I’ve heard from a lot of you that travel planning is your least favorite part of travel. What do you do? Where do you go? Where do you eat? How do you get there? Well, I have been using a shortcut for all of those for years. Wanna know the secret? It’s Google Maps! I use it for road trips, I use it to plan my vacation days and I use it to navigate everywhere.
Chances are, you’re already using Google Maps – I know some people use it even if they have Apple Maps on their phone – which means you just need to learn to use it more and more effectively. It’s easy and you can add things to a future or potential trip at any time. (You can click any of these pics for high resolution and to see it more in depth.)
I Want To Do That!
Here’s what my Paris map looked like for my last trip. I tend to find things over time I want to see or do and “bookmark” it on the map. You can add flags to things in different trips to make them easier to find, too. How do you do this? It’s easy!
Click on the thing you want to look at and if you decide to add it to your list, hit the “save” bookmark and it will give you the option to add it to your favorites, want to go list, current travel plans, a list you’ve already made, or scroll to the bottom to make a new list. I like to group mine into cities, so it’s easier to toggle between.
Find My Stuff!
Click the three bars in the left-hand corner next to the city or in the address bar inside Google Maps (or at the top of your screen if you’re using your phone) and you’ll get your list. Right at the top is Your Places. Click there and you can see your whole list of places you’ve made lists for.
This brings up all the bookmarks or flags you’ve added to a list and you can see it on the map. This is where the actual planning phase of your trip starts.
Fill In Your Days!
Now that you’ve added the must-do things
to your list, it’s time to fill in the rest of your time at your destination. I usually do this on my laptop, to make it easier, but I can’t record my laptop screen. Once I have the skeleton plan of my trip, I use Google Maps to find other things around those places. This allows me to “walk” down streets and also see reviews and other visitor’s pictures. When I see something cool, I bookmark that, too, and once I’ve finished that, I move on to making an itinerary, which you can also do in Google Maps.
Plan Out Your Days!
Okay, so here’s how I plan a whole day around my must-dos. Go look at all the little flags on your map and look at where they’re located in relation to one another. Here I had tickets to go to the Museum of Hunting and Nature
, so I looked at everything I wanted to do around it and mentally added a circle around it that would be reasonable walking distance. You can make this bigger or smaller if you don’t want to walk that much or if you’re driving or taking public transportation.
I noticed that Robert et Louise was nearby and a place I wanted to eat, so I made sure they were open and booked a reservation. That’s another thing helpful when using Google Maps – you can see the days and hours of operation for anything you’re looking at. I also added some other stops, like Nicolas Flamel’s historic home and the nearby bakery named after him. This is how I planned out my short day of arrival.
Now, keep doing this until you’ve hit all your must-dos and things you’ve got tickets for. Here, I’ve added my Airbnb location, so I could plan an easy day where we wouldn’t have to go that far, but also so I know where all the nearest Metro stops are in order to get to the other sections on my map. One day we got breakfast at Kafkaf, walked up to Pere Lachaise, went back “home” to change because it stopped raining, and then took the train to the Pantheon, where we did other stuff in that area.
Plan a Walking Tour!
I knew we’d be walking a ton on this trip, and I just wanted a day where we did a bunch of sightseeing. I knew we’d be starting our day at the Eiffel Tower and ending our day at Museum de Caravalet, but not what we would do in between, so I did a quick directional map and then wandered along the route to see what there was to see/do along the way. This is how I found the Paris Sewer Museum. I know we love walking along the Seine, but we also wanted to see the Arc de Triomphe and wander the Champs Elysees for a bit. We got lunch, did our museum tour and then wandered up the river some more.
|Nicolas Flamel’s house
I always have “maybe things to my list, because maybe you’ll find yourself near things or maybe you’ll have a bit of extra time you want to fill. Google Maps will alert you when you’re near one of your picks, but it can also help you navigate the streets (whether by foot or car) and public transportation. Just remember to bring along a extra phone battery so you don’t run out of juice while you’re wandering around. We tend to recharge when we’re sitting down to a meal.
I started using Google Maps for road trip planning, because I like to stop on my way to see interesting things and it worked so well for that, I just knew it would be great for smaller scale things like a city or even a neighborhood, and it is!
So, if you feel lazy, or you just really need to plan a trip quickly, you can do all your research inside Google (though I suggest starting elsewhere to create your “bare bones” list of must-do things, especially if this is your first visit somewhere) and make a game plan and easy itinerary. You can also jump on attraction websites to buy your tickets ahead of time this way, too, making your life even easier. Find hidden gems, awesome eateries (or coffee shops to start your day), and even street art.
Have you used Google Maps to plan a trip before?
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Want to read more tips for traveling worldwide on a budget? Check out my blog at Shereen Travels Cheap or find me on Facebook or Twitter. You’ll also find product and website suggestions, packing tips, current deals and a whole lot more to help you travel better for less!
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