There is a reason that Google Maps is one of the most prominent and prolific apps out there today. It has become so much more than just getting us from one place to another. This is no mobile Garmin! It is loaded with many powerful and useful features that can help you do things you would normally not expect a simple GPS mapping device to do.
Alongside showing you visuals of your destination, providing travel times to destinations via a variety of transportation means or on foot, suggesting potentially intended destination queries, and toying with augmented reality features, Google Maps has some interesting and super helpful features that could be of great use to us in our travels. Some of them are more than useful, they are even fun!
Let’s take a look at just (yes, just) 20 of some cool tricks and tips that you can begin to employ through your Google Maps experience.
The shortcoming of smartphone apps is that they generally rely on internet service to be able to provide you the information you need.
Unfortunately, you may find yourself traveling to a place with poor or weak mobile connectivity. It is also likely to be the place you need the Maps app the most. Luckily, Google Maps is prepared for this possibility by providing offline access to maps.
Research the map and directions ahead of time, then tap on the portion of the map with your intended destination. You will be presented with the ability to download the map to your device, assuming you can accommodate the size of the files.
Once it’s downloaded, you can access the locally saved map and directions under the offline maps section of the Maps app, or from your downloaded storage.
2. Drag & Drop Direction Changes
There is more than one way to get from point A to point B. Google Maps makes it simple to figure out an alternate route by allowing you to move the plotted course with your mouse/finger right on the map.
You click/press on the blue route line, hold the action, and drag the route in any direction. The blue line will dynamically adjust to an alternate path.
If you pull it too far away, it will still adjust, just keep in mind that it typically defaults to the shortest ride (timewise) though if you prefer a more scenic route or minimal highway travel, you might have to travel a bit longer.
3. Voice Command Based Interactions
When driving, not paying attention to the road is not only discouraged, it’s outright unsafe. Some states have even outlawed any activity that includes holding a physical phone in your hand.
Luckily, Google Maps allows a user to interact with the app by vocal means. By saying “Hey Google” you can activate the app’s “listening” ability and make inquiries about your topics of concern.
For example, if you cannot look at your phone, you can ask Google Maps what your next turn is, how far away you are from your destination, and if there is any traffic ahead.
Maybe you are running low on gas or need food, and are in an unfamiliar area. You can ask Google Maps where the closest gas stations or restaurants are, and they will populate to the maps display.
Sometimes, you are trying to follow a map so closely that your eyes move between your device and the road. This may cause you to forget to glance at your speedometer.
Google Maps features a speedometer feature that can be enabled under the Navigation Settings. This will put a speedometer in the corner of your map so that when you look at your map for directions, your speed will also be in your direct line of sight.
5. Multiple Stops
Most of us have had to take a car ride that involved multiple stops. If you are traveling in an area you are not inherently familiar with or is traffic prone, consider leveraging the ability of Google Maps to allow multiple stops along your route.
This can be done by clicking on the three dots next to the ‘from’ location field and selecting the “Add stop” feature. This will tack on an additional destination field to your map. That way you can set multiple destinations in the order that you need to get to them, or you can drag the order of destinations around to suit your trip’s needs.
If you have a busy day of traveling, full of stops, don’t worry. Google Maps will allow lots of stops to be added to one trip.
6. Save Your Parking Location
One of the most annoying things about parking, especially in a busy city that you may not know like the back of your hand, is remembering where the parking location was. By tapping on the location icon, you will receive a drop-down menu, one of the options on which will be “Save your parking.”
Once you choose it, you will be able to save your parking location so that when you are ready for the quest to find your vehicle’s parking spot, you can simply refer back to your saved location. You can even use your device’s Google assistant to help guide you to the parking spot.
While saving your geographical parking spot, you can even leave notes. This includes storing photos of landmarks nearby. If you are parked in a timed area, your notes can include how much time you have remaining, and your device will notify you when the time gets close to expiring.
7. Find Locations Near You
The same popup menu that brings you the parking saving feature will also include a “search nearby places” feature (as seen in the above picture). If you are looking for a new place to dine or simply exploring your options for shopping, you can find many retailers and services around your current location by selecting this feature.
They will populate right to your map. You will not only be able to click on their location and get directions to their front door, you will even have the ability to go to their website or contact the business right from your Google Maps app.
8. Location Sharing
You might be traveling to a new destination and might have loved ones who are concerned with your safety. Or perhaps a friend is awaiting your arrival and is trying to get a bunch of things done before you get there. Google Maps helps ease nerves and time plan accordingly by providing the ability to share one’s geographical location on Google Maps.
This can be done simply from bringing up the menu via the three dots on the upper corner of the screen in the Google Maps app and choosing the location sharing option.
You can either set it to report your location perpetually (until you turn the feature off) or to share it for some period of time (like an hour). You can then select who you would like to share it with. That party will be able to look at the Google Maps app and see your current location.
9. Add Traffic, Crash, Road, Construction Reports
Have you ever sat in traffic and wished that someone would have let you know that there was a traffic jam which would have allowed you to choose a different route? Traffic reporting by app users has been a popular feature long utilized by Waze, but now Google Maps also allows you to spare other drivers the headache of running into unexpected traffic.
If other drivers see the traffic, they will try to avoid this road. This helps them as well as anyone who does not have a choice but to travel on this road as the amount of traffic backed up will end up being less.
This can simply be done by clicking the “plus” icon on your navigation screen, and clicking “Add a report” from the selection options. You can then signify if there is a slowdown, an accident, or some construction that is causing lane closures and bottlenecks the flow of vehicles.
10. Street View
Need to know some landmarks to find an address? Are you interested in the look of a particular area you will be traveling to? Perhaps you want to see what is down the street.
In the years that Google Maps’ Street View feature has been operational, Google has amassed a ton of photographic reference for streets. Not only did Google cars travel many roads and capture 360-degree, panoramic views for streets, but it has also done so several times in most cases. That means you can scroll back through a historical archive to see how a particular area has changed over time.
11. Create Private Maps
Google Maps allows you the ability to create your own customized maps, where you can name particular points on the map to your liking and even create customer travel routes (car, public transport, or walking).
This can be achieved by accessing the menu for Maps from Your Places menu. From there you can select the Create Map feature. These maps can then be saved and even shared with others.
12. Get an Idea of Parking Availability
Anyone who has ventured into a big city or an otherwise bustling area has likely cycled through multiple streets in a seemingly endless loop, in dire search for available parking. Doubtless, this annoying adventure has made us late for our scheduled meeting or event at times.
Google Maps give you a helpful indicator that will allow users to get an idea of whether the parking availability is limited. This way you will know to arrive earlier to give yourself ample time, or perhaps opt for public transportation.
13. Stream Music
A drive with a map that tells you direction doesn’t have to be a quiet one to afford the device issuing directions and nothing more. Google Maps has now incorporated music streaming services to be a part of the Maps experience.
The app is now partnered with Google Music, Spotify, and Apple Music to allow streaming of your favorite songs and podcast during your trip.
When the map is ready to speak, the volume of the music lowers automatically to let the directions be clearly stated, then comes back as the prominent sound. This can be found under the Navigation Settings where you can enable the connection through Music playback controls on iOS and Show media playback controls on an Android platform.
For Android phone: Settings > Navigation Settings > Show Media Playback Controls > Then, choose your preferred media player (Spotify or Google Play Music).
On an iPhone follow these steps: Settings > Navigation > Music Playback Controls > Then, connect the media app of choice (unfortunately there’s no Google Music option, it’s either Apple Music or Spotify).
14. Find EV Charging Stations
Electric vehicle technology is more prominent than ever before. The one concern many drivers have is that these vehicles need to be charged up regularly in order to function.
However, in an area that is either unknown or not equipped with sufficient charging equipment, finding EV charging stations could be an anxiety-inducing endeavor. Since Google Maps has the nearest gas stations available, they felt its only fair to have EV listings included as well.
A simple search for “EV stations” will generate a list of the nearest charging stations, with information about the station’s location, types of ports used, and charging speeds. There are also photos and ratings from other drivers of the quality of EV services.
You can also filter out the results by adding your plug types. These include J1772, CSS (Combo 1, 2), Type 2, CHAdeMO, Wall outlet, or Tesla’s proprietary plug type. That way you’ll only see charging stations that work with your electric vehicle.
15. Request a Ride
If you are looking to hail an Uber or a Lyft driver, take note of the icon of a person waving their hand when you search for a specific place on a map and tap the Directions button. The icon appears between the person riding a bike and the pedestrian.
Clicking on this icon will get you the service information including wait times and current prices. You can begin your Uber or Lyft ordering process right from the Maps app for added convenience.
16. Traffic Estimation
In certain parts of the world at certain times of day, traffic is nearly guaranteed. In other places, it is common on certain streets or stretches of roads. Google Maps uses this knowledge to analyze and estimate typical traffic times.
When you look up your desired destination, you can click the down arrow next to it and note a line that says “Leave Now”, “Depart By” and “Arrive By.” Using these time markers you can estimate the likely traffic conditions you are likely to encounter around that time of travel along the specified route.
17. Public Transportation Info
Believe it or not, many people utilize Google Maps to find out times and optimal strategies for using public transportation. Google Maps can tell you pricing information, best deboarding areas, platform numbers at airports, and live updates of the status of buses along your route. This can certainly lessen the uncertainty of travel that you rely on but do not have any control over.
18. Night Mode
Google Maps features a very helpful “night mode” that can be used to reduce eye strain.
Instead of a white background with many colors, something that could particularly brighten your vehicle at night in the most distracting way possible, the night mode allows for a dark background to appear while still making all of the pointers, markers, and destinations clearly visible.
This can be enabled from the Navigation settings where the color scheme can be changed simply to “night.” This makes the view of the map easier on the eyes even when used during the daytime hours.
19. Save Money
You can actually save money by using Google Maps. If this sounds odd, think about driving through tolls for a moment. Google Maps can permit you to select routes that allow you to get around or bypass most or all of the tolls you might have otherwise encountered.
When you select your destination and then tap on Directions. From here you can choose Route Options, where you can check off methods of avoiding not only tolls but also use of ferries and highways if you so choose.
20. Advanced Gesture Control
Not a fan of excessive handling the phone when you need something detailed about the map? No worries! Google Maps has certain built-in controls to replace some of the more hand-intensive parts of the process with simpler ones.
You can zoom in on a location by simply double-tapping a spot on the map, spin a map with just your index finger, and even get a view of the ‘flyover’ illustration, layered with three-dimensional buildings. One more helpful tip: If you hold the ‘Directions’ button down, you will be taken directly into the device’s navigation mode. All of these things take two fingers or less to handle.
Hope you find these Google Maps tips and tricks useful.
Now over to you. What are your favorite Google Maps tips that you use all the time? If you know some tips that we left out on this guide, please share them with us.
Don’t forget to share this guide with you friends, they’ll love it.