While there are plenty of apps for travel planning, Google Maps offers something comforting. We’ve gotten so used to navigating its UI, that no other app feels this good. And if you haven’t ever used Google Maps as a trip planner, then you’re missing out. Let us enlighten you.
Although not precisely the Google Maps app, we’ll use My Maps. It’s a free map creator from Google, wherein you can pin locations, organize them, get directions, and gauge distances to make sound decisions.
Later you can use these maps for bookings and managing the trip. And if you can master this art, the rest can be a breeze.
1. Plan a Trip Using Google My Maps
The great part about using My Maps is that it’s very similar to using Google Maps. And thanks to some added features, the planning bit is pretty easy as well. However, there’s one catch. You can only access My Maps via browser, there is no app for Android or iPhone.
Step 1. Create a Personalized Google Map
Let’s start with creating a custom Google Map for your trip.
Step 1: Visit and sign in to My Maps on any browser (you can use the link below).
Step 2: Click ‘Create A New Map’.
Step 3: To rename the map, click Untitled map from the top-left corner.
Step 4: Give the map a title and description and click Save.
Step 5: Now, to add places to your map, simply search for them from the search bar.
Tip: You can drag and move the location pointer for a more precise location.
Step 6: On the location card, select Add to map.
Step 7: Now, repeat steps 5 and 6 to add desired locations to your map.
Notably, you can also click the existing pin markers to add the place on your map. Search and add tourist places, markets, restaurants, museums, hotel/house addresses, and more.
Tip: My Maps is directly linked to your Google Drive. So, changes are saved in real-time. Tap the preview icon from the left sidebar, to view how it will look to others.
Step 2: Organize Your Map Into Categories
We often go overboard while planning a trip, collecting references from friends, family, travel blogs, etc. However, the key to planning a successful trip is to pick locations wisely.
And this is where the layering system in My Maps comes in handy. You can make categories like food, shopping, adventure, nature, etc., and narrow down things when it’s time to make final decisions.
Step 1: In My Maps, click Add Layer from the gray bar.
Step 2: Now, there are two ways to rename the layer,
- Click the Untitled layer, or
- Click the three-dot icon and select Rename this Layer.
Step 3: Now add all the places you want to visit in this particular category.
Note: You can add up to 10 layers to a map (i.e., up to 10 categories). Furthermore, a layer supports up to 2000 lines, shapes, or places.
And that’s not all, you can also:
- Easily move locations between layers: Click, drag, and drop a location from one layer to another.
- Select individual styles for each layer: Click Individual styles under the layer name. Here you’ll get several options to group and sort the locations. Select the one you prefer.
Step 3: Customize Location Markers in My Maps
You can organize your trip itinerary in Google Maps via colors, notes, photos, videos, and more. The idea is to assign customized location markers and categorize them as per importance, preferences, and more.
Change the Color or Icon of the Location Pin
Step 1: Click the location marker you want to customize.
Step 2: You can either,
- Select the paint-bucket icon next to the location name, or
- Click the paint-bucket icon from the location card (the pop-up).
Step 3: Select a Color or Icon. (You can also click More icons for other options or custom icons.)
Edit the Name and Description of the Location Pin
Step 1: Click the location marker.
Step 2: From the location card, select Edit (pencil icon).
Step 3: Here, you can change the name of the location and add a note or description.
Step 4: Click Save.
Add an Image or Video to the Location Pin
Step 1: Click on the location marker and select the camera icon.
Step 2: Choose the method to upload/attach the image or video.
Step 3: To attach the image, click Select.
Step 4: Rename and click Save.
Step 4: Get Directions in My Maps
Whether you’re planning a road trip on Google Maps or deciding the uber’s route, this one’s a great hack.
Step 1: Launch the map and click the location you want the direction to.
Step 2: Select the Directions (arrow icon) from under the search bar.
A layer, especially for directions, will be created automatically.
Step 3: In this layer, add a starting point and end point.
Step 4: Here, you’ll have a few options:
- Click Add destination: Add more stops on the route.
- Change the driving location: Under the layer name, choose either Driving, Bicycling, or Walking.
- Get step-by-step directions: Click More (three-dot icon) and select ‘Step by Step Directions’.
- Select a different trip path: Point at the trip on the map, then drag it elsewhere.
Alternatively, you can also tap Direction (arrow icon) from the location card and enter the starting point to get the directions between them.
Note: You can establish multiple routes as each set of directions goes on its own layer.
Step 5: Measure the distance in My Maps
Step 1: Click Measure Distances (scale icon) located under the search bar.
Step 2: Now, click the starting point, move the cursor to the next point, and click.
A line will show up between the points, showing the distance between the two.
Step 3: To include more location pins, click them to view their distance from the starting point.
As you proceed, you’ll see the distance and area (for shape).
Step 5: Click Measure Distance (Scale icon) again to end the measurement.
2. Export and Import Location From My Maps
People around the world have planned trips using Google Maps and readily shared their maps to help others, quite like Apple Maps’ Guides. What’s great is that you can import My Maps’ location points and icons to your Google Maps as well.
Get Locations From Someone’s Map
Step 1: Open the Map you want to export.
Step 2: To export all data, tap the three-dot icon next to the map’s name.
Step 3: Select Download KML.
Step 4: Select the Entire Map or a particular layer and click Ok to download.
Step 5: Finally, click Save.
Step 6: If you want to export a particular layer, tap the three-dot icon next to it, and select Export data.
Step 7: Choose KML/KMZ or CSV.
Import Locations to Your Maps
Step 1: Open the map in My Map you want to import the locations into.
Step 2: In the new layer, click Import.
Step 3: Here, select the supported file and click Upload.
Step 4: After a few seconds, all locations should show up in that layer.
3. Finalize Your Travel Itinerary in Google My Maps
Sometimes laying it all on paper or, perhaps, on My Maps is all you need. Once you’ve plotted the locations you want to visit on the Maps, spotting nearby pins is not that difficult.
And all that remains is joining the dots, figuring out the directions and distances, analyzing how much ground you can cover, and finalizing the stuff.
Interestingly, you can draw lines or shapes on the map to mark down, explain, and finalize the plan with ease.
Draw Lines or Shapes in My Maps
Before we proceed, here’s the limitation you’ll have to deal with; you can insert
- Up to 10,000 lines, shapes, or places.
- A maximum of 50,000 total points (in lines and shapes).
- Up to 20,000 data table cells.
Step 1: Select the Draw a line icon from below the search bar.
Step 2: Click ‘Add line or shape’.
Step 3: Select an existing layer or click Add Layer.
Step 4: Click the points to start drawing, move the cursor, and click as you go.
Step 5: When done, double-click or complete the shape and click Save.
Tip: To edit your line or shape, click it and then Edit (pencil icon). Next, click the circle points and drag them.
Once your itinerary plan is all set, you can use Google Travel (formerly Google Trips) or any other preferred booking app to set the plan in motion.
However, if you’re traveling with friends or family, it will be better to first share the My Maps plan with them for suggestions and confirmation.
Step 1: Open the custom map and click Share.
Step 2: Here, toggle on/off the sharing settings you prefer for the map.
Step 3: Click Share on Drive.
Step 4: Lastly, add people or groups, if you have their email addresses. Or else click Copy link and share it with friends.
Note: Under the General Access section, click Restricted or Anyone with the link to manage sharing permissions of the link.
5. Download My Maps on Your iPhone or Android Device
Whether to be prepped for situations like mobile data not working or maybe just to minimize your mobile data usage while traveling, you should take your custom map offline.
Step 1: Launch the Google Maps app and go to the Saved tab.
Step 2: Scroll down and select Maps.
Step 3: Select the Map you’ll like to download.
Step 4: Now, go to the Explore tab (Tap the back < twice).
Step 5: Tap your profile image from the top-right and select Offline maps.
Step 6: Tap ‘Select Your Own Map.’
Step 7: Next, zoom in/out of the area you want offline and tap Download.
Now, give it some time to download. Once done, you can go to Google Maps → tap profile image → Offline Maps → select the map.
FAQs for Using My Maps
1. Is Google My Maps private?
All maps are private by default and stored on your drive. You can, however, publish it for everyone to view or share it with a few chosen people.
2. Is Google Travel and My Maps the same thing?
No, Google Travel (formerly Google Trips) is a platform to book tickets, hotels, restaurants, and more, whereas, My Maps allows you to create custom maps for your travels, wishlist, etc.
Do More With Google Maps
Google Maps is so much more than a navigation app. Thanks to features like My Maps, offline maps, reviews incorporation, creating favorite places, and more, planning a trip becomes a breeze. What’s your favorite Google Maps feature? Share in the comments section below.