Travel smarter with these lesser-known Google Maps features

Many of us may remember pulling out a paper map, unfolding it, and doing our best to navigate our road trips. For the past 15 years, using online navigation has been the norm, although many may be missing some of Google Maps’ best features.

On Presidents Day weekend, my family drove home from a vacation in a city we visit often. I didn’t have to turn on my navigation system, but I did it anyway so it could warn me of accidents. Although I couldn’t see any problems ahead, Google Maps directed me to exit the freeway and take a side road. I did as I was told. After driving 10 minutes we looked over and saw the Autobahn was bumper to bumper. No accident, just many cars drove home from vacation at the same time. I saved 15 minutes by taking this exit.

Turning on Google Maps can be beneficial, even if drivers know the way. And other lesser known features in the app can also be helpful.

Download a map offline

For those who like to drive to more remote areas or places where service may be patchy, be sure to download a Google map to use offline. Once a user downloads a specific area on a map, the Google Maps app will provide navigation directions even if the internet connection is slow or non-existent.

To download an offline map, make sure your phone is not in “incognito mode” and open Google Maps. Search for a destination, then tap the place name or address at the bottom of the page. Tap on the three dots and then on “Download offline map”. Additionally, on iPhones, you can also download an offline map by searching for a location, then tapping the X in the search bar and typing ok maps.

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There are a few things to keep in mind when using offline maps. First, no directions are available for public transit, cyclists, or pedestrians. just as little as traffic information or alternative routes. If I had used an offline Google map last weekend, I would have been stuck in this freeway traffic jam.

Plan your routine

We lead busy lives and most of our days consist of multiple stops as we run around with kids, run errands and work. And if some places are unfamiliar or traffic might be a problem, it’s not a bad idea to sketch our daily routine and paste it into Google Maps. This way we know how much time it will take to get from point A to point B and so on to point Z. Google Maps takes this into account whether you are driving, walking or cycling.

After getting directions to your first location, for iOS, tap the three dots at the top right of the screen, then tap Add Stop. For Android, tap “More” in the top right, then tap “Add Stop”. If you want to change the order of the stops, simply press and hold the stop you want to move and drag it to its new position in the lineup.

set reminders

And now that we know how to schedule multiple stops, why not arrive at every stop on time? Many people will check how long it will take to drive to a destination to know when to leave. But between the time a person checks the drive time and the moment they walk out the door, a lot of things can happen. An accident can happen along the route, construction work can start or regular traffic can block the planned route. Setting a reminder keeps track of these changes and notifies users when to head out to make it on time.

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On iPhone and iPad, enter a destination in Google Maps > Directions > three dots in the top right corner > Set a reminder to leave. Select your arrival date and time and Google Maps will remind you of the departure time.

Navigate public transport

Finally, while this only applies to people using transit systems, it will save your sanity if you do so. If you’re looking for directions in areas where you want to use public transit, tap the public transit icon for bus and train departures.

In New York City, for example, Google Maps shows you which corner of an intersection the correct subway station is on, can give you directions inside the stations, and inform you about bus or train conditions. You can see how crowded it usually is, what the temperature is and if there is security on board. For those of us who don’t use public transport often, Google Maps can take a lot of the headache out of figuring out how to use it efficiently if we do.

Use all these features and be the one who always knows exactly where he is going and gets there on time.