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How to plan a road trip with Google Maps
Planning a road trip can be daunting, but the process can be a cinch with the right tools and resources. By plotting travel locations into Google Maps, you get a birds-eye view of your itinerary, trip mileage, and driving times. Plus, you can load your custom map on your smartphone for turn-by-turn navigation. Here’s how to plan a road trip with Google Maps.
Read more: Ten best road trip apps for Android
To plan a road trip with Google Maps, open My Maps to create a custom itinerary. From there, you can pin multiple locations to stop at and add a unique description, draw driving routes, and share the map with others on your trip so that you are all on the same page.
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How to create a custom map for your road trip
To properly plan a road trip, you’ll have to create a custom map, which requires accessing Google Maps from a desktop. However, once completed, you can view your custom map on the Android or iOS apps.
To start, click the Menu in the top left corner of the screen and then Your Places. Select Maps on the far right tab and Create Map at the bottom of the list. This will bring you to a new page to create your custom map.
The first thing to do would be to give your map a name. Click where it says Untitled map in the upper-left box to open the Edit map title and description menu. Add a name and description for your map, and then click Save.
Next, select the theme for your base map. Different themes can be helpful for various purposes. For example, it might be beneficial to have a terrain layout for hiking trails, while planning driving routes with a basic Map or a Simple Atlas theme might be more precise.
Click the downwards-pointing arrow beside Base Map to choose your preferred theme.
Additionally, your custom map can be composed of multiple layers, each with unique details and destinations. You can add more layers by clicking Add layer in the top greyed-out bar and remove or rename layers by clicking the three dots beside their name.
Check out our complete guide for more details on what you can do with a custom map.
How to pin locations on the map
Pins help mark specific locations with unique descriptions. To add a pin, search for a place you’d like to go to, or you can click Add marker below the search bar to pinpoint a spot on the map.
Once you’ve placed your pin on the map, you can edit its title, description, and style to highlight important details. In this example, I’ve marked a ferry ramp with a departure time to Vancouver Island by clicking Edit. I’ve also customized the icon to reflect a vehicle ferry by clicking the paint-bucket icon.
How to draw a route with multiple stops
You can draw a few types of routes on your custom maps, such as driving, walking, or bicycling routes. I’ll draw a driving course for this example and demonstrate adding additional stops.
First, click the Draw a line icon beneath the search bar and then Driving route.
Next, select your starting point on the map. I’ve chosen my Ferry Ramp Arrival pin as my starting point in this example. Then, select your destination. For this example, I’ve chosen the small town of Chemainus. Google will automatically create a new layer with the fastest route between the two points.
To see the distance and time it will take to drive, click Step-by-step directions from the menu on your new layer.
Let’s say I want to stop for lunch along the way. You can add a stop to your driving route by clicking Add destination to plan just that. In this example, I’ve zoomed in on the map to find a highly-rated restaurant I want to visit.
From there, type in the name of the stop you want to add or click it on the map. Then, you can click or drag the stop to prioritize where you want to go first. In this case, I’ve moved my lunch stop from C to B since it will be in the middle of my visits.
Google will add the new stop to your custom map and update the step-by-step accordingly. You can add as many stops along your route as you wish.
How to share your road trip and make it collaborative
You can share your custom map with others to collaborate on planning the road trip together. This is a great way to have your travel companions on the same page or let those you’ll be visiting keep track of your route.
Head to the Google My Maps website, sign in, and select the Owned tab to share a map. Your custom map should be listed here.
You can also create a custom link to your map to share it with others directly.
Click on your custom map in the Owned tab of the Google My Maps website to the map editor. From there, click the Share button in the left-hand menu.
This will bring up the Share settings. From here, enable the top slider so that anyone with the link can view your custom map.
Now, all that’s left to do is copy your custom link to share it with others through your messenger of choice.
On the Google Maps app, tap Go at the bottom of the screen. Your custom map should show up from your past activity. You can see how long it takes to drive to a suggested destination, recommended and alternate routes, and traffic delays along the way, such as crashes or construction work.
To add the weather layer, click the Layers widget in the upper right corner of Google Maps and select the weather layer from the list of options. You’ll then see a map with current weather conditions.