Zone Classifieds The Zoomer Edit Travelling Soon? Try These 10 Free Google Maps Tips and Tricks

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The Zoomer Edit

Travelling Soon? Try These 10 Free Google Maps Tips and Tricks

BY Marc Saltzman | July 5th, 2024

With summer here, millions of Canadians will be travelling throughout the country, into the U.S. and across the globe.

Along the way your smartphone serves as an invaluable travel companion that at once becomes your lifeline to those back at home, as well as your language translator, luggage tracker, travel journal, and currency converter. It’s also your camera, camcorder and music mixer, all while holding your boarding passes, cruise ship itinerary and payment cards.

And don’t forget about one of the best functions of your phone: navigation.

Whether leveraging your phone to reach your destination or using it as a handy guide once you get there, Google Maps remains the best  app for any traveller.

While you may think you know Google Maps well, the following are 10 lesser-known features you should take advantage of for a smoother travel experience – whether you’re on iPhone or Android.

Download maps to use offline: Why use up precious data when you don’t need to? Before you leave home, you can download maps to your device, to navigate offline. To do so, open the Google Maps app and tap your profile picture (or initials) and then choose Offline Maps. Tap “Select your own map” and adjust the map according to the area you want to download. That’s it.

Remember where you parked: Leaving an event or attraction and forgot where you parked among the sea of vehicles? Next time, when you park your vehicle, open Google Maps and tap the blue dot on the map that represents your exact location. Now tap “Save your parking.” Later on, you can navigate back to your car.

Use location sharing: Sharing your location with someone – like family members you’re meeting up with or friends back at home – helps them know when to expect you to arrive somewhere or simply keep them aware of your whereabouts as a safety precaution. Open Google Maps, tap on your profile and select “Location sharing” to choose people who should have access to your location, in real time.

Get recommendations: A new feature available in select U.S. and Canadian cities (to start), Google has curated helpful lists of recommended places to visit from top sites and the Google Maps community. Type in the city you’re visiting and swipe up to see recommendations from people who know the city well. Included here is the “Trending List,” updated weekly, for places that have recently seen a spike in popularity on Maps.

Try “Immersive View”: Leveraging artificial intelligence (AI), “Immersive View” for routes is a new way to preview every step of your journey – whether you’re driving, walking or cycling (in select cities) – and you’ll be able to see your route in a stunning, multidimensional view from start to finish. This includes real photos, aerial images, simulated traffic and weather conditions. Try it!

Google Maps
Photo: © Google Inc


Use augmented reality: Perfect for on-foot exploration of a new city, the Google Maps app lets you navigate with “augmented reality” (“AR”), which is when you can see the real world around you through your phone’s camera lens with helpful digital information layered on top. Live View in Maps can be used indoors (such as at an airport) and outside, which lets you easily find your destination or see things that may be around you (like an ATM or nearby park). All you have to do is search a destination like you normally would in Google Maps, and then select the walking option (as opposed to driving or transit options) and then click the “Live View” button at the bottom of the screen to activate the tool.

Find a nearby bike or scooter rental: If you’re feeling adventurous and want to zoom through the city by bike or scooter, Google Maps can help here, too. Simply select your destination, tap on directions, and scroll to the cycling option. You’ll see nearby bikes and scooters, battery levels for electric options, and even if there’s a docking station for when you’re done.

Locate EV charging stations: Since electric vehicle ownership is on the rise, Google Maps can now help you find EV chargers and plan charging stops for road trips. Often there will be helpful tips along with the location, too, such as “enter around the back of this charging complex, as it will be easier to find a spot, then look to the left when you enter.” These details are possible because of the millions of reviews posted every day in Google Maps, according to the company.

Find more sustainable ways to travel: On a related note, Google Maps now lets you see more eco-friendly travel options, such as public transit, cycling or walking suggestions next to driving routes – if travel times are comparable, of course. This is available in a few dozen popular cities, to start. Similarly, Google Maps will also show you a “fuel efficient” route, represented by a leaf icon, and tapping this will show how much fuel you’ll save (or energy, for EV drivers) by taking the eco-friendly path, as well as the time difference, if any, between that route and the fastest one.

Find the best time to visit a place: Finally, Google Maps offers a handy “Popular Times” feature, to give you a heads-up about what to expect at a destination. Once you’ve searched for a place, such as a trendy café in Beverly Hills, scroll down to find a chart showing popular times, which shows you how busy the place typically is during different times of day.

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