Simple illustration showing a delivery truck and the words "Google Maps Route Planner for Deliveries".
Route Optimization

Google Maps Route Planner For Deliveries

June 6, 2022

Contents

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:

  1. Is it actually possible to plan a delivery route on Google Maps?
  2. The advantages and disadvantages of using Google Maps route planner for deliveries
  3. How to create a free delivery route with Google Maps
  4. How to use Google My Maps to plan longer routes
  5. 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:

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

Advantages

Disadvantages

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

Screenshot of a spreadsheet for deliveries in Vancouver. The headings are Name, Address, City, Zip, Phone, Email, Time Window Start, Time Window End, Duration, Load, and Notes. 

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

Abstract map of a city with a random array of dots, each one representing a stop on a delivery route. Clusters of stops are color-coded, with each color representing a driver territory.

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:

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

A screenshot showing four columns of the earlier spreadsheet: Name, Address, City and Zip. The sheet has been sorted by the City column. There are now clusters of addresses in several cities within the Vanvouver metropolitan area including Surrey, Richmond, Port Moody, North Vancouver and New Westminster.

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

Alt text: Google maps screenshot showing a location in North Vancouver. The side panel is open with details of the address which show the "Directions" button.

Copy and paste your first address from your spreadsheet into Google Maps. Then click on “Directions”.

b. Add a second stop

Google Maps showing a route between two stops. The “Add destination” is below the second stop listed in the sidebar.

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

Google Maps screenshot showing a route with ten stops. The estimated total time is 1hr 16mins.

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

Google Maps screenshot showing the the same ten stops as in the previous picture, rearranged to create a more efficient route. The new estimated total time is 1hr 3mins

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

Graphic showing the steps to share a 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.

Author portrait

Marc Kuo is the Founder & CEO of Routific, a route optimization platform for small businesses. Our mission is to green the planet by reducing the mileage and fuel consumption of delivery fleets. With over a decade of experience in the last-mile industry, he has advised hundreds of delivery businesses on their route planning and delivery operations.