Travel Tip: Creating a Custom Google Map

Man, oh man, am I excited to tell you about Hawaii. We spent a blissful 10 days together in paradise and as soon as I get all of my photos and videos off of F-O-U-R different devices, I’ll start sharing all of the details. Until then, here’s a peek at what you missed if you aren’t on Instagram.

Instagram

I feel like after moving and shaking for 10 years together, Joe and I have traveling down. We know what works best for us, how to expertly pack and, more importantly, how to plan. We count on each other’s strengths for sure. I can’t stand browsing a million sites looking for flights and places to stay, but Joe does. So he takes over that and I plan what we do and where we eat each day. It’s a win-win for us. I feel like I could write an entire series of posts with our travel tips, but this is the best place to start. It’s something we do for every big adventure we take.

We create a custom Google map.

GoogleMap_Header

I first made one for our out-of-town wedding guests (i.e. everyone) so they knew where everything was being held, where to spend their free time and our favorite places to eat. It was a hit. I’ve since done it for trips to California and D.C. I’ll walk you through how to make your own in a minute, but here’s why they are so invaluable to us:

  • Everything is at your fingertips. When we starting planning for Hawaii I reached out to every friend who had visited in the last five years for all of their recommendations and tips. Then I scoured Instagram hashtags, blogs and Pinterest to find even more information. By the time I was finished, there was a lot to sort through. This map allowed me to put everything in one, easy-to-access place. You’ll see in a minute, but you can include their notes for each place, as well as any pertinent information in the entry details which you can access via phone, tablet or laptop at any time. We don’t visit every place we pin, but it’s nice to know what’s close and available.
  • Seeing every place mapped out makes your day planning a lot easier. You can quickly see what’s close to what, so days are based on location to maximize your time.
  • It’s a great way to remember everything you did, ate and saw. I save my custom maps and add notes to the listings post-travel.
  • With one click you can share with any family or friends making the trip later. They’ll thank you and you’ll feel awesome.

Have I sold you yet?

Here’s how it’s done:

GoogleMap_Header_OriginalSize

1. Create a map by clicking HERE. (You’ll need a google account to access.)

2. Click on “Untitled” in the top left corner and name your map. If you’re traveling to different locations on one trip, you can add layers just under that map name for each destination. It will all be saved under one map, but it will be easier to find your pinned entries. Our map is titled “Hawaii – May 2015” and our layers are “Oahu” and “Maui.”

Here’s our Oahu layer:

GoogleMap_Oahu

Here’s our Maui layer:

GoogleMap_Maui

3. Using the standard search bar at the top, start typing in places you want to list on your map.

GoogleMap_Searching

Chances are you’ll see it in the populated drop-down menu and can click on it. Once you do that, a pin will appear on the map where you can click “Add to Map.” Then click and drag to the appropriate layer.

GoogleMap_Pin

GoogleMap_AddToMap

4. For each entry you can click on the edit button to add comments or any other details. The great part is that it will already include the address, phone and website (most of the time).

GoogleMap_EditEntries

In these fields I copied in every note or suggestion from a friend, or anything I found online. If restaurants are famous for a special dish or dessert, make sure you add that! If an attraction only takes cash, add that. It’s so comforting to know that everything is all together and you don’t have to remember a thing. This is especially helpful if you’re like me and get “vacation brain” as soon as you step on the plane. By that point I’m not interested in thinking too hard.

5. Once you add your locations (airports, hotels/condos, restaurants, attractions, etc.) you can adjust your pins to be different colors or different icons by hovering over each entry and clicking the icon to its right. You can see I customized the icons for the Oahu map, but left the Maui ones standard. Whatever floats your boat.

GoogleMap_EditIcon

6. Other options we haven’t explored yet include adding photos to each entry and creating walking/driving routes (the third icon under the search bar). You could easily go crazy with this if you wanted to.

7. When finished, share the map by clicking on the “Share” button beneath the map name. You can share with family members while you’re away, people you’re traveling with, or use the link to send to others going to the same place down the line. Your maps will always be saved in your Google account under “Drive” / “My Maps.”

Joe and I had this map up on both of our phones, as well as our iPad, constantly throughout the trip. My favorite features are: navigating straight to a place from your current location with one click, and adding details for each place after we visit, like who recommended it and what we ate/did.

GoogleMap_Directions_Comments

These maps have been a total lifesaver for us, and after staring at this non-stop for the last few weeks, I was eager to share it with you. What makes your travel easier? In other news: I miss Hawaii.

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5 thoughts on “Travel Tip: Creating a Custom Google Map

  1. You should take the GIS data from your map and combine it with all of the great photos you took. If you have a fancy camera, it might have embedded coordinates in your photos already. At IU, I’ve seen cool maps using these tools:

    http://storymaps.arcgis.com
    https://cartodb.com

    They have free and subscription options, and are not too hard to use. It would warm a digital initiatives librarian’s heart.

  2. I’m a fan of downloading walking tour podcasts. It was awesome walking through Athens with Rick Steves and you just look like a person walking around with earbuds. I hate standing out as a “tourist”!

  3. Pingback: # hawaii: part 1 | hashtag marci

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