Google Maps has come a long way over its 14-year history. From seeing how long it takes to get from point A to B to scouting out restaurants and points of interest, it’s an invaluable resource for navigating neighborhoods both familiar and new.
Google Maps can do so much more than get you from Point A to Point B. Here’s how to maximize all that Maps has to offer.
1. Set the time to see the most accurate results
Google Maps can be very helpful for looking up directions ahead of time. But when doing so, be sure to change the time window to match the time during which you plan to travel. That makes it possible for Google to serve up the most accurate results based on traffic patterns and other variables. To do this, tap the “Depart at” button near the top of the screen located just below where Google lists the available modes of transportation.
2. Download maps for offline use
Google allows you to download maps of certain areas so that you can view them without a Wi-Fi or data connection.
To do so, start by searching for the area you’d like to download, like a neighborhood or city. Then, scroll down to the bottom of the screen where the “Directions” button is located and swipe over to press the “Download” button.
If you don’t see this option, search for the area you’d like to download, press the icon that looks like three vertical lines stacked on top of one another to launch the menu and choose “Offline maps.” Then, select “Custom map.”
3. Curate a list of your favorite places
If you often have a hard time keeping track of your favorite go-to spots, Google Maps can help. Just tap the icon that looks like three vertical lines stacked on top of one another and choose the “Your Places” option. From there, tap the “Saved” tab, choose “Favorites,” and press the “Add” button to save your favorite brunch restaurant or neighborhood bar.
4. Get all your route information with the commute tab
The “Commute” tab in Google Maps makes it easy to see information about your daily drive or train ride to work with just a tap. First, make sure Google Maps knows your work address by tapping the icon that looks like three vertical lines in the top left corner of the screen. Then, press “Your places” to view the home and work address you have saved in Google Maps.
Once your work address is up to date, just tap the “Commute” tab located between the “Explore” and “For you” buttons near the bottom of the screen to view details about your route.
5. Share your location with anyone
There are times at which you may want to let a friend or family member know how long it will take before you arrive. To make it easier to share your estimated time of arrival, just use the “Share trip progress” feature in Google Maps.
Tap the section near the bottom of the screen where the app shows how long it will take to reach your destination. Then, choose the “Share trip progress” option. From there, you’ll be able to select a contact with which you’d like to share your location until you arrive at your destination. Google will present you with a list of suggested contacts, but you can also choose to share your location with a friend through a text message or email among other options.
6. Add a stop on your way
In Google Maps, you can easily add a stop like this to your driving route.
After you’ve started your trip, tap the area near the bottom of the screen where the estimated time of arrival is displayed. Then, press the “Search along route” option and search for your desired stop. You can type in a specific address or search for a general point of interest like “restaurants” or “gas stations.”
Google will then search for places that match your query along your route. When you find the one you’d like to add as a pit stop, just tap it on the map and Google will add it to your trip.
7. Instantly book an Uber or Lyft
Google has made the process of switching between its Maps app and devices like Uber and Lyft much more simple and seamless. After typing in the address to your destination and pressing the “Directions” button, browse the available transportation options and tap the icon that looks like a person waving. This will pull up a list of on-demand car services in your area and their estimated fares. Choose your desired option and press the “Open App” button to summon a cab.
8. Customize your vehicle icon
If you’re driving, Google lets you choose what car shows up on your navigation in the iOS and Android apps. In the app, plug in your destination and start driving directions. Tap the icon that shows your current location and a pop-up menu will appear with several car icon options: a sedan, a pickup truck, or an SUV. Moreover, if you want to interact with Maps while you’re driving, you don’t want to actually take your eyes off the road. With “OK Google” voice commands in the Google Maps Android app, you don’t have to.
9. Try augmented reality if you are a Pixel user
The company recently rolled out an early version of Google Maps in augmented reality for its line of Pixel devices, which makes it possible to see visual markers in the real world when looking through your phone as a camera viewfinder. If you’re using a Pixel device, look for the augmented reality button near the bottom of the screen after you’ve typed in your destination to try this feature out.
10. Find accessible transit routes and locations
Those with mobility issues can search for wheelchair-accessible transit routes by tapping Options > Wheelchair accessible when looking for train or bus directions. When you get to your destination, meanwhile, the Accessible Places setting will offer up wheelchair accessibility information about that location. Turn it on via Settings > Accessibility > Accessible Places and toggle it on. “When Accessible Places is switched on, a wheelchair icon will indicate an accessible entrance and you’ll be able to see if a place has accessible seating, restrooms, or parking,” Google says.
11. Add some music of your choice
If you’ve always got Google Maps navigation open while you’re driving (or walking), you can add music to your trip without leaving the app. Sync music apps such as Spotify or Apple Music by opening the menu and navigating to Settings > Navigation and then either Music playback controls on iOS or Show media playback controls on Android to sync a music app. Once you do, a pop-up to your app of choice should appear as you’re driving for a quick tap to get your music started. Be sure to make your playlists beforehand so you can keep your eyes on the road.
12. Save and share your favorite places
Google Maps lets you share some of your favorite places with a friend; just tap the share icon on the location’s Google Maps card to send it to them via text, email, or your app of choice. And you can save favorite places by tapping the Save icon; they’ll show up in the Saved option in the bar. But if you want to share more than one location, you can create a Pinterest-like list within Google Maps. When you save a favorite place, tap New list to create a new collection (like “Favorite Thai places in Brooklyn”) or add it to an existing one. You’ll find them in the Saved tab under Your lists; tap the three-dot menu and then Share list to send a link to friends.