations.
- Play around with all the mostly self-explanatory functionalities or follow Google’s My Maps instructions.
Google Maps Tip 4 of 9:
The Best Way to Find Stops Along the Way
If you’re using Google Maps for directions and need to stop for a bathroom, coffee, food, or whatever break along the way, here’s the best way to do so.
Add a Pit Stop
- When you’re in the step-by-step direction mode of Google Maps, click the magnifying glass search icon on the top right of your screen
- Choose from one of the options that appear there, Gas Stations, Restaurants, Grocery Stores, and Coffee shops, or tap Search and type in whatever category of the location you’re looking for
- Google Maps will show you on the map all the potential places along the way and how many minutes of a detour each is.
- Tap whichever location you want to stop at along the way and the app will automatically add it to your route.
Remove a Pit Stop
- Tap the bottom part of the screen where it says the time and distance to your destination.
- Select “Remove stop.”
- Choose which stop to remove from your route.
Google Maps Tip 5 of 9:
When NOT to Use Google Maps
For Hiking Trails, Use Maps.Me
If you want to go hiking, don’t count on Google Maps to have the trail you’re looking for.
Do count on Maps.Me to have it, though. It’s a free, easy-to-use, and lightweight alternative.
How to Use Maps.Me
- Before you go offline, locate the hiking trail you want to follow on Maps.Me.
- Download the map of the area Maps.Me will ask you to download. These are generally less than 30 Mb.
- You’re set! The map’s ready to be used offline.
Google Maps Tip 6 of 9:
Share Live Locations
Google Maps makes it easy for you to share your location and see the location of others who’ve shared their location with you. You can share permanently or for a predetermined amount of time, from 1 hour to 3 days.
Other apps like WhatsApp and Find My Friends have the same functionality, but I find it to be more convenient when it’s right on Google Maps.
How to Share Your Location
- On Google Maps, tap the menu icon on the top left (the three horizontal lines beside the search box).
- Select “Location sharing.”
- Tap “Get Started.”
- Choose how long you want to share your location for, from 1 hour to 3 days.
- Share your location. Google Maps creates a link that you can share with specific people or even share publicly.
How to Stop Sharing Your Location
You can stop sharing your location at any time.
Simply go to your “Location sharing” settings and tap the “x” beside the people or link you want to stop sharing with.
Google Maps Tip 7 of 9:
Zoom in and Out With One Finger
Ditch the Pinch!
We were taught as children not to pinch and it’s a lesson we should continue to abide by when it comes to zooming in and out on Google Maps.
Instead of pinching:
- Double-tap the Google Maps screen with your finger of choice
- On the second tap, hold your finger on the screen
- Keeping your finger on the screen, swipe up to zoom out and swipe down to zoom in.
Give it a try and you’ll immediately realize it’s a much easier, smoother, and faster way to zoom in and out.
Ditch the pinch and start swiping!
Google Maps Tip 8 of 9:
Make a Custom Route with Google Maps
Here’s how to make a custom route on Google Maps, save it for future use, and share it with others.
It’s not as easy as it should be because, for whatever reason, you can’t send a custom route with directions from your computer to your phone.
This leaves you with two options:
Option 1: Step-by-Step Directions With Less Control
With this option, you cannot drag the route to be exactly what you like. You have to play with stops along the way to get Google’s directions to match your exact desired route.
- Open Google Maps on your phone or computer
- Enter two locations along your desired route.
- Add stops. Do it on your phone by tapping the three dots to the top right of your screen and tapping “Add Stop” in the options menu that opens up. On your computer, click “Add Destination” on the top left of your screen, just below the two locations you already input.
- Arrange your stops in their desired order.
- Fine-tune your route by adding more intermediary stops if the route Google Maps gives you isn’t exactly what you’d like.
- Share or save the route. On mobile, do it by tapping the three dots in the top right and selecting “Share Directions” in the options menu. On a computer, click “Details” to get the detailed step-by-step directions and click the share icon that appears to the left of the print icon.
Option 2: Exact Route Without Step-by-Step Directions
Using this approach, you can make the route exactly as you wish, but you won’t get Google’s step-by-step directions when you follow it:
- Open Google My Maps on your computer and make a new map, naming it however you wish.
- Click the “Add directions” icon underneath the search bar. This will open up a new Untitled Layer.
- Type in the locations—your starting point, destination, and points in between—in this new layer.
- Fine-tune your route any time by clicking and dragging the blue route line.
- Open this route on your phone by following the steps in Google Maps Trick #2 above. The line you made will show up, but Google Maps will not provide you the step-by-step directions.
Google Maps Tip 9 of 9:
Never Miss a Highlight With Google Maps Saved Places
Our Favorite Google Maps Tip
If there’s only one thing you take from this Google Maps tips and tricks post, let it be this.
Unlike Google My Maps locations, your saved places stay on your offline map even if you restart your phone or Google Maps app.
How to Save Places on Google Maps
How to Use Saved Places On the Road
- Open Google Maps on your phone. (Remember to follow Tip #1 to save if for offline use!)
- Go to the area you’ll be traveling to.
- Look at the icons to see what nearby locations you’d previously saved and decide which, if any, to check out.
Unleash Saved Places’ Potential
Because Saved Places is such an important Google Map functionality, we’ve put together a separate post that explains why we use it so heavily, how to get started, how to get the most out of it, and answers to frequently asked questions.
Happy Travels Using These Google Maps Tips and Tricks!
Please leave a comment if you have any question about these Google Maps tips and tricks or if you have favorite we didn’t mention.