Travel planning a dream trip is fun — but it can also bring a lot of anxiety. To give yourself peace of mind you can follow travel guides, copy other people’s plans, or (my favorite) you can use Google Maps trip planner to design your own ideal vacation. You can use Google’s app or web interface to:
Add destination points
Color code locations that you pin
Get directions to multiple destinations
Plan the perfect trip
I’m going to give you a step-by-step guide and instructions on how I used Google My Maps to plan an itinerary for a 3-day trip to Florence. But first, let’s look at why Google Maps is such a great trip planning tool.
A survey found that 97% of respondents were happier when they had a trip planned. Mindset and mood change when you have something to look forward to — but without an itinerary in place, this excitement can turn to anxiety.
Here are my four top reasons why you can, and should, use Google Maps to plan a road trip or vacation:
1. Integration with other Google products
Your Google account connects you to a number of different products that work really well together to make life easier during your travels. You can:
Create a custom map and then copy it to your Google Drive.
Plan out each day’s agenda in Google Calendar, with exact locations and map links included.
Use Google Sheets to budget for your vacation or road trip.
Use location names in Google Photos so your pictures are easy to find and organize.
Google’s deep product integrations make it easier to plan recreational trips and learn more about the places you plan to visit.
2. Reviews and additional location data
The Google Maps app on your phone doesn’t have all the features of the desktop version. But if you plan out your trip on the app, you can move seamlessly between the two so that you can read:
Reviews from other visitors
Information about your places, including website URLs and opening and closing times
Things to do nearby
A lot of reviews include useful travel tips. For example, when I was planning my trip to Florence I read the reviews for the Uffizi Gallery, a must-visit place for me. That’s how I found out that even though you can buy tickets on the same day, the queues are long, so it’s better to buy tickets in advance.
3. Easy access to trip itinerary
Some people keep their trip itineraries in a spreadsheet or document, but I love the combination of Google Calendar and the Google Maps trip planner. I can visualize exactly where I plan to go each day, and see instantly what’s around it. Google Maps routes are a breeze to create and make it easy for me to check travel times, no matter whether I’m walking, driving, using public transit or taking a taxi.
4. Personalized notes and labels
Worried you’ll forget something important? Just open Google Maps, go to your trip planner, and add notes to your places. For example, I’m likely to forget to preorder tickets! So I create an event in Google Calendar to remind me, link the location to the event and add all the notes I need in Maps.
How to use Google Maps to plan your trip
Now, here comes the fun part — planning your trip. Here’s how I do it:
1. Create a new custom map
To start planning your trip with Google Maps, visit https://www.google.com/mymaps. On your My Maps dashboard, click the “Create a New Map” button.
Maps will open up, and you’ll have lots of options here. Start by giving your map a name. Click “Untitled Map,” and a dialog box will open up where you can add the map’s name and a description.
For this example, I’m planning a 3-day trip to Florence, Italy. So let’s call this map “3 Days in Florence.”
Once you’ve given your map a name, you can start adding your locations.
2. Add and customize your locations
Now, here comes the fun part — adding all of the places you want to visit during your trip. I’m going to assume that you already have a list of places, but if not, take this time to research the city and make a list of sightseeing spots.
Having a list will make the planning process much quicker and easier.
In Google Maps, your locations are “pins.” To start adding pins, use the search bar to search for the place of interest.
Let’s start with one of the most famous sights in Florence: The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as the Duomo.
Maps will zoom in on the place you search, and you’ll have the option to “Add to Map.” Click or tap this button, and the point of interest will be added to your map layer.
If you want to keep your pins more organized, you can change the color and icon for each point of interest.
You’ll see a paint can icon when you hover over the location. Click it to open up your customization options. Google Maps gives you a wide range of icons to choose from, including ones for monuments, museums, gardens, and more.
These icons make it a little easier to see what each destination is at a glance. And that can help make the next step easier, too.
3. Break your trip down into layers (categories)
Planning a trip is fun and exciting, but it can easily become chaotic and messy if you don’t organize things. Breaking your trip down into layers (or categories) will help you keep track of everything you want to do.
In this example, I’m planning a short trip to Florence. It makes sense to break my trip down into days, so I know which points of interest I want to visit each day. In this case, each day will be a new layer or category.
To organize things, I can click on “Add layer.” Each layer will be a new “category.”
Once you click “Add layer,” you’ll have the option to name it. Delete “untitled layer” and add your own name. In this example, I’m going to add three layers and name them “Day 1,” “Day 2,” and “Day 3.”
Once that’s set up, I can start organizing my points of interest for each day.
When planning your trip, you can add whatever categories (or layers) you want as long as they are relevant to your trip.
For example, if you’re planning a road trip intinerary, you may choose to break your trip down into cities and add points of interest within each city. Maybe you want to have categories for food or specific points of interest. The great thing about using Google Maps is that you can customize it to your own traveling style and tastes.
How many layers can you add to a map?
Layers can keep your map organized, but don’t get too overzealous with them. There is a limit to how many layers you can add: 10.
If you’re planning a big and complex trip, you may need to plan out your layers or categories carefully.
With all of your categories created, it’s time to start planning your itinerary. You can easily move points of interest into different layers (or categories) to plan things out. Just click and drag the pin to wherever you want it to go.
In our example, I created three layers (one for each day), so to plan my itinerary, I dragged each point of interest into its respective layer.
But what if you’re not breaking your trip up into days? What if you’re categorizing your points of interest by city or type (museums, restaurants, etc.) No problem! You can create your layers in whatever way makes most sense to you. The point is that Google My Maps makes it easy to visualize your trip. At a glance, you can see which points of interest are close to each other. That makes it easy to create your itinerary on paper or in a digital planner.
5. Start booking
Now that you have your trip planned out, you can start:
Booking your hotels
Scheduling car rentals
Reserving tickets for events or museums
Consider booking as far ahead as possible. If you wait too long, you may find that tickets and rooms are sold out.
6. Share your map
If you’re traveling with friends or family, you can share your map and itinerary with them.
Head back to the main Google My Maps dashboard
Click the share button (the arrow icon) on the map you just created
You can share your map via Facebook, email, or Twitter. You can also embed your map on your website if you have one.
7. Access your map on your phone
You’ve created your map and shared it with your friends. But to use it on your phone, you’ll need to make sure that you have the Google Maps app installed.
Here’s how to access your maps on mobile devices:
Open the Google Maps app
At the bottom, tap Maps
Choose your trip’s map from the list
Can you use your phone to create or edit Google maps?
Technically, you can create or edit maps on your phone. But you’ll need to use your browser to create and edit them — not the Google Maps app.
Road trip planning vs. city trip planning
Google Maps can be a great route planner, but you’ll need to take different approaches for planning road trips and city trips.
Road trips are a little more complicated, right? You’re driving from one place to the next, and at each stop, you may have a few places you want to visit. If you’re just visiting a single city, planning is much simpler. Just pick your points, add them to your map, and go.
Tips for road trip planning
Create a layer for each stop you’re making on your trip
Add pins to each layer, so you don’t miss any points of interest at each stop
Include hotels that are on your route, so you can make an impromptu stop if you need
Tips for city trip planning
If you’re staying multiple days, create a layer for each day, and add pins for each day (just like in my example)
If you’re only staying one day, create a layer for each type of activity, and choose spots as you go through the day
How to use your Google Maps itinerary/wishlist on the go
You’ve created and shared your map, and you’ve downloaded the Google Maps app. Now what?
Here’s how to use your Map on the go:
Start by opening up Google Maps and tapping your Map.
To view all of your pinned locations, tap “View map legend.”
You won’t be able to tap any of the locations. The only thing you can do is view your itinerary.
If you want to add directions, navigate back out to the main Map. Tap one of your points of interest, then tap the “Directions” button at the bottom of the map.
The route planning screen will pop-up. Type in your next location, and Maps will find the best route for you.
By default, you’ll see the driving directions for your next stop. But at the top of the screen, you can change your mode of transport to walking, biking, or public transport.
Maps will change your step-by-step directions automatically based on your mode of transport.
Now, the only thing left to do is enjoy your trip!
Try it for yourself
Want to give the Google Maps trip planner a try for yourself?
We’ve created a starter map with some of the best stops in Vancouver, which is where we’re based — see it here. You’re welcome to copy it, and use it to test out the steps above. Change icon colors, or add your own places.
Once you get the hang of using Google Maps, you can start planning your own trip. Add location pins of your must-see locations, and create a map of your bucket list of cafes, museums, stores, and restaurants to see how easy it is to plan your next trip.
Rene Emery is a B2B/Finance/SaaS writer who focuses on clear, concise, and optimized content. Leveraging 12+ years of experience, she relies on her work with hundreds of companies worldwide to create content that speaks to readers and makes difficult topics easy to understand.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Google have a trip planning app?
Yes, there is a Google trip planning app, and you may have heard of it: “Google Trips.” However, the app’s users were redirected to Google Travel when it was shut down in 2019. You can use the Travel web app to plan your trip (click here to try it).
There isn’t a mobile app available on Android or iOS, but you can still use it on the official website.
Google Travel allows you to:
View popular destinations
View plane ticket costs and average hotel room costs
Research top sites, hotels, rentals, flights, and more
Users can save destinations for their trip and add them to their travel plans. For example, I want to visit the Uffizi Gallery, and when I click on it, I see:
Pin on the map
If you don’t want to miss one of the places on your bucket list during your next trip, you can add multiple destinations and points of interest right to your travel plan.
Can you see how much time it will take to reach a pinned destination?
You can use Google Maps to get directions for your road trip or for walking. Open up your trip map, and you’ll notice toward the bottom left of the screen, it will say “Directions from” and the name of your location pins.
Next to the directions layer, you’ll want to:
Tap the three dots
Click step-by-step directions
You’ll now see directions for each of the days that you have planned, the best route to take, and an easy way to judge if you can fit all of the places on your bucket list into each day.
Can you use the directions layers to navigate?
No, you cannot use the directions layers to navigate around the map. You will have to open the Google Maps app and navigate from there.
What’s the difference between Google My Maps and Google Maps Lists?
Google My Maps is more advanced and customizable than a simple Maps list. If you add places that you want to go on Lists, you’ll only have access to:
Reviews of the location
Type of location
You can add notes to the places that you add to Lists.
If you add too many places to your list, it can be overwhelming to manage your trip. My Maps allows you to add categories, which makes visualizing your trip more intuitive.
Is there an app for Google My Maps?
You’ll need to use the Google Maps App (Android and iPhone) to access My Maps. You will need a Google account to:
Create a new Google map
View your custom map across platforms
You can access My Maps by opening the mobile app, tapping Saved, and continuing using the trip planner. Users can add points of interest to the map, access the directions layer and view their starting point for each day planned.
Can you use custom Google My Maps offline?
You can launch the Google Maps app offline and download maps for the location. However, you cannot access your own map with your points of interest or layers. Offline maps cannot be customized.
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