Planning a Trip Using Google Maps

Planning a Trip Using Google Maps: Uncovering Its Full Potential

Planning a journey using Google Maps is a brilliant idea. But are you fully aware of all the functionalities this free tool offers?

Many have used the free Google App, which allows access to an immense database of all the roads and places in the world, as a powerful instrument for planning routes, finding information, and as a satellite navigator.

However, not everyone is familiar with all its features and the enormous potential packed in this App.

I’ll briefly discuss the basic functions (which you’re probably already familiar with) to focus on the “hidden” ones that make a difference and turn Google Maps into an indispensable app for independent travelers.

The basic functions are incredibly useful when you plan a journey using Google Maps. Directly from your smartphone, you can:

  • Choose and select a route to reach your destination.
  • View the map in various modes, prioritizing “satellite view,” “map view,” or even use “street view.”
  • Find information on leisure and commercial activities along your planned route.
  • Evaluate different route options, considering border crossings, toll roads, or particularly scenic stretches.
  • Choose to display options for completing your itinerary by car, on foot, bike, or using public transport.

These functions are extremely useful when planning a journey using Google Maps, and most of us only utilize these.

Planning a Trip Using Google Maps: Unveiling the “Hidden” Functions

Yet, Google Maps conceals other potent functions that can turn a novice traveler into a professional, crucial for the success of a journey organized independently.

Maximizing the capabilities of this free tool will transform you into a real professional in travel organization.

Planning a Trip Using Google Maps: Using the “Nearby” Feature

The Google App is far more powerful than and TripAdvisor when it comes to finding what you need in your vicinity.

The function is straightforward: Google Maps knows your location and lets you search (using the “nearby” function) for Hotels, Restaurants, Bars, and Pubs.

After conducting the search, a map will appear with Google “pins” marking the exact locations.

But there’s so much more you can do! In fact, if you type a different word in the search box, the App will provide positions (and information) related to the searched category.

Thus, Museums, Gyms, Banks, Government Offices, and any other information necessary for travel planning can also be searched for.

Planning a Journey Using Google Maps: Offline Use

Traveling might lead to situations where you don’t have an internet connection. In such cases, the functionalities of Google Maps would be unavailable.

However, you can save maps (or the map portion of interest) on your smartphone to consult Google Maps even without an internet connection.

You can use your smartphone to view maps, utilize the navigation function, and receive directions as if your phone were connected to the network. How is it done? After selecting a location and displaying it on your smartphone screen, press the location name at the bottom and slide it upwards. A series of options will appear, including “Download.”

Now, select the map portion you’re interested in (where you know you’ll be without connection) and download it to your smartphone. By default, it should be stored on your SD card, but check your smartphone settings to ensure it doesn’t occupy too much internal memory space.

Now, Google Maps will continue to function and provide directions even when your phone isn’t connected.

Planning a Trip Using Google Maps: Using My Google Maps

Do you have a Google account? Then, you can access Google My Maps and use all the (free) functions available! Just follow the access link after logging into your Google account.

The functions available to you at this point are numerous, and the potential of this application will immediately become indispensable for planning a journey using Google Maps.

Here’s what you can do with Google My Maps:

Create custom maps of your travels and save them in Google Drive (as well as in My Maps and on your PC) and share them with anyone simply using a link or even embed them on your website using an embed code.

Planning a Trip Using Google Maps

Add all the locations of your journey to the maps, customizing the “pins” or replacing them with ideographic icons that you can differentiate in graphics and color, to which you can attach descriptive notes and comments.

Planning a Trip Using Google Maps

You can create various layers of your map, dedicating each layer to a specific use. I usually make four:

  • Daily stops and hotels
  • Restaurants
  • Activities to do
  • Curiosities and points of interest

Here’s an example of the result you can achieve by selecting only one layer at a time:

Planning a Trip Using Google Maps

In this layer, I’ve included the main stops of my journey.
Planning a Trip Using Google Maps

In this other layer, I’ve included only the road directions.

Then there are restaurants, hotels, activities to do.

For each position (pin) added to the map (or corresponding layer), it’s possible to insert notes with remarks and useful information to fully enjoy the travel experience.

Planning a Trip Using Google Maps

In addition to “notes,” each position added to your map can be customized by changing the “pin” graphics using ideographic icons or altering its color. You can also associate photos with each position (before, during, and after the trip) to visually capture the memory or reminder.

Therefore, it’s possible to link your photos to the points you’ve marked with “pins” on the map in Google My Maps and share it with whoever you want!

Another incredible functionality at your disposal allows you to “import” other maps (created by you or shared by other users on Google) and overlay your notes and positions selected by you onto those of a friend or another traveler who has decided to share their experience with the Community.

The “import” function allows you to import images, maps, and all information from Drive, Google Photos, or directly from your PC into the map you’re creating or using to narrate your trip.

Planning a Trip Using Google Maps

Using the “import” function, you can import into a new project (new map) the information you created for a previous trip in the same area. For example, if you want to modify the itinerary or the activities to undertake, you can use the same restaurants you visited on a previous trip.

If you’re planning a trip to places you’ve already been, you can import the layer where you saved the hotels from a previous trip and use the same hotels for another trip dedicated to different activities.

Soon, using Google My Maps, it will be possible to find and contact “local guides” who will provide support and assistance for visiting the city where they reside (free or for a fee). The service is currently being rolled out only in some cities around the world, like Tokyo and Los Angeles.

Another functionality at your disposal allows you to measure distances between cities (as the crow flies or following the itinerary), obtaining all the partial kilometers (with a simple click of the mouse).

Planning a Trip Using Google Maps

This feature proves very useful when you need to calculate walking distances. I recommend proceeding as follows:

  1. Create another layer in your map dedicated to walking routes.
  2. Overlay the walking routes layer on top of the one with the hotels.
  3. Plot the walking paths and measure the distances.
  4. Save the layer and keep it ready for when you’re traveling!
Planning a Trip Using Google Maps

You can create a layer for each city or for each of the activities you intend to carry out during your trip or in that particular city.

The function to measure distances, combined with the one to plot walking routes, is extremely useful for organizing city tours or planning outdoor activities like trekking.

Planning a trip using Google Maps is a great choice, especially after you’ve learned to use all the potential it offers.


If you’re reading this blog, you’re an adventurous traveller, and I want to invite you to experience something unique.

We’re forming a Community of Travellers who will exclusively try out the new digital platform we’ve created for organising and planning trips and holidays completely independently and avoiding any form of intermediation.

“We believe that the free and spontaneous sharing of information is the key to making ‘travelling’ a habit achievable by everyone.”

When you return from a trip, you possess valuable information: the Hotels, Restaurants, Tour Guides, and experiences you’ve lived through!

These are pieces of information you’ll never use again but are indispensable for someone wanting to take a trip similar to yours.

If you’ve lived an unforgettable experience, you’ve brought home all the information needed to replicate it!

So, why not share it? Why not leave other travellers the information you collected on-site or during your experience? This way, others can save time (and money) and live travel experiences based on your stories.

We aim to create a database of information available to everyone. Join the project, and you too can find the information needed to plan your next trip thanks to the help of the community!

We are creating a digital platform where you can find (and exchange) all the necessary information to plan and organise trips and holidays completely independently!

All this thanks to the “principle of sharing” and the solidarity among travellers who share information gathered during their travel experiences.

If you want to participate in the final phase of the development of this new digital platform and become a Beta Tester (for free) by sending critiques, suggestions, and new ideas…

This post is also available in: Italian

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