Most small delivery businesses start off with small budgets, so it makes sense to use a free tool like Google Maps to plan delivery routes. Google Maps was designed as a navigation app rather than a delivery route planner, though, so things can get complicated. In this post, we’ll share some pro tips and tricks:
- Is it actually possible to plan a delivery route on Google Maps?
- The advantages and disadvantages of using Google Maps route planner for deliveries
- How to create a free delivery route with Google Maps
- How to use Google My Maps to plan longer routes
- Other apps for planning delivery routes
Note: If you’re not making any deliveries but you still need to plan a route for another reason, check out our article on how to use Google Maps as a route planner. It’s much simpler!
Can I plan a delivery route on Google Maps?
You can use Google Maps as a delivery route planner—but you will need to put in a lot of effort, and you will probably not get the most efficient routes.
Using Google Maps as a route planner for deliveries can be worthwhile if:
- You only have a few stops to make
- Finding the most efficient route is not important to you
- You have time to make a lot of manual adjustments
- You can only afford a free tool
If you need something more powerful than Google Maps, you can probably save time and money by using route planning software. But if you’re not ready for that yet, Google Maps can still be a good-enough way to get the job done.
Advantages and disadvantages of using Google Maps for deliveries
- Google Maps is free
- Most people know how to use Google Maps
- Live navigation that takes traffic into account is included
- You can only plan routes of 10 stops or less at a time
- You can’t plan around constraints like delivery time windows and driver shift times
- You need to sort your stops manually to get efficient routes
If you can live with these disadvantages, let’s move on to actual route planning!
How to create a free delivery route with Google Maps
1. Collect all your delivery information
Use a spreadsheet to collect all the information you need for each delivery stop. You will need at least an address and some contact details, but you may also want to include information like special notes, a time window, how long you expect the delivery to take and possibly a load size.
Notice that in the example above we have created separate columns for city/suburb and zip code/postal code. This makes it a lot easier to sort your stops, so we highly recommend doing it.
You’re welcome to copy our free Google Sheets template to help you get started!
2. Create driver territories
If you use the same regular drivers for your deliveries, it’s a good idea to create driver territories. You can do this by assigning each driver to a different postal code, or by dividing your city up into neighborhoods or zones (north, south, east, west, for example).
There are several advantages of doing this:
- If each driver is assigned to one area, instead of all the drivers criss-crossing the city, they’ll drive shorter distances and use less fuel.
- By driving the same territories each time, drivers will build up their knowledge of the area so they can navigate it more efficiently.
Even if you only have one driver (or you’re the driver!), creating territories or zones can help you group deliveries efficiently, for example by visiting different areas on different days of the week.
If your delivery zones don’t exactly match to suburbs or zip codes/postal codes, you could add an “assigned driver” or “delivery zone” column to your spreadsheet.
3. Group your delivery addresses
The goal here is to sort your stops into groups of 10, because this is the maximum number of stops you can have in a route planned with Google Maps. This part can be difficult—but it’s easier when you have your spreadsheet properly sorted!
First, sort your spreadsheet by zip code/postal code, suburb or driver territory—whichever makes most sense.
Now, within each group arrange your stops roughly in the order they should be completed. You could do this by dragging rows in your spreadsheet, or by adding a column that gives each stop a code. For example, the first stop in territory A would be A1. Don’t worry about getting things precisely right—you can make adjustments in the next step.
This step is easier if you have Google Maps open at the same time so you can see exactly where each stop is.
Remember to check your notes for delivery time windows and any special instructions. If one delivery has to be made before 9am and another after 2pm, they may need to go in separate routes even if they are close together.
4. Create your delivery routes in Google Maps
Now that you’ve done all the prep work, actually creating routes is easy. Just open up Google Maps and your spreadsheet, and deal with the stops one by one!
a. Add your first stop
Copy and paste your first address from your spreadsheet into Google Maps. Then click on “Directions”.
b. Add a second stop
Copy and paste your next stop into the address bar, and Google will create a route for you. Now click “Add destination” to continue.
c. Add all remaining stops
Keep copying and pasting stops from your spreadsheet into your route plan, then clicking “Add destination”, until you reach the limit of 10 stops.
d. Adjust your route plan
If the first version of your route doesn’t seem to make sense, you can drag and drop stops into a different order. Keep an eye on Google’s estimate of the total route time—in our example, you can see that by changing the order of our stops we’ve created an overall shorter route.
e. Save and share your route
Ignore the “Send directions to your phone” link at the bottom of your route. That’s only useful if you want to send a route that you can start immediately from your own device. Instead, click on the ≡ “hamburger” menu at the top left of your screen and then on “Share or embed map”. This will pop up a window with a direct, shareable link to your whole route. Copy this link, and then you can send the whole route by text or email to anyone.
If you need to create a number of short routes, save the link in your spreadsheet or a separate document. Then you can share all your routes at once when you’re ready.
It’s a good idea to make and share a separate spreadsheet copy of each driver’s route. This means drivers can easily see delivery instructions and contact details, whenever they need to.
You're all done!
Congratulations—you did it! But as you can see, planning a delivery route with Google Maps can be complicated and time-consuming. That’s exactly why there are so many apps that aim to solve the route planning problem more easily. If you want to try one, check out our recommendations of the best free route planners.