Make the Most of Google Maps

By Tracey Dowdy

According to data from AAA  – or what most of us refer to as triple-A, – more than 55 million travelers are making plans to kick off the holiday season with a trip of 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving…The vast majority of holiday travelers will drive to their destinations and, INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, expects Wednesday afternoon to be the worst travel period nationally, with trips taking as much at four times longer than normal in major metros.”

That may sound grim, but with careful planning and a few hacks from Google maps, though you may not beat last year’s time, you can ensure that you arrive at your destination with minimal aggravation and frustration. 

Not only does Google Maps allow you to store regularly used addresses like Home and Work, but you can also include stops along your route to determine a more accurate arrival time to get a more accurate destination, download maps for offline use, or have it help you find a parking spot. 

Use Maps offline

Without fail, when we travel to Toronto to see our daughter, there are several stretches of the road where we have no signal. Because we know the trip well, it’s not usually an issue, but if we have to find another route because of construction or heavy traffic, it’s a problem. 

Fortunately, Google Maps allows users to download the route ahead of time so when emergencies happen, you’re not stranded.  

  • Open Google Maps app and enter your destination.
  • Tap the name of the place or the address at the bottom of the screen
  • Tap the three-dot menu in the upper-right corner.
  • Tap Download offline map.
  • Tap Download. The map for the area you’ve selected is now available offline.

Android users can go off the grid with Incognito Mode

A new feature for Android users lets you go Incognito while using Google Maps. This allows you to hide your location from other Maps users, as well as locations you’ve searched for. 

  • Open the Google Maps app. 
  • Tap your profile icon in the top right corner.
  • Select Turn on Incognito Mode. 
  • To turn the setting off, follow the same steps and select Turn off Incognito Mode.

Include stops in your route

When you type in your destination, Google Maps will tell you the length of the trip based on posted speed limits and historical traffic patterns to determine your ETA.

  • Open Google Maps app and enter your first destination, like a gas station or coffee shop.
  • Tap Directions.
  • Tap the three-dot menu in the top-right corner.
  • Tap Add stop. Continue to add as many stops as you anticipate taking.
  • Press Done when you’re finished. 

Find Parking 

Finding a parking place can be such a nightmare that shows like Seinfeld have dedicated entire episodes to it. Instead of driving in circles or rolling the dice on being ticketed, or worse, towed, let Google Maps find you a spot. 

  • Open Google Maps app and enter your location.
  • Tap Directions.
  • You’ll see a P (for parking) icon next to your ETA – tap it. If the P is red, it means parking will be limited. Blue means finding parking will be easy to somewhat challenging, but there are spots available.
  • Find parking.
  • A list of parking areas will appear. Simply select one of the options and tap Add parking. The parking spot will then be added as the first stop on your route and you can continue on to your next destination.

See what your destination really looks like. 

If you’ve ever booked a hotel or restaurant reservations without having seen first in person, you may have been disappointed to discover what it – or the surrounding area – really looks like. 

Save yourself the hassle of rebooking by checking out the area through Google Maps before you book or arrive. 

  • Open Google Maps app and search for a location, like a hotel or a restaurant.
  • In the bottom left corner, tap the small box with a photo of the building. 
  • Zoom in and out to check out the area by swiping your finger across the screen.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.


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