What comes to mind when you think of Google Maps? Many people would say it’s simply a navigation tool, and they would be wrong.
The app is packed with features that make it so much more than a GPS. There are tons of time-saving shortcuts and helpful ways to explore new areas. You might not even be aware that these features exist, which means you’re not getting the most out of the app.
That’s why you need to know about these 12 incredibly useful Google Maps features.
1. Save favorite locations
One great feature of Google Maps is being able to save favorite locations. This will help speed up the process when you are looking for a specific place. You can also share your favorite locations with others, and I’ll tell you how to do that later in this tip.
Here are the steps to save a location:
- Open Google Maps.
- Find the location you want to save.
- Drop a pin – This is accomplished by doing what’s known as a “long press” on the map. That just means pressing a specific spot on the map long enough for a red pin to appear.
- Swipe up – Once you have “pinned” a location, a menu will appear at the bottom of the screen. Swipe up on that menu.
- Select Save.
- Select the list that you want to save this location to or create a new one.
You can manage saved locations from the Your Places option found under the main menu located in the upper-left corner of the app.
2. Search for restaurants nearby
If you are out driving and don’t know where the nearest place to eat is, Google Maps can help. Follow these steps:
- Open Google Maps.
- Tap on the “Explore food & drinks in this area” search bar at the bottom.
- Tap the breakfast, lunch, coffee, dinner or drinks tab at the top to select what meal you’re in the mood for.
- Tap a category from the list and then swipe left to scroll through your nearby options.
- Tap Read more and then the car icon to get directions.
3. Store your home and work addresses
It’s a good idea to save your work and home addresses in Google Maps. This makes it easier to navigate to either location by saying, for example, “OK Google, navigate to work.” You will also see relevant traffic information in your Google feed.
Steps to save your home and work addresses:
- Open Google Maps.
- Tap the Menu icon located in the upper left.
- Select Your Places.
- You will see Home and Work under the Labeled section.
- Enter the address for each location and they will be saved.
4. Select your route
Google Maps by default will show you the fastest route available. If you want to select a different route for any reason, like you are in an area that collects tolls, that’s an option. You can avoid ferries, highways and tolls completely.
- Open Google Maps.
- Select your starting location and destination.
- Tap the 3 vertical dots – This is found in the upper-right corner, it opens a menu.
- Tap Route Options – Slide the toggle to the right next to the option you want to avoid. You can select a route that avoids one or all of the following: highways, tolls and ferries.
5. Quick Navigation
This feature comes in handy when you are in a hurry. You just need to enter both your start and end destination.
- Tap the blue button – You will see this in the lower-right corner.
- Tap Your Location – Enter your current location. This can be done automatically if you have location services turned on in the app.
- Tap Destination – Enter the address of your destination.
- Select transportation mode – Typically, you will select driving or walking. This will show you the distance from point A to point B along with an estimated travel time.
6. Share lists of saved locations
There is now a feature on Google Maps that will help you keep track of any location or route that you’d like. You can also create a list of places and share it with friends and family.
Not only can you share your list of places, but you can also subscribe to lists created by other people so you know their favorite locations too. Here is how to get started:
Open Google Maps.
- Find a location on Google Maps that you want on your list.
- Tap the name of that location
- Tap the Save icon under the location’s name – Doing this saves the location to one of your pre-set lists. You can name the lists anything you want, such as favorite restaurants or places I want to try.
Once you have a few locations saved, they can be found under Your Places in the menu on the upper-left side of the screen. Just tap the icon of the location and it will show up on Google Maps.
Sharing your lists is easy as well. Simply tap the share button to get a link and you can send the list via text, email, social media or any popular messaging app. The recipient only needs to tap “Follow” on the link you sent to pull up the list whenever they need it.
Lists that you follow are with you wherever you take Google Maps and can be viewed on mobile, desktop computer and even offline. Download offline maps of the area you are traveling to in advance and you will be able to see all the places on the list.
Here is a quick video that shows you how to use the new feature:
7. Pre-select pit-stops for longer trips
If you are heading out on a long road trip, you are probably going to make a few pit-stops. Google Maps now has the option of adding these to your trip ahead of time. Follow these steps:
- Open Google Maps.
- Tap the blue navigation button.
- Select your starting point and one of your destinations.
- Tap the three vertical dots in the upper-right corner.
- Select Add Stop – You can add up to nine stops along the route.
If you like to plan everything ahead of time, this is a great feature to use.
8. Go hands-free
People texting and using apps on their phones while driving is extremely dangerous and is one of the leading causes of car crashes in the U.S. That’s why it’s important to go hands-free while driving.
If you use an Android phone, you can use Google Maps hands-free. The app has a full array of helpful voice commands that you can take advantage of while trying to navigate your way through town.
Here are some of the app’s saved commands. Just begin by saying, “Okay, Google.”
- What’s my ETA?
- Find gas stations
- Find restaurants
- What’s the closest hotel?
- Navigate to work
- Exit navigation
Using voice commands is a huge safety improvement over staring at your phone while trying to drive.
9. Traffic Alerts
Arriving late to an important meeting is never a good thing. That’s why you should leave early and take the best route. However, what you think is the best route might turn out to be a traffic nightmare.
Google has just added Traffic Alerts to the Google Maps app that give you the best real-time option. Simply put in your location and destination like normal and Google will give you several routes you can take.
In addition to the usual distance and time, Google will tell you which one is the best route based on current traffic conditions. It also takes into account anticipated traffic conditions.
If you’re on the go and something along your planned route changes, Google will alert you. It tells you what obstacles or traffic jams are in your way and how long it will take to get through it. If there’s a faster route available, Google will give you the option to switch to that.
10. Share your location
When you need to share a meeting location with a client or employee, exact directions are really important. Maybe they wrote down the wrong location or your directions weren’t quite correct.
Sidestep the confusion by sharing the location directly from the Google Maps app. Simply tap the location you want to meet and hold until a red pin appears. Then tap the pin and tap the Share option.
You can send the location to the person through text, social media, email, cloud services and much more. It will open for them in their Google Maps app, and they can easily get directions from wherever they are.
11. Offline Maps
Not everywhere you’re going to travel is going to have cellular or Wi-Fi, especially if you do business in remote locations. Before you head out, download the Google Maps data to your phone so you can use it even with no Wi-Fi or cell service.
Open Google Maps and search for a city or region, like “Phoenix, AZ.” Once it loads, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to get the area’s infocard. Then tap the three vertical dots in the upper-right corner and tap “Save offline map.”
Now you can pan and zoom to capture the area you want. Then tap “Save” to download it to your phone. Note that depending on the area it could take up a lot of space on your gadget. Also, you’ll want to do this over Wi-Fi so you don’t burn up your data plan.
12. See where you’ve been
Knowing where you’re going is important, but it also helps sometimes to see where you’ve been. Maybe you need to expense your miles driven, or you just want a record of the stops you’ve made.
By default, Google tracks your location and stores the data for 30 days. You can bring it up in the Google Location History page.
Neat ey!? Is there anything else we’ve missed? Please share below!