16 Surprising Things You Can Do with Google Maps

16 Surprising Things You Can Do with Google Maps

Google Maps has evolved a lot over the years, making the jump from our computers to our phones and adding a ton of cool features along the way. In fact, there are so many that we're sharing our favorite features, along with some hidden tips and tricks.

16 Surprising Things You Can Do with Google Maps

1. Add stops to your trip

When you get in the car for a road trip, you rarely go straight to your destination without stopping. You'll need to stop for lunch or gas or a bathroom break or a detour to visit a cool roadside attraction. Once you program in your destination, it's easy to add stops along the way.

For stops after you've started your trip, you can tap the search icon and choose from “Gas stations,” “Grocery stores,” "Restaurants," "Coffee shops" or to search.

For planned stops, tap on the three dots in the top right corner of the app and select "Add stop." Tap on the empty slot, and you can search, add from the map or select from “Gas stations,” “Groceries,” "Restaurants," "Cafes," "Fast food," and “ATMs.”

16 Surprising Things You Can Do with Google Maps

2. Check current and future traffic

If you want to check the traffic in your area, you need to turn on "traffic" by tapping on the diamond-shaped layers icon on your smartphone app or by selecting the menu button (three bars) on your desktop. For computers, you'll see a box with "Live traffic" and an upside down triangle. Select the triangle and you can choose "Typical traffic" to see what traffic will be like later in the day or week.

16 Surprising Things You Can Do with Google Maps

3. Orient yourself

Are you all spun around? Not sure whether you’re supposed to make a right turn or a left because you don’t know what direction you’re facing? Stop wondering – with a quick tap of the compass in the top right corner of the screen while navigating will shift the map to face the same direction you are. Tap the compass again to switch back to the more traditional (but less useful) “North is up” view.

If you're walking, you can now access Live View, a navigation mode that brings in a live image from your phone's camera and layers directions ontop. Tilt the phone up (as though you were taking a picture) to see where you should be going in the app plus a small portion of the traditional map. As you walk, you'll see a set of chevrons pointing out each turn as you approach an intersection. And, if you want access to just the traditional map view, you tilt your phone back down. Live View is available in select cities for now.

16 Surprising Things You Can Do with Google Maps

4. Navigate through buildings

Need to find your seat in a large stadium or navigate to your favorite store at the mall or find your way out of a casino? You'll find maps of some venues, including All of America, Madison Square Garden and Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, in Google Maps.

16 Surprising Things You Can Do with Google Maps

5. See inside places

Did you know that Google Maps not only shows you how to get around while driving our nation’s interstates and city streets but also while you're inside buildings like famous art museums, airports, and your local gym as well? When you look up a location, on the map, you'll see a photo with a 360-degree icon. Tap the icon and you can view rooms inside and even walk within a space. (Try it with the Museum of the City of New York.) You can also quickly access a Street View of the exterior of the building the same way – great for when you’re trying to drive to an unfamiliar destination.

16 Surprising Things You Can Do with Google Maps

6. Catch the last train

In many cities, mass transit trains don’t run all night – they stop running shortly after bars close. This can be a tough trip to plan if you need to make a transfer along the way. Fortunately, if you type your destination into Google Maps, choose the train icon, then “Depart at...” and then choose “Last” and “Done,” the app will show you the last trains and buses that get you where you need to go. You can even set a reminder to take the last train.

7. Zoom one-handed

Most of us have been well trained to use the pinching gesture to zoom in on our smartphones. But there’s an easier way to zoom while using Google Maps: Just double tap the screen and swipe up to zoom out or swipe down to zoom in. (Keep your finger on the screen after the second tap.)

16 Surprising Things You Can Do with Google Maps

8. Save your favorite locations

Want quick access to all the locations you frequent most often, or just want to save information about a store or restaurant to review later? Maps lets you set Favorites by selecting the "Save" icon. Choose it as a "Favorites," "Want to go," or "Starred places" and it will show up on the map. And you want to consult your list, head over to the left menu inside the app, then choose "Your Places" and "Saved" to consult your lists.

You can also save your home and work addresses to Google Maps to save time. When you search for an address, you can select "Label." This information interfaces with Google Assistant, allowing it to serve up real-time traffic updates to your phone before leaving for work in the morning.

16 Surprising Things You Can Do with Google Maps

9. Create offline maps

If you’re traveling through the woods, mountains or desert, there’s a good chance your phone will lose its data signal from time to time. Unfortunately, no signal means no maps – real bad news if you’re not familiar with the remote area through which you’re traveling.

Fortunately, Google Maps lets you easily save maps for offline use. Simply tap the mic and say “OK Map” to save the map that’s currently on your screen (for Android users). Or, select the menu (three bars in the top right) and choose “Offline areas.” You can access these saved maps by looking under “Your Places.”

16 Surprising Things You Can Do with Google Maps

10. Check out hiking and skiing trails

Heading out for a day of winter sports and adventure? Google Maps now features a wealth of ski and hiking trail maps for a number of major destinations including Snowbird, Big Sur and Yosemite. Just type your favorite resort into Google Maps and zoom in to see the different trails. Don’t forget to save the maps for offline use before you go!

16 Surprising Things You Can Do with Google Maps

11. Avoid paying tolls

Looking to save a couple dollars on your next drive? Instead of taking a costly toll road or bridge, you can tell Google Maps to only show you free access routes. Just tap “Route Options” while searching for directions and toggle “tolls” off. Be careful, though: This could add a lot of miles to your trip!

16 Surprising Things You Can Do with Google Maps

12. Remember where you parked

When you arrive at your destination, select the little blue dot that represents your location, and you can select "Set as parking location." For Android users, you can also leave a parking note (like the level in the parking garage) or a meter timer.

16 Surprising Things You Can Do with Google Maps

13. Share your location

There are times when it's beneficial to share your location with others. Maybe you want someone to know where you are when you go out on a run or see where family members are at an amusement park. With Google maps, you can choose to share your location for a specific period of time or "Until you turn this off." When someone is sharing their location with you, you can see them on the map, along with the time of the location information, and easily get directions to their location.

You can also share your location while you're driving. Once you've started a trip, swipe up from the bottom and you'll see to "Share your trip progress" as your first option.

16 Surprising Things You Can Do with Google Maps

14. Organize a group activity

If you're looking to organize a night out with friends, you can put together a list of potential spots and share them with the group to vote on. To start the process, search for the first location and select "Share" and then "Add to Shortlist." You'll see a bubble pop up with the item that has been added to your new "Shortlist." As you search for more locations, you can easily add them to your list. When you're ready to share, you tap the bubble and you will see your list. Select "Share." and you can then name your list and send your selections via text, email, Facebook and Twitter, among other options. Those that receive your list can vote on which one they they like the best. And if you want to share the list again, you'll find it under the menu at the top left, then "Your places" and then "Shared," and you can easily modify list and share it again.

To get rid of the "Shortlist" bubble, you just drag it to the bottom of your screen.

16 Surprising Things You Can Do with Google Maps

15. Hear voice navigation through your car speakers

If you've paired your phone to make and receive calls in your car, you can also get navigation guidance. Go to menu (the three bars), then select "Settings," then "Navigation settings" and then turn on " "Play as Bluetooth phone call."

16 Surprising Things You Can Do with Google Maps

16. Measure distances between points

Want to know how far back the fence is on the ball field or calculate your run through the park? On the desktop and Android versions of Google Maps, you can select a point by right clicking or pressing and holding, and then select "Measure distance" from the menu. Add at least one more point, and you'll see the distance.