How to Make Google Maps Work for You While Traveling This Summer

Heading out on a summer vacation? Knowing the ins and outs of Google Maps can mean the difference between making it to your hotel on time or losing precious hours after taking the wrong exit somewhere. 

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While Google Maps can’t prevent a traffic jam, there are a variety of ways it can help make your journey easier, from getting around the airport quickly to using the Maps app offline. Check out some of the app’s best features for travelers, below.

For more travel advice, here’s the best time to shop for airline tickets. Also, here are the best travel credit cards and the best airline credit cards.

1. Easily navigate through airports and train stations 

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Get around airports with Maps.

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If you need to quickly find a store in a large mall or transit center, Google Maps has a Directory tab for all airports, malls and transit stations. This can help when you’re running around the airport trying to find a place to eat or grabbing a last-minute souvenir before catching your flight. 

The tab will tell you a destination’s business hours and what floor it’s on. You can look through restaurants, stores, lounges and parking lots.


Watch this: First Look at TSA’s Self-Screening Tech (in VR!)

2. Find out how busy an attraction is before going

To see how busy a spot is, check out Google Maps’ Busyness tool. Already you could search for a location, like a business, to see a chart that shows how crowded it is in real time. But a feature called Area Busyness lets you see when entire map areas are clogged with people. 

To use the feature, open the Google Maps app on your Android or iPhone (or your computer’s browser) and move around the map to find a general area, say, downtown, a riverwalk or a quaint nearby town. The busyness information will now automatically appear on the map, so you don’t need to specifically search for a place to see how crowded it is. Google Maps may say something like “Busy Area” and when you click for more details, it could say, for example, “As busy as it gets” or “Not too busy.”

However, you can also search the location you’re after and scroll down to see busy times versus non-busy times.

3. See all your reservations in Google Maps 

Google Maps can chart your travels, but it can also quickly show you your flight, hotel, car rental and restaurant reservations, saving you the hassle of searching through your email for check-in times and confirmation numbers.

To see your upcoming reservations, all you have to do is search for “my reservations” in the Google Maps search box to see a list of what you’ve booked. Maps pulls this information from your emails in Gmail. You can also select an item to see more about the reservation, including date and location.

4. Make a restaurant reservation without calling

Planning a dinner night out with a large group can be a hassle, especially when you go at a busy time. Google Maps can help you book a lunch or dinner reservation. Here’s how.

1. In Maps, tap the Restaurants button at the top of the map to see a list of places to eat.

2. Select a restaurant that looks good, and in the window that pops up, reserve a table or join a waitlist, if it gives you that option (not all do).

Remember you can use the busyness feature mentioned above to pick the least packed place. Also, note that some restaurants that are closed to dine-in may still allow delivery, curbside pickup or outdoor seating.

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5. Use Google Maps when you don’t have cell signal

Heading someplace remote where you may not have a mobile network connection? Google Maps can still give you directions when you’re offline.

1. Before you head out, search in Maps for the location where you’ll want directions.

2. In the location’s window, pull up the menu at the bottom. 

3. Scroll right through the tabs and tap Download offline map, and then in the next window tap Download again. Maps will download a map to your phone for the area you selected.

Now, as you use Google Maps for directions in the area you downloaded a map for, when you lose your cellular connection Maps will switch to the offline map to guide you. Note that because you’re offline, Maps won’t be able to offer real-time traffic info.

6. Find EV charging stations nearby

If you’re taking your electric vehicle out for shopping, dinner or a vacation, Google Maps can help you find EV charging stations on your route, along with estimated wait times for a charging port. You can also filter your search by connector type — such as J1772, CCS (Combo 1 or 2) and Tesla — to see just the stations that are compatible with your EV. Note you can also search for gas stations by following these same directions. (Here’s how you can save money at the pump.)

1. In Maps, scroll through the tabs on the top of the screen and tap More.

2. Scroll down to the Services section and select Electric vehicle charging

3. Maps will display nearby charging stations and how many are available.

4. Tap a charging station on the map to have Maps add it as a stop on your trip.

You can also use this trick to search for other places along your route, like a coffee shop.

7. Share your location with friends and family

Is anything more frustrating during a group activity than when the group gets split up and no one can find each other? Google Maps can help bring you all back together.

1. In Google Maps, tap your profile icon in the top right corner and tap Location sharing.

2. Tap Share location, and select who you want to share your location with and for how long you want to share it.

3. Tap Share, and Google Maps will send your location to everyone you’ve selected.

4. If you want to see someone else’s location, tap that person’s icon at the top of the window and then tap Request.

8. Creating, sharing and viewing curated lists 

How can you make sure you see all the sights during your vacation? If you create a list in Google Maps, you’ll be able to save future destinations and have them all available at a glance. 

Simply go to the Saved tab and tap the + New list button. You can give the list a name and description. Then when you see a place on the map that you want to look at later, you can add it to your new list by scrolling right through the tabs and tapping the Save button. You can share this list with your travel companions and even invite them to collaborate.

For more, check out these airports that are no longer requiring TSA PreCheck passengers to show ID and the new self-service screening pods coming to some airports soon. 

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