How to Use Google Maps to Plan Your Next Vacation

I work with someone who I believe has a slight addiction to Google Maps. Often, after he and I discuss a place either he’s never been to or neither of us have been to, he’ll open up Google Maps and start “looking around” that place using the satellite view and street view options. If you’ve never done this, I encourage you to choose a place where you’ve never been and check it out. This can give you an idea of what a city, street, or neighborhood really look like. That’s just a fun aspect of Google Maps, but that’s not what I’m going to focus on here.

Beyond just being able to visualize a place and of course the main reason people use Google Maps for directions, you can also use Google Maps to help you plan a vacation. To begin with, open Google Maps and navigate to Menu (at the top left with 3 bars) then open “Your places.” There are four options:  labeled, saved, visited, and maps. Under maps, you can click on Create Map then start creating a new map. Type in a city, restaurant, hotel, or other place. If you see a place of interest on the general Google map for that area, you can click on it and then click on “Add to map.” You can add labels, add directions, add a marker, and calculate distances. You’ll also need to name your map. All changes are saved in Google Drive. If you already have a Google account, you should be good to go, otherwise you’ll need to set up a Google account to save everything. When you’re done, you can share your map with other people.

You can also create a map using the “Saved” option. This is a bit easier to navigate in some ways, in my opinion, so you may want to start with this option, especially if you have trouble with the “Create Map” option. For example, when I went to Wyoming, I saved a bunch of places that we would be traveling to there and sent my saved map to my husband. That map that I called “Wyoming” had 16 places on it, with everything from where we would be staying, the airport, places where I wanted to hike, hot springs, and packet pickup for the half marathon I ran there. I’ve created maps this way and shared them with my husband when we went to other places on vacation as well.

Screen Shot 2020-01-24 at 2.04.52 PM
Screenshot of some of my saved maps in Google Maps

I’ve already started a map using the Create Map option for our upcoming summer vacation to Spain and Portugal. Let me tell you, it’s already ridiculously full of places where I want to go plus the places we will be staying. I think there’s something like 40 places including beaches, restaurants, shops, historical sites, and other places of interest on there. When I’m done with it, just before our trip, I’ll share it with my husband so he has it too.

There’s also a feature some of you may not be aware of that you may either love or hate. If you click on “Visited,” you can see everywhere Google Maps has record of you going to. Obviously you have to have had your phone turned on and you need to be logged into Google in order for the places to be recorded. I checked and mine goes back about one year. I’ve had my Google account for longer than that so I’m not sure if it’s just a default to just keep data for a year or what. Some people may not like the idea of being “tracked” by Google, but this can actually be a good thing. Say you’re trying to remember the name of that cute little cafe by the water you ate at on vacation three weeks ago. By using this feature, you may be able to figure that out. What may also surprise you (it surprised me), if you also use Google photos, any photos you’ve saved to Google photos will show up in your timeline for those days.

Have you ever used Google Maps to plan a vacation or create a map before a vacation? What’s your experience been like?

Happy travels!




Author: runningtotravel

I'm a long distance runner with a goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states in the US. I also love to travel so I travel to other places when I'm not running races. Half the fun is planning where I'm going to go next!

19 thoughts on “How to Use Google Maps to Plan Your Next Vacation”

  1. That’s a great tip that I also use. Another traveling tip for you. Rather than buying travel guides, I check out the ebook/Kindle version from my public library. That way the travel guides are readily accessible on my phone. For many cities, sites of interest do not change that much. I mean Rome has been around for centuries so I guess that I would be fine using a travel guide, like Lonely Planet or Frommers, from 2016.

    Where are you going in Spain? I’m heading there in April (Madrid, Santander, and Barcelona).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is a good tip about downloading travel books to my phone. I’ll have to remember that.

      We’re going to southern Spain, so Malaga and that area for a week then driving over to southern Portugal for a week.


        1. Did you go to Gibraltar too? I’m wondering if it would be worth a stop there on our drive from Spain to Portugal. If we went it would be just for a few hours and we’d park the car outside the border and walk in. Any opinion on that?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. No Gibraltar for me. 😦 The hubby has only been to the village but not to the mountain “to see the monkeys”. He did say that it’s a bit out of the way for a quick trip. About 1.5 hours to Gibraltar then another 2.5 hours to Sevilla to travel into Portugal.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. I was just talking to someone about Gibraltar. According to them, due to Brexit, it is now monstrously slow and difficult to get into and out of Gibraltar (which is especially troublesome for the British citizens living there). You might want to investigate that further before you make any definite plans.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow I love Google Maps but never knew about the feature of creating maps and saving places! This is ironic because I use TripAdvisor to do this all the time… name a trip, save places to it and use it for reference. Google seems like it’d come in handy more though because of being able to actually tell you distances between places and how to get there.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I actually use Google Maps kinda like you do, plotting places I want to see and distances between them, but for a different purpose. In big cities (like Barcelona and Toulouse where we’re going this summer), I use those points on the map to help me see clusters and thus know where I should start looking for a hotel.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for the great tips! I love using Google Maps to get the best public transportation options ahead of time when we are traveling. I already figured out the train schedule for our trip to Morocco. Such a wonderful tool!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hands up! I also use the classic google map to help me navigate in other countries! 😂 Their offline feature is also a great alternative if you are unsure about the availability of the internet.
    -Carlo, TGF

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