Cover image for tips for using Google maps offline or in airplane mode

Hidden a Tap or Two Away

When I share these Google Maps tips and tricks with friends who are about to go traveling, they frequently respond by saying something like, “Whoa! I wish I’d known this sooner.”

Too frequently.

These tricks aren’t buried deep within Google Maps or anything. They’re only a tap or two away.

You might not know them because A) You, unlike me, have better things to do than fiddle around with Google Maps all day and B) Google doesn’t make them obvious.

Whatever the case may be, here are my favorite not-so-secret Google Maps tips and tricks I use when traveling. Hopefully one or two will be new to you and make your trip a little easier.

#1: Never Forget or Miss a Highlight With Google Maps Save Places

Google Maps saved places screenshot
As you can see from this map of Valencia, where we’re living for three months, I use Google Maps’ Saved Places extensively.

Our Favorite Google Maps Tip

If there’s only one thing you take from this Google Maps tips and tricks post, let it be this.

Google Maps’ Saved Places functionality is one of Kim and my top travel tips and our go-to way of keeping track of places we want to see, visit, and dine at when traveling and at home.

Unlike Google My Maps locations, your saved places stay on your offline map even if you restart your phone or Google Maps app.

[July 2019 Update] Now Saved Places is Even Better!

Now not only can you save a place on your map so you don’t forget where it is, but you can also save a note to remember why you saved it in the first place because Google Maps has finally made it possible to add notes to each individual saved place.

How Save Places on Google Maps

How to save a location in Google Maps Step 1
1. Find the place to save.
2. Tap “Save.”
How to save a location on Google Maps
5. Success! It’s on the list.
How to save a location using Google Maps Step 3
3. Pick the list you want to save the location to.
Seeing your newly saved location on your Google Maps
And you’ll see the icon on the map.
Screenshot of how to save a location using Google Maps step 4
4. Add a note to remember why you added the location.

Whenever want to save a location for future reference.

  1. Find the location you want to save on Google Maps.
  2. Click the little bookmark icon that says “Save.”
  3. Pick which list you want to add the item to, or create a new list by clicking “+” on the bottom right.
  4. Add a note! This is key and is a functionality Google Maps just added in July 2019. Add a note to remind you of why you saved this location, who told you about it, and any specific dish / highlight / whatever to look out for
  5. Keep adding more and more saved places as you read about them and people recommend them to you.

How to Use Saved Places On the Road

  1. Open Google Maps on your phone.
  2. Go to the area you’ll be traveling to.
  3. Look at the icons to see what nearby locations you’d previously saved and decide which, if any, to check out.

The Downsides of Saved Places

  • You can’t collaborate with others. You can share your list with fellow travelers, but those people you can’t contribute to the list. They can only see it.
  • No custom icons. You can’t distinguish between lists because every item on every list has the same default blue icon.

Video Walkthrough

Tips and Tricks

Google Maps Saved Places cover image of funny guy having a great time on his phone
We just told this guy on the bus how to unleash the potential of Google Maps Saved Places.

✓ Unleash the potential of Saved Places

Because Saved Places is such an important Google Map functionality, we’ve put together a separate post. It explains why we used it so heavily, how to get started, how to get the most out of it, and answers to frequently asked questions.

Check it out: How to Unleash the Full Potential of Google Maps Saved Places.

Video Walkthrough

#2: Download and Use Google Maps Offline

Google Maps app screenshot of saving the map for offline use.
Downloading Google Maps to use them offline is VERY easy.

Just Say “No” to Screenshots

Instead of relying on the screenshots you take before leaving WiFi behind, download the map of the area you’re traveling to instead to use Google Maps offline.

Even when you’re not traveling it makes sense to download the offline map of your home city too so it loads faster and you don’t have to waste data on it.

Steps:

There are a couple of ways to download Google Maps for offline use now. I prefer this one:

  1. When connected to the internet, open Google Maps and zoom in/out to the area you wish to save online.
  2. Type “ok maps” in the search bar and click Search.
  3. Confirm the area and download.
  4. When you no longer need the offline map, click the three horizontal lines on the top left -> Offline maps -> Select the map to delete -> Press delete.

Video Walkthrough

#3: Take Google My Maps on Your Travels

Save Others’ Google My Maps to Your Phone

“Google My Maps” are maps like this example:

Helpful bloggers like Kim and I make them to show our readers the exact locations of points of interest we recommend with custom locations and symbols.

But we don’t want you to just look at them…

Take them with you!

Save these Google My Maps to your phone so that you can still see and access all their info on your Google Maps.

How to Save a Google My Map

Screenshot of a Google My Map saved on my phone.
Here I’ve saved and opened our Vancouver Google My Map on my phone.

Any time you see a Google My Map you’d like to refer to later on your phone, click the rectangle icon on the top right corner. This will open the map up in Google Maps on your phone and automatically save it on your Google account.

Get Google My Maps Ready For Offline Use

Annoyingly, Google Maps doesn’t allow you to save Google My Maps information for offline use, but there is a workaround.

Just before you go offline, open the My Map you want to use so it stays in your phone’s cache and can therefore be accessed offline.

Here are the steps.

  1. On Google Maps on your phone, click the three horizontal lines on the top left.
  2. Tap “Your Places.”
  3. In “Your Places” tap “Maps” on the upper right of your screen.
  4. Locate the Google My Map you want to see and use offline and tap it to open it up on your screen.
    • The map will then be accessible for offline use
  5. Don’t exit Google Maps.
    • You can switch to other apps, but don’t close Google Maps entirely or else the cache will be wiped out and you will no longer be able to see your desired Google My Map offline.

Note: You can only have up to 5 Google My Maps visible on your Google Maps at a time.

Video Walkthrough

#4: Make Your Own Customized Google My Map

Screenshot of the Google My Maps interface, where you can create your own custom maps.
Don’t try this at home.

Not Recommended

I don’t recommend creating Google My Maps for travel planning unless it’s for a blog or to otherwise share with many others.

Instead, I recommend everyone used Saved Places, which we covered in the first Google Maps tip. Saved Places is less customizable, but much easier to edit on the fly on your phone than Google MyMaps.

If you insist, you can use the Android-only MyMaps app or, for iOS users, download the Chrome browser and use it. (Thanks to Gabriel for pointing this out in the comments!)

…Unless You Really Want These Functionalities

Google My Maps has some functionalities that Saved Places doesn’t have that might make it useful for specific needs:

  • More customizable. Custom icons, lines, and directions.
  • Collaborative. You can work with others on the same map.

How to Make Your Own Google My Map

If you really want the functionalities or are just curious to see for yourself:

  1. On your desktop, log in to your Google account.
  2. Open the Google My Maps page.
  3. Click “+ Create a New Map.”
  4. Type in the search box to begin adding locations.
  5. Play around with all the mostly self-explanatory functionalities or follow Google’s My Maps instructions.

#5: The Best Way to Find Spots to Stop Along the Way

Example of using the trick to add a pitstop on Google Maps
I’ve added a quick detour to a coffee shop onto my Google Maps directions.

If you’re using Google Maps for directions and need to stop for a bathroom, coffee, food, or whatever break along the way, here’s the best way to do so.

Add a Pit Stop

  1. When you’re in the step-by-step direction mode of Google Maps, click the magnifying glass search icon on the top right of your screen
  2. Choose from one of the options that appear there, Gas Stations, Restaurants, Grocery Stores, and Coffee shops, or tap Search and type in whatever category of the location you’re looking for
  3. Google Maps will show you on the map all the potential places along the way and how many minutes of a detour each is.
  4. Tap whichever location you want to stop at along the way and the app will automatically add it to your route.

Remove a Pit Stop

  1. Tap the bottom part of the screen where it says the time and distance to your destination.
  2. Select “Remove stop.”
  3. Choose which stop to remove from your route.

Video Walkthrough

#6: When NOT to Use Google Maps

For Hiking Trails, Use Maps.Me

Screenshot where Google Maps doesn't show Brandywine Mountain hike.
Google Maps shows no trail to Brandywine Mountain…
Maps.Me screenshot showing the trail to Brandywine Mountain.
…Maps.Me does have the trail. Maps.Me 1, Google Maps 0.

If you want to go hiking, don’t count on Google Maps to have the trail you’re looking for.

Do count on Maps.Me to have it, though. It’s a free, easy-to-use, and lightweight alternative.

How to Use Maps.Me

  1. Before you go offline, locate the hiking trail you want to follow on Maps.Me.
  2. Download the map of the area Maps.Me will ask you to download. These are generally less than 30 Mb.
  3. You’re set! The map’s ready to be used offline.

#7: Locate Your Travel Companion(s)

Screenshot of Google Maps' location sharing functionality, which is useful when traveling with others.
Screenshot of Kim’s phone. She ALWAYS knows where I am. That’s a good thing… mostly.

Whether you temporarily split up with your travel companion to do different things or you’re looking to meet up with someone, Google Maps’ location sharing function makes it easy to find each other.

It allows you to share your location, and see the location of others who’ve shared with you, for a predetermined amount of time, from 1 hour to 3 days, or permanently.

Other apps like WhatsApp and Find My Friends have the same functionality, but I find it to be more convenient when it’s right on Google Maps.

How to Share Your Location

  • On Google Maps, tap the menu icon on the top left (the three horizontal lines beside the search box).
  • Select “Location sharing.”
  • Tap “Get Started.”
  • Choose how long you want to share your location for, from 1 hour to 3 days.
  • Share your location. Google Maps creates a link that you can share with specific people or even share publicly.

How to Stop Sharing Your Location

You can stop sharing your location at any time.

Simply go to your “Location sharing” settings and tap the “x” beside the people or link you want to stop sharing with.

Video Walkthrough

#8: Zoom in and Out With One Finger

Ditch the Pinch!

We were taught as children not to pinch and it’s a lesson we should continue to abide by when it comes to zooming in and out on Google Maps.

Instead of pinching:

  1. Double-tap the Google Maps screen with your finger of choice
  2. On the second tap, hold your finger on the screen
  3. Keeping your finger on the screen, swipe up to zoom out and swipe down to zoom in.

Give it a try and you’ll immediately realize it’s a much easier, smoother, and faster way to zoom in and out.

Ditch the pinch and start swiping!

Video Walkthrough

#9: Make a Custom Route with Google Maps

Here’s how to make a custom route on Google Maps, save it for future use, and share it with others.

It’s not as easy as it should be unfortunately because, for whatever reason, you can make a custom route on Google Maps, but you can’t send that route with directions to your phone.

This leaves us with two options:

Option 1: Step-by-Step Directions With Less Control

Option 1: Custom Google Maps directions with less control

With this option, you cannot drag the route to be exactly what you like. You have to play with stops along the way to get Google’s directions to match your exact desired route.

  1. Open Google Maps on your phone or computer
  2. Enter two locations along your desired route.
  3. Add stops on your phone by clicking the three dots to the top right of your screen and tapping “Add Stop” in the options menu that opens up. Add stops on your computer by clicking “Add Destination” on the top left of your screen, just below the two locations you already input.
  4. Arrange your stops in their desired order.
  5. Fine-tune your route by adding more intermediary stops. This is only necessary if the route Google Maps gives you isn’t exactly what you’d like.
    • Note: Google limits you to eight such intermediary stops.
    • Note 2: You can drag the route to customize it, but Google Maps does not send those changes to your phone.
  6. Share or save the route on mobile by tapping the three dots in the top right and selecting “Share Directions” in the options menu. To share or save the route on your computer, either click “Send directions to your phone” or click “Details” to get the detailed step-by-step directions and clicking the share icon that appears to the left of the print icon.

Option 2: Exact Route Without Step-by-Step Directions

Option 2: Custom Google Maps directions with full control but no step-by-step directions.

Using this approach, you can make the route exactly as you wish, but you won’t get Google’s step-by-step directions when you follow it:

  1. Open Google My Maps on your computer and make a new map, naming it however you wish.
  2. Click the “Add directions” icon underneath the search bar. This will open up a new Untitled Layer.
  3. Type in the locations—your starting point, destination, and points in between—in this new layer.
  4. Fine-tune your route any time by clicking and dragging the blue route line.
  5. Open this route on your phone by following the steps in Google Maps Trick #2 above. The line you made will show up, but Google Maps will not provide you the step-by-step directions.

Happy Travels Using These Google Maps Travel Tips and Tricks!

Please leave a comment if you have any question about these Google Maps traveling tricks or if you have favorite some tricks of your own.

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36 comments

  1. Hey there! We tried to do save a map offline then turn off the wifi and data. Unfortunately, the map disappears from the google maps app once we do that. Any suggestions?

    1. Hey Aarthi, thanks for reaching out with your question. If it’s Google offline maps you’re referring to, click the three horizontal lines on the top left corner of Google Maps to open the menu, then select Offline Maps. If you don’t see the map you saved there, a mistake was made saving the map for offline use. Try saving it again.
      If it’s a Google My Map whose locations keep disappearing, here are a couple points that might help: 1) You can only have one “Google My Map” displayed on your Google Maps at at time, so if you look at one then the other, the locations from first one are removed. 2) If you close the app or restart your phone, the map will disappear when you reopen it, so keep Google Maps open as long as you need the offline Google My Map. You can go to other apps. Just don’t shut down Google Maps. 2) The safest bet is to double check the map and the locations are there just before you leave a wifi zone. That way they certain not to disappear until you close the app or restart your phone.
      Hopefully one of these things helps!

      1. In the case of “How to Save a Google My Map”, when you no longer have internet access (either wifi or mobile data) you will often get a message “unable to load one of your maps” or something similar, even without having closed and re-opened the app. Then you can’t get the My Map to display until you have an internet connection again.

        So this feature can be handy, but it isn’t reliable and people should be warned not to depend on it. The “My Map” does not get saved to your phone for offline use.

  2. Hi Chris! Thanks for the quick reply! It looks like the map will stay on the screen offline as long as I don’t close the app. However, I can’t zoom in or else the pins disappear. I also can’t click on any of the save locations for any information. Do you notice those same limitations? I tried on an iphone and ipad. I wonder if that’s as good as it gets with google my maps offline.

    Next best option I can find is downloading the map data as kml and uploading that to the maps.me app. Unfortunately, any color coding saved in google my maps is gone but all of the data is available offline. If you notice the same problem with google my maps as me, this might be worth checking out!

    1. Hey Aarthi. With Google My Maps even if you’re online if you click any of the pins it won’t show any other information other than whatever the creator of the map input. You don’t see the Google Maps info. I’ve never come across the zooming issue, though.

      Thanks for recommending maps.me. The problem with maps.me is making maps with it only helps those who have the app. Which is better: an imperfect Google Maps map that just about everyone can use easily, or an much better maps.me map that only a fraction of the same people would actually use?

    1. Glad to have helped, Les. Hopefully now that you know how to use Google Maps offline you won’t be getting lost searching around cities for ages like you were searching the web for these tips!

    1. Google Maps. Maps.me is definitely a worthy alternative. I keep both on my phone. Google Maps has better info on businesses and is better for saving locations; Maps.me has better hiking trail info.

  3. Hi there, Are you aware of an issue with Google My Maps no longer working on iPhones? I have multiple My maps that have worked in the past but now when I try to open any of the maps, it takes me to the city but doesn’t show any of the placemarkers.

    1. Hey Hannah. Yeah, as of this week I’ve been having the same problem with my iPhone 6S. Kim, who has an 8, can still see the maps though. It seems to be a problem with older, 7 and below, models. I updated the post accordingly. Google says they’re working on it, but I wouldn’t hold my hopes up for a speedy solution.

      1. Hi Chris, Thanks for the update. I actually have an iPhone XS Max, and I deleted and re-downloaded Google Maps so I definitely have the most recent version. Seems like its not just older models sadly! Any suggestions for a workaround? Hopefully they won’t take too long to fix it!

  4. If I save a custom google map then reopen it years later will google update the map for any street additions/deletions/changes or will the map remain exactly how it was when I first made and stored it?

    1. That’s a really good question, Virginny! I don’t know the answer. I’m almost positive that the base map with the streets will change but I doubt that if, for example, a restaurant you saved on your My Map changes location, that Google will move it for you.

  5. It looks like I might have a similar problem as the folks with the iphones. I’ve used google maps offline for over a year that I’ve been living in my car. I love the saved places that show up on the map. Suddenly, I can only get lists of places. So I can’t get an idea of where things ARE. I’ve got an asus Zenphone 3. Yesterday I updated to the latest version of maps. No difference.
    (The same thing happens if I try “library near me”. It gives a list instead of showing me nearby libraries. I’m panicking. I can’t find things unless I know where they are! Which I obviously don’t.)

    1. Hey Irene. I’m sorry to hear you’re now having similar problems as us iPhoners were having back in Feb (which were subsequently fixed by Google). Have you checked the Google Maps help forum to see if anyone else is having similar issues? Here’s the link.
      p.s. Your comment, “I can’t find things unless I know where they are! Which I obviously don’t.” made me chuckle. Thanks for that.

  6. Thanks for the response! I was having trouble finding (irony) the forum; thanks for the link. You ifolks are addressed, but I’m still searching for us androids. Back to the search, thanks again.^

  7. Hi Chris, thanks a lot for your helpful website here!
    One question i didn’t find yet on the net:
    When riding with multiple stops, how can i tell or configure google map to continue his road automatically when reaching the “stop”? without asking to click manually on “continue” each time? You would understand i am a biker … thanks for your precious help!

    1. Hey Ben. Here’s an option: 1. On Google Maps on your computer, get the directions to wherever your ultimate destination is. 2. On the route that Google gives you, drag the little white dots to the waypoints you want to go by. 3. Once you have the route you want, click “Send directions to your phone.” It may be a bit more time-consuming to drag to the waypoints yourself, but that should do the trick.

  8. Hi, Chris,

    Thanks for all the great tips. I’m wondering if it’s possible to create a custom route and save it so that I can continue following it later on.

    Specifically, I’d like to follow the Blue Ridge Parkway which winds through the US Appalachians for hundreds of miles. It travels along many different roads, so I can’t just ask Maps to compute a route because my preferred route would not be anywhere near optimal.

    Therefore, I think I’d need to create a custom route by starting with one that Maps suggests and then adjusting it by dragging at various points to cover my Saved Places. This would be time-consuming, so I’d like to do it just once, save it, and then bring it back each day to continue from my most recent nightly stopping point.

    Maybe I could do this with Google My Maps but that would have the disadvantages that you point out in your article. I’d greatly appreciate any advice on doing this with the methods that you suggest.

    Dave Brill

    1. Hi Dave – Good question. I think you can do it! Ben asked a similar question in an earlier comment above. Make the route on Google Maps, not Google My Maps, by adding all the waypoints you’d like along and dragging the white dots along the exact path you want. Google limits you to 10 waypoints (but unlimited white dots). If you have more than 10, there are a few workarounds like the one here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlmUJ8-KQ5o. Once you have your desired route, save the URL for future use.

      Hope that helps. I’m going to add this one to this guide when I get the chance.

      All the best

  9. I think you’re outlining some clear functionality gaps in Google Maps. All of these are really annoying. Have you tried reaching out to Google?

    1. I agree with you, Sean. I and many others have raised these complaints with Google on their forums and through feedback buttons, but I guess they have other priorities than make Google Maps and Google My Maps more functional for us. Until then, we’re stuck with making the best we can with what we have. It’s still a million times better than no maps at all!

    1. Hi Shicko, Not sure what you mean by “a saved map on Google maps.”

      If you mean saved places on Google Maps, look here for how to export Google Maps data: Click here.

      If you mean a saved Google My Map, follow these steps: Click here

    1. Hi Carlos. For offline maps, the best you can do is add your own notes to each place you save on Google My Maps or with Saved Places on Google Maps. With Saved Places, Google will also save the overall average review, address, hours, and phone number for you too, but no photos and individual reviews.

  10. Hello Chris
    Thank you so much for this guide.
    I have a cycling route saved and I’ve added points if interest, eg stars for hotels, hearts for taxis etc. I’ve saved the map for use offline but when I try to click on my pins/points of interest I can’t see any details such as the hotel name or the taxi phone number which I’d added in as text. Any suggestions for viewing points of interest you added when offline?
    Thanks!

    1. Hello Kirsten. Your best bet would be to use the brand-new functionality Google Maps just added to its Saved Places that allows you to add notes to each location. For example, if you have a list, “Cycling Route,” and add a hotel to it, the hotel and its name will be saved. Underneath that you’ll see an option to add a note. Add whatever additional info you need—phone number, etc—to that note.

  11. You CAN edit your maps on a phone.
    Actually, there are two ways to do it:
    1. On Chrome, go to google.com/mymaps. You have to be logged in to Chrome.
    2. Just install the Google My Maps application from Google Play.

  12. Hello, I don’t understand why people try to keep on using my maps off line while there is a very usefull navigation apication full of features called OSMAND (for Android ONLY). I have been using it for years with great satisfaction. Just try it. It’s free.

    1. Hello Dov. Thanks for sharing about OsmAnd. I could see how for some Android users it would be super helpful. Some of us still keep trying to use Google My Maps offline because we have iPhones, because My Maps are commonly shared by bloggers online, and because for many of us we’d rather be able to do everything on one map app than have to deal with many of them. Just too bad Google Maps can’t make it easier for us!

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