The One Website Travel Insiders Swear by for a Better Vacation
For some, the best part of a trip is sipping on a margarita with their toes in the sand and hair in the breeze. For others, it's the anticipation before an adventure begins. If you're the type to obsessively research local guides, ask all your friends for recommendations, or make an appeal on Facebook to get everyone's best addresses, we have a few Google Maps hacks you'll definitely want to hear about.
Most of us know how to create custom Google Maps—with our calendars synced pointing to where our next meeting is and when we should leave to get there on time. But have you ever used these custom functions to plan a trip? Whether you're looking to book your memorable meals ahead of time, avoid crazy roaming fees, or share your local knowledge with your nearest and dearest, we have the hack for you. Even if you're not currently planning a trip, log onto your Google Maps today—your most well-planned adventure awaits.
Start Saving Now
No, I don't mean your money—although, if you're planning a trip, you should be saving that too. Even if you're months away from your trip, start saving places that you might want to visit: hotels where you'd like to stay, restaurants you want to try, coffee shops you spotted on Instagram, museums to visit. In fact, even if you're not planning a trip, you should start saving addresses worldwide to your Google Maps. You never know when life's going to take you there. Besides, next time you read a travel guide, you can actually be proactive and save all its addresses in one spot, instead of bookmarking the article and forgetting all about it.
To do this: Search for a specific place on Google Maps, and tap or click the star icon at the top left of the description. This is also handy for exploring and navigating your own city.
Personalize Your Map
The Google Maps app already provides three categories for saving places: starred, favorites, and want to go. But did you know you can create your own? Add new color-coded categories for museums, coffee shops, lunch spots, and more so you can easily find what you're looking for when on location. What's more, you can also add personalized labels to help you remember why you saved the place—add things like "happy hour," "bring your own wine," or "no reservations."
To do this: From your Google Maps app, save a place, and tap on the saved icon again to reveal more categories. Tap on "add new" to create new ones. From Google Maps on your desktop, click on "add a label" below a place's info to customize labels. These will show up above the location's name on your desktop map.
Download Offline Areas
Imagine this: you've saved dozens of cool addresses to try on your trip, you get to your destination, open a few emails, and bam—you've hit your data limit for the month. Roaming fees can get steep when traveling overseas (especially when location services are enabled), but that doesn't mean you can't use your map everywhere you go. To use your map while on airplane mode, simply download areas to access even when you're offline, and keep your data for truly important things like work emails or texts from your mom.
To do this: Tap the dropdown menu on the top left side of your app, tap on "offline areas," and then select "custom area." Select the zone that you want to be able to access, and give it a name. The next time your roaming is turned off, try it—your map will load like normal without the high data fees. Beware, these downloaded maps have an expiration date so double-check before leaving on your trip.
Drop Pins as You Go
You meticulously planned your trip, booked all your restaurants in advance, and are now navigating this new city like a pro—but you should still leave space for random exploration. After all, the best discoveries aren't made in guide books. Drop pins and save new places as you go while in a new city—that way you'll never forget where you had that amazing melon prosciutto salad or the name of the hidden wine bar that kept you up a few hours past your bedtime. A few days ago, Google also announced that you can now share your location with friends and family for a limited time. This can be extremely helpful if you get lost or want to set a rendez-vous point.
To do this: Update your app (if you haven't already). From the top left navigation, tap on "share location," select the "add people" icon, and select who you want to share your location with. You can also set a timeframe on it so it will automatically turn off after a predetermined time.
Shop The Look:
Use the Explore Function
In a pinch, try Google Maps' explore function to find things like breakfast, lunch, dinner, or drinks. Search by categories such as cheap eats, sushi, or where the locals eat. It's great when looking for a quick bite to eat within a few blocks' radius—or if you find yourself having a sudden craving for BBQ chicken. You can even search restaurants by opening date, in case you're looking for something hot and happening.
To do this: From the top left navigation, tap on "explore" where you'll find a ton of food and drink options neatly arranged in categories.
Share Your Knowledge
Sharing is caring, so don't keep all that newfound knowledge to yourself. Create a shareable map upon your return to share with family and friends. Have them add their favorite addresses (and friends) too so you'll never be short on inspiration should you return to your destination again. A map of Paris created by 12 of your closest friends and family is much better than any guide you could purchase or search for online.
To do this: From your desktop, click on the top left menu and select "your places," then "maps," and "see all your maps." Create a new map (which you can rename Paris, for example). Save your favorite addresses, and click on the "share" button to send around to your group of friends. They'll be able to explore and add to your map by saving their own favorite spots.
Next up: Book a trip at one of the three cheapest travel destinations for 2017.