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Top 10 Google Maps Tips and Tricks
February 3, 2022
Google Maps is easily the most popular GPS and mapping system available today. Even if you don’t have the app on your phone, you’re likely using Google Maps features in other programs, like tracking a delivery.
But are you really getting the most out of Google Maps? For instance, did you know it has an offline mode? Or, have you ever used the rideshare fare estimator? In this list of the top tips and tricks for Google Maps, you’ll find ways to save time and get where you need to go safer than ever.
Plus, these tips work on any device with the Google Maps app, whether you’re an iOS fan or an Android faithful.
Best Google Maps tricks
Ready to plan your next high-octane road trip? Or maybe you just want a different route to get home from work? Take a few minutes to learn these simple hacks before you put your car into drive.
1. Voice commands
Many of us are accustomed to telling the Google Assistant what we want with the “OK Google” voice prompt, so it only makes sense to use it with the Google Maps app, too. This feature is crucial for safe driving because we really shouldn’t look at our screens when behind the wheel.
You’ll need the Android app to get the most out of voice commands. It only requires you to say, "OK Google Maps," to start using the voice commands. If you’re an Apple user, you need to tap the microphone icon in the app to activate the voice command, which means it’s not the hands-free feature you may want.
Once you activate the voice control, you can ask Google questions like "What's my next turn?" or "How's traffic?" These will help you plan your route better than waiting on the app's standard driving prompts. You can even say “Give me directions home from my location,” if you set up your address in the app.
2. Multiple stops with time estimation
Driving directions are great, but how often do we only drive from point A to B and back again? If you frequently add more stops to your trips, you can set those up in Google Maps, too. It will also adjust the length of the trip based on time of day, traffic, and your preferred route.
Want to grab a burger on the way home from work? It’s simple to map from one place to another.
In Google Maps, enter your current location and your final destination.
Use the three dots next to the destination to “add stop” as many times as you need for accurate trip details.
3. AR walking directions
We’ve all been there: you’re walking around a new city with Google Maps as your guide, but you still can’t figure out where you’re going. Even when you use the "walking" mode, it's often impossible to figure out which direction you’re going.
Thanks to the augmented reality (AR) feature in Google Maps, you can overlay a street view image over what you see in front of you with your phone's camera. This mode helps you see major landmarks, street signs, and other visual cues as you walk.
The AR feature is not available everywhere, but the “Live View” button will let you know where you can use this feature. It’ll save you time and make you feel safer as you navigate new places.
4. Offline map mode
While it’s difficult to believe there are places without cell coverage, they do exist. So what do you do if you’re in one of these locations? Offline map mode to the rescue. This nifty feature requires you to plan ahead of time, so make sure you don’t wait until you’re stranded in a dead zone to try it.
Start by finding the area you would like to navigate when offline, and then download that map to your phone. Here’s how:
Search for the area and pull it up.
Swipe left to find the “Download” option.
When you’re in the area, you can find the map saved to your phone's storage.
Google Maps will then provide turn-by-turn advice, even when you don’t have data.
5. Parking reminders
If you’re driving one of three gold vans in the same lot or you struggle to remember where you parked, you’ll love the parking reminders feature. You’ll love it even more if you’re traveling with kids, leaving the grocery store with tons of bags, or transporting large suitcases.
Here’s how to set the parking location:
Tap the blue dot on the map as you exit your vehicle.
Type in extra details like level, stall, or any other identifying information.
Type “parking location” into your Maps search bar when you’re ready to find your car again.
Pro-tip: You can take a photo of your location in Google Maps and then send it to friends in case you get lost or need help.
6. Incognito Mode
Google Maps’ Incognito Mode is particularly useful for researching an area you don’t want to save in your Google history. It won’t make you “invisible,” so don’t depend on it for total secrecy. If you want to find your way to a few locations on a friend's phone or don't want to intermingle your work and personal trips, Incognito Mode can help.
You can go Incognito by clicking the little hat with goggles to the right of your Maps search bar, then select "Turn on Incognito Mode." Just remember to turn it off when you're ready to personalize your experience again.
7. Traffic and parking stats
We all know we can save time and stress by avoiding traffic, but not every trip is flexible enough to plan around. However, when you use Google Maps, you can at least see the current state of traffic for an upcoming trip. Simply type in your destination and check each highlighted path for a traffic comparison.
You’ll notice that the busier routes are grayed out in favor of more stress-free routes. You can also preview the parking situation by looking at the "P" icon at the bottom of the map. You can even see the estimated foot traffic in certain businesses.
8. Accessibility information and routes
Did you know that Google Maps includes accessibility information? Click the Options button from your current map's home page to see wheelchair-accessible options for buses and trains.
You can also check a location’s accessibility options before you go there. To turn on this feature for all searches, go to Settings, then Accessibility, then Accessible Places. By toggling this, you'll see a wheelchair icon on every accessible entrance for a mapped business or location, as well as information about parking, restrooms, and seating (where available).
9. Rideshare pricing and options
You no longer need to open every rideshare app to compare prices, times, and availability. Google Maps now provides a one-stop shop for seeing the best way to get a ride home. You’ll need to use the dedicated Uber or Lyft apps to request and pay for a ride, but you can see what's available by entering your destination and clicking the icon that looks like a person hailing a taxi.
Keep in mind that times and prices change, so don't expect the estimate to be exact. However, this Google Maps feature at least gives you an idea of what you’ll pay and how long you’ll need to wait for a ride.
10. Measure your distance
Do you want to know the distance from the new deli to your favorite coffee shop? It’s easy with the Google Maps distance feature. Just double-tap (or right-click on a desktop) to view this special tool.
Then, choose “measure distance.” You can drop as many pins as you wish on the map to see the total miles traveled from start to finish. It’s a helpful tool for figuring out gas mileage or finding out if you’re actually inside a pizza delivery area, among other things.
Google Maps privacy tips
Many of the tips in our article require you to share your location and history because Google Maps works best when it personalizes its information and map results. If this concerns you, you can easily delete your app history anytime you don’t want it stored on your phone or your Google account.
Review your Google activity at myactivity.google.com; it allows you to search the date and product to clear your activity from.
Click "Apply" to see your search history. To delete the data, tap the three dots in the top-right corner.
You can delete individual search histories, too. Google can track data for years, so it’s best to review this information from time to time, no matter how often you use Google Maps.
About the Author: Linsey Knerl is a contributing writer for HP Tech Takes. Linsey is a Midwest-based author, public speaker, and member of the ASJA. She has a passion for helping consumers and small business owners do more with their resources via the latest tech solutions.
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