Wondering how to plan a trip with Google Maps? Here is my full guide on how I use it for all my holidays!
There is a lot that goes into planning the perfect trip. What are you going to do? Where will you stay? How are you going to plan in your days? How long do you even need to see everything?
Being the organization freak I am, I love travel planning. Because I want to make the most out of my trips (and write the best possible guides about the destinations I visit), I take travel planning very seriously.
Today, I’m sharing my all-time favourite way to plan my holidays. I have been using Google Maps for years and I use it for every single holiday. It takes away so much of the stress that comes with travel planning, and it’s incredibly easy to use. Let’s take a look!
Why Do I Use Google Maps For Trip Planning?
Google Maps is one of my favourite travel tools because it’s so easy to use for planning and during your trip. I use it for planning city trip itineraries, road trip routes, saving my favourite locations and hotspots, and more.
Access It Anywhere
You can access Google Maps anywhere you want. After creating a map on your desktop, you can open it on your phone, or even download it so you can access it without needing the internet. This is especially handy for when you’re abroad and internet access isn’t a given.
Find The Best Hotel Location
Using Google Maps to plan my city breaks gives me insight on the perfect location for my accommodation. Because I have a visual representation of all the things I plan to do during my holiday, I know exactly what the best hotel spot is. I compare the map from Booking.com and my own map, and ta-da!
Plan Your Driving Miles/Time
When planning road trip routes on Google Maps, you can easily estimate the time it takes to drive from one place to the next. You can use this to properly budget your trip in terms of petrol cost, too. And when on the road, you can use the directions from your own map while driving.
8 Steps On How To Plan A Trip With Google Maps
Here is my guide on how to plan a trip with Google. I’ve been using these tools for years to plan my own trips and it’s always made travelling a lot easier. You can use it for creating city trip itineraries, or road trip itineraries.
Let’s take a look at how to do it yourself.
1. Create a Map
To create a map on Google, you do need a Google account. Once signed up/logging in, go to this page. Click on the menu >> my places >> maps, which will take you to your maps. If you have created any maps in the past, you will also find them here. Alternatively, you can go to this page, where you see and access your maps in an instant.
To create a new map, click on “create map”. This will open a new tab with an empty map.
By clicking on “untitled map”, you can give your map a name and a description. And ta-da! All ready for some travel planning and creating the perfect itinerary!
2. Add Locations
Now it’s time to start brainstorming: what do you want to do and see on your trip? I love planning my trips by reading travel guides, blog posts, itineraries from other travel bloggers, and going through Instagram hashtags and location tags. You don’t have to worry about how to plan out your days in detail, you simply want to get an idea of what you want to do on holiday.
You can add these to your map by typing the location into the search bar. This can be the name of the location, the address, or use the coordinates. Usually, you’ll see a drop-down menu with suggestions as you type.
By pressing enter or selecting one of the options, Google Maps will take you to the location. Here, you can add these locations to your maps. Simply click on “add to map” and you’ll see it appear on the untitled layer.
Alternatively, you can use the “add market” tool to add a random marker on the map. You can use this when a location isn’t on the map but you don’t have the coordinates, for example.
Before adding all your locations, make sure to read step 3 as it explains how to customize your pins. This way, it’ll be much easier to plan your daily itineraries later on.
NOTE: You can also plan a road trip with Google Maps by simply adding the places you want to see as we can later add directions (see step 6). For example, for my road trip through the USA, I didn’t plan a detailed itinerary for San Francisco, but simply added the city to the map. I made a separate map to plan in my day in San Francisco.
3. Customise Into Categorise (Icons and Colours)
Another reason why I love planning trips on Google Maps is its customisation options. You can make your map even easier to navigate with colours, icons, pictures, and notes. These give you the option to break down your locations into categories, such as things to do, photography spots, restaurants, cafes, hotels, shops, etc.
You can change the colour of your pin and add an icon under the “style” option. There are hundreds of different icons to choose from. I would recommend just change the icons for now, as I always change the colours into certain days for my itineraries. Obviously, you can completely style this the way you want.
You can also change the colour and icon of your pins in the side menu.
When clicking on the “edit” icon, you can change the title and add a description for your location.
You can add an image or video to your pins, too. And lastly, you can delete the pin by clicking on the trash icon.
Now you’ve added all the things you want to do and given them some icons, it’s time to take a look at the layers. You can add a layer by clicking the “add layer” option in the sidebar. This automatically creates an untitled layer to your map.
To move points from one layer to another, you can simply drag them over with your mouse. You can rename and delete the layers by clicking on the three dots next to the name of the layer.
You can make layers invisible by unchecking the box next to the name of your layer.
You can use layers to categorize your locations. For example, you can make a layer for restaurants, one for hotels, one for monuments, one for shops, etc.
I personally always use them to break down my days for my trip. This way, I can quickly see what I’m doing every day while I’m travelling. To make it even clearer, I change the colours of all my pins to match the layer.
6. Plan Your Itinerary (With Directions)
Now we have a good overview of all the things we want to do and see during our trip, it’s going to be much easier to divide it into days. For the Budapest itinerary I’ve been planning as part of this tutorial, I’m going to spread it out across four days.
I created four layers to create an itinerary in Google Maps.
Because I can see where all my hotspots are located, I can see which activities and sights I want to pair together. This way, I can save a lot of time during my trip and make it as efficient as possible. You can even make squares to group things together with the “line drawing” tool.
For example, it makes sense to group these pins together per day – this will save me a ton of time travelling from one place to the other.
Always make sure these things actually work together, though. Sometimes, a ton of restaurants are located close together, but there’s no point planning in four restaurants on the same day. Sometimes, there are museums that take way too long to visit alongside other sights or you can combine certain parts of the city in one day.
Take a look at your itinerary and plan it accordingly. As mentioned before, I like to use the colour tool to add the same colour per day to make it even easier to spot. My Google Map itinerary turned out like this.
If you’re planning a road trip or want directions for walking the city, you can use the direction tools. Click on one of the locations and select “Directions to here”.
This will create a new layer in your map. From here, you can add different locations to create a route. You can click on the points you’ve already made to easily add them to your route. Click on “Add Destination” to add more stops.
You can also change it from “driving” to “cycling” or “walking”. This tool allows you to create road trip itineraries or city walks with just a few clicks. I find this especially handy to plan a road trip with google maps, as it allows me to estimate the driving time and the amount of money I’ll have to spend on petrol.
By clicking on the three dots next to the name of this direction layer, you can click on “Step-by-step directions”. This will give you detailed directions, distances, and an estimation of how long it’ll take for you to get there. Super handy!
7. Book Your Hotels
Now you know exactly what your daily plans are for our trip, it’s also very easy to pick the perfect location for your accommodation. Because you know what parts of the city you’ll be visiting, you can pick a spot that makes sense. Rather than having to travel for miles every day, you’ll be staying in the perfect location.
I usually book my hotels on Booking.com. The website’s map feature makes it perfect for choosing the location. Because I have my itinerary, I know exactly what area of the city I should stay.
I avoid a lot of walking and travelling during my trip, making it very efficient and giving me more time to actually explore what these destinations have to offer. Once you’ve booked your accommodation, you can add the location to your map too.
8. Share Your Trip & Access It On Your Phone
Once you’re done with your map, you can share it with your travel buddies and download it onto your phone. Here is how to do it.
Access Your Map On Your Phone
To view the map on your phone (with internet connection), simply download the Google Maps app. Log into your account and click on the “Saved” button on the bottom. Then scroll down and click on “Maps”. This will take you to all the maps you created. Click on the map you want to access, and all your saved spots will appear.
Share Your Map
To share your map with your travel company or friends, click on the “Share” button. Make sure to enable link sharing, which will allow you to copy the shareable link. You can share this link with friends, who can then access your map and download it themselves.
Embed Your Map On Your Site
If you’ve read any of my itineraries or travel guides, you have probably noticed some Google Maps. As I always use these maps for my own trips, I also include them into my articles. If you want to embed your map onto your site, click on the three dots >> “embed on site”.
This will give you a code that you can include on any site for an interactive map to appear.
Conclusion: Using Google Map Trip Planner
That concludes my guide on how to plan a trip with Google Maps. I hope I was able to show you all the amazing features this tool offers and how easy it is to use when planning a road trip or city break.
Ever since I started using it, I’ve never looked back. It has saved me so much time and always takes away a ton of travel planning stress. I hope it can do the same for you!