Google Maps has evolved a lot over the years, making the jump from our computers to our phones and adding a ton of cool features along the way. In fact, there are so many that we’re sharing our favorite features, along with some hidden tips and tricks.
1. Add stops to your trip
When you get in the car for a road trip, you rarely go straight to your destination without stopping. You’ll need to stop for lunch or gas or a bathroom break or a detour to visit a cool roadside attraction. Once you program in your destination, it’s easy to add stops along the way.
For stops after you’ve started your trip, you can tap the search icon and choose from “Gas stations,” “Grocery stores,” “Restaurants,” “Coffee shops” or to search.
For planned stops, tap on the three dots in the top right corner of the app and select “Add stop.” Tap on the empty slot, and you can search, add from the map or select from “Gas stations,” “Groceries,” “Restaurants,” “Cafes,” “Fast food,” and “ATMs.”
2. Check current and future traffic
If you want to check the traffic in your area, you need to turn on “traffic” by tapping on the diamond-shaped layers icon. For computers, you’ll see a box with “Live traffic” and an upside down triangle. Select the triangle and you can choose “Typical traffic” to see what traffic will be like later in the day or week.
3. Orient yourself
Are you all spun around? Not sure whether you’re supposed to make a right turn or a left because you don’t know what direction you’re facing? Stop wondering – with a quick tap of the compass in the top right corner of the screen while navigating will shift the map to face the same direction you are. Tap the compass again to switch back to the more traditional (but less useful) “North is up” view.
If you’re walking, you can access Live View, a navigation mode that brings in a live image from your phone’s camera and layers directions on top. Tilt the phone up (as though you were taking a picture) to see where you should be going in the app plus a small portion of the traditional map. You have to be standing still to access Live View. Depending on where you look, you’ll see where to turn or how far to continue in the direction that you’re facing. When you want access to just the traditional map view, start walking or tilt your phone back down.
4. Navigate through buildings
Need to find your seat in a large stadium or navigate to your favorite store at the mall or find your way out of a casino? You’ll find maps of some venues, including All of America, Madison Square Garden and Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, in Google Maps.
5. See inside places
Did you know that Google Maps not only shows you how to get around while driving our nation’s interstates and city streets but also while you’re inside buildings like famous art museums, airports, and your local gym as well? When you look up a location, on the map, you’ll see a photo with a 360-degree icon. Tap the icon and you can view rooms inside and even walk within a space. (Try it with the Museum of the City of New York.) You can also quickly access a Street View of the exterior of the building the same way – great for when you’re trying to drive to an unfamiliar destination.
6. Catch the last train
In many cities, mass transit trains don’t run all night – they stop running shortly after bars close. This can be a tough trip to plan if you need to make a transfer along the way. Fortunately, if you type your destination into Google Maps, choose the train icon, then “Depart at…” and then choose “Last” and “Done,” the app will show you the last trains and buses that get you where you need to go. You can even set a reminder to take the last train.
7. Zoom one-handed
Most of us have been well trained to use the pinching gesture to zoom in on our smartphones. But there’s an easier way to zoom while using Google Maps: Just double tap the screen, and swipe up to zoom out or swipe down to zoom in. (Keep your finger on the screen after the second tap.)
8. Save your favorite locations
Want quick access to all the locations you frequent most often, or just want to save information about a store or restaurant to review later? Maps lets you set Favorites by selecting the “Save” icon. Choose it as a “Favorites,” “Want to go,” or “Starred places” and it will show up on the map. And you want to consult your list, head over to the left menu inside the app, then choose “Your Places” and “Saved” to consult your lists.
You can also save your home and work addresses to Google Maps to save time. When you search for an address, you can select “Label.” This information interfaces with Google Assistant, allowing it to serve up real-tim
e traffic updates to your phone before leaving for work in the morning.
9. Create offline maps
If you’re traveling through the woods, mountains or desert, there’s a good chance your phone will lose its data signal from time to time. Unfortunately, no signal means no maps – real bad news if you’re not familiar with the remote area through which you’re traveling.
Fortunately, Google Maps lets you easily save maps for offline use. Simply tap the mic and say “OK Map” to save the map that’s currently on your screen (for Android users). Or, select the menu (your profile photo in the top right) and choose “Offline maps,” and then “Select Your Own Map.” You can access these saved maps by looking under “Saved.”
10. Check out hiking and skiing trails
Heading out for a day of winter sports and adventure? Google Maps now features a wealth of ski and hiking trail maps for a number of major destinations including Snowbird, Big Sur and Yosemite. Just type your favorite resort into Google Maps and zoom in to see the different trails. Don’t forget to save the maps for offline use before you go!
11. Avoid paying tolls
Looking to save a couple dollars on your next drive? Instead of taking a costly toll road or bridge, you can tell Google Maps to only show you free access routes. Just tap “Route Options” while searching for directions and toggle “tolls” off. Be careful, though: This could add a lot of miles to your trip!
12. Remember where you parked
When you arrive at your destination, select the little blue dot that represents your location, and you can select “Set as parking location.” For Android users, you can also leave a parking note (like the level in the parking garage) or a meter timer.
Did you know that Google Maps not only shows you how to get around while driving our nation’s interstates and city streets but also while you’re inside buildings like famous art museums, airports, and your local gym as well? When you look up a location, on the map, you’ll see a photo with a 360-degree icon. Tap the icon and you can view rooms inside and even walk within a space. (Try it with the Museum of the City of New York.) You can also quickly access a
Street View of the exterior of the building the same way – great for when you’re trying to drive to an unfamiliar destination.
13. Share your location
There are times when it’s beneficial to share your location with others. Maybe you want someone to know where you are when you go out on a run or see where family members are at an amusement park. With Google maps, you can choose to share your location for a specific period of time or “Until you turn this off.” When someone is sharing their location with you, you can see them on the map, along with the time of the location information, and easily get directions to their location.
You can also share your location while you’re driving. Once you’ve started a trip, swipe up from the bottom and you’ll see to “Share your trip progress” as your first option.
14. Hear voice navigation through your car speakers
If you’ve paired your phone to make and receive calls in your car, you may also be able to get navigation guidance. Go to menu (the three bars), then select “Settings,” then “Navigation settings” and then turn on “Play voice over Bluetooth.” Note that your car audio system will need to be set to play Bluetooth as the audio source, so you won’t be able to listen to the radio and other sources. And if you have an old car that doesn’t support Bluetooth as an audio source (in addition to making calls) you’re out of luck.
15. Measure distances between points
Want to know how far back the fence is on the ball field or calculate your run through the park? On the desktop of Google Maps, you can select a point by right clicking. Then select “Measure distance” from the menu. Add at least one more point, and you’ll see the distance. To measure distance between two points using the Google Maps app on your iPhone or Android phone, you first press and hold to bring up a menu, then add at least on additional point to see the distance.
16. Check the busyness of transit, stores, restaurants, and more
If you’re wondering how crowded the train will be or if a store or restaurant is really busy, the Google Maps app for Android and iOS will let you know. Google pulls in live location information if it is available or shows the projected busyness. You can even see how crowded trains and other public transit is and see when the next bus is arriving.
Updated on 9/14/2021 to correct information on playing voice directions over Bluetooth
[Image credit: Screenshots via Techlicious/Google]