How to Plan a Trip Using Google My Maps

For every trip or vacation Taylor and I take, we do a lot of research on the locations we plan to visit and what to do. Some would argue it’s better to go with the flow than having something planned, however, we think otherwise when you’re on a limited time crunch due to other obligations. We use a tool called Google My Maps to plan our trips and vacations which helps us spend less time planning and more time enjoying them!

Prior to leveraging Google My Maps, we used to write down where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do for our trips/vacations in a notebook. This process was time-consuming and often led to additional work because we had to “re-google” everything we previously wrote down.

Today, we are thankful to use Google My Maps and hope to inspire you to leverage this great tool that helps us plan our trips and vacations.

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Why We Use Google My Maps

We found a happy medium between going with the flow and planning out things to do and places to see while vacationing.

We document what we want to do add them to our custom map. Once added to Google Maps we gauge how far each location is from one another to help us get an idea of how much time we want to spend at a specific location as well as how long it will take to get to the next location or point of interest.

Here’s a sample of Our Bucket List Map which covers everything we want to see (highlighted blue) as well as every place we been so far together (highlighted green). If you want access to Our Bucket List Map and make a copy of your own, click here. We’ve been all over the West Coast, Hawaii, Thailand, Bali Indonesia, the Phillippines, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, and more.

Our Bucket List My Maps on Google Maps - How to plan a trip using google maps
Our Bucket List My Maps on Google Maps

10 Reasons Why We Use Google Maps For Planning a Vacation/Trip

1. Ease of Use

Google Maps is incredibly easy to use once you have it set up and ready to go. It links directly into your Google Maps app on your phone as well as the Google Earth app.

2. Device Agnostic (Works on Any Device)

Google Maps works on a laptop, tablet, and a mobile device. We love to use it on a laptop when planning a trip and while we’re traveling. When traveling we pull up all of the locations on our iPhones.

3. Share the Maps with Others

Google Maps lets you share your custom map with others. This is incredibly useful if your traveling with friends or family members who also have interests and want to add their unique spin to the trip. It’s a perfect collaboration tool!

4. Leverage Google’s Saved Information

Most locations on the maps already come prepopulated with Google’s data and information. For example, if you’re adding a restaurant or a museum to the map, Google will automatically populate the details of the location. Below is an example of this information automatically populated for a winery on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Populating Information Google Maps Planning a vacation using google maps
Selecting a marker on Google My Maps displays relevant information like the point of interest’s website, address, and it’s current rating based on reviews.

5. Reference For Later And Create Memories That Last!

Taylor and I take a stroll down memory lane looking at the map and seeing all of the places we’ve been together. That’s why we switch the markers to the color green instead of blue showcasing what places we were able to visit when traveling. Our intent is to reference this for later use. For example, if folks ask questions about a location or itinerary, we can share our experiences but also showcase exactly where a particular location is.

6. Look Up The Directions to a Location!

Once a location is added to the map, you can look up the directions on any device from your current location. This is great when your actually on your vacation and need to figure out where to go!

We recently bought a Sprinter Van from Michigan. So for our road trip, we added the dealership on Our Bucket List Map and we can easily just tap the icon on our iPhone and look up the directions.

Using the GPS function of Google Maps for a particular location.  How to use google maps my maps to plan a vacation, roadtrip, or travel adventure.

7. It’s Highly Customizable

Google Maps is highly customizable and will fit the need for most itineraries. You can customize the marker’s icons, colors, your own notes, and your own photos.

If you notice in the pictures above, you can see the different icons, like trailheads (the hiker), waterfalls, cities, Insta-worthy locations (camera), fork and knife (restaurants), and so much more. You can also customize the color with 30 different colors to chose from.

8. Filter Icons Based on Categories

Google Maps has a “layer” option, which allows you to categorize your markers into buckets. For example, let’s say you put all of your waterfalls in one layer and name it “Waterfalls”. If you have 30+ markers ranging from different categories like restaurants, hikes, and others and you want to declutter the map you would only select the “Waterfalls” layer. This will filter out all other markers making only the waterfall markers visible.

9. Google Maps Optimizes Your Vacation

With Google Maps you can strategically decide where you want to go and when. Looking at all your desired points of interest on a map lets you bundle days together ensuring you’re not going out of your way. Taylor and I use the map to visualize where the bulk of our markers (points of interest) are and strategically visit the ones that are close together.

10. My Maps Helps You Decide Where to Stay

This is similar to the ability to optimize your vacation. When you can visualize everything on the map, you can find a hotel or Airbnb that’s within a close distance to your points of interest.

How to plot multiple locations on Google Maps for a vacation or trip
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Recommended Use of Google Maps

  1. Bucket List! – Taylor and I use Google Maps for our Bucket List, whenever we see something or someplace we want to go we immediately save it to our map!
  2. Vacation Specific – You can simply create a map for your specific vacation and itinerary, so your map is not cluttered with a ton of markers.
  3. Reference – I leverage several Google Maps for references in future, whether it be surf spots, camping spots, free parking and more, there’s a map for any idea.

Easy Step by Step Guide on How To Use Google Maps

Now that you know why we love Google Maps, let’s walk through our step by step guide on how to use Google My Maps to plan a trip.

1. Create Your Map

The first thing you need to do is create a Gmail account if you do not have one. Once you have a Gmail account created, head to Google My Maps on your laptop (this will not work on a phone, you can only set it up on a laptop/desktop).

  • Click the red button that says “CREATE A NEW MAP”
Easy step by step guide to use google maps for a vacation
  • Edit the title of the map and add a description, click save.
Edit the name of the custom google map - how to use google maps for a vacation
Double click on the “Untitled Map” to edit the title.
Naming your map - how to use google maps to plan a vacation - easy step by step guide

2. Create Your Map Layers (Category Filters)

Google Maps allows you to create layers in your map. Layers are filters for the markers on your map that you can display or hide when viewing your map.

A good example of using layers for a vacation is the following:

  • Where to Eat
  • Things to Do
  • Where to Stay

If I was planning a vacation this is how I would plan it and for the purpose of this tutorial/guide, I will plan a trip to Paris.

To create a layer, simply double click the text “Untitled layer” and change its name.

Click “Add layer” to create new layers. LIMITATION: You can only have 10 layers in a map.

When you click “Add layer”, a new layer is added to the layer panel. To change the name, click on the three dots to the right of the name “Untitled Layer” and click “Rename this layer”.

Rename layer by click 3 dots next to “Untitled layer”
Add to layers - how to use google maps for a vacation
Change the name of the layer by selecting the 3 dots next to the right of the layer.

3. Add Points Of Interest To Your Map

Once you set your layers up, you’re ready to add markers (points of interest) to your map. You can categorize the markers by tagging them to specific layers, changing their icons, colors and more.

First, let’s get into how to add points of interest to your map. You can do this in one of three ways.

  1. Scroll around the map to find a landmark and click on the landmark’s icon
  2. Search for a location in the search bar
  3. Click the pin icon to drop a pin on a specific location on the map (use this if the point of interest isn’t already on google)

Scroll around the map to find a landmark

In the example below, I zoomed in on France and found Paris, from there I zoomed in even further to find the Eiffel Tower and I simply clicked the default google landmark icon. Once you clicked the landmark, Google automatically will automatically populate it with relevant information in a popup.

Adding Points of Interest to Google Maps - how to use google maps to plan a trip
Here’s an example where I zoomed in on Paris and clicked the Eiffel Tower.

To add it to the map simply click the “Add to map” button on the popup. Make sure you select the layer that you want the point of interest to fall under!

Search for a location in the search bar

The second method to add points of interest to your map is through the search bar. In the example below, I searched for a point of interest and started typing the Grand Canyon. Notice the search bar automatically populates with a drop drown of locations to select from.

How to use google maps to plan a vacation - searching for a point of interest
Search for a point of interest via the search bar

You can simply select from the drop-down or hit enter on your keyboard to display the point of interest on the map. Again once the popup displays you can click “Add to map” to save it to your map.

Click the pin icon to create your own point of interest

If your point of interest isn’t on Google already, you can create your own. A good example of this is a perfect spot to watch a sunset, or the start of a hiking trail, etc.

How to use google maps to plan a vacation using the add marker button

After you click the pin to add a marker, you then click anywhere on the map where you want to add a marker. Here’s an example of me marking a surf spot in my home town on the map. Notice there isnt a google icon for the surf spot like other points of interest like hotels, restaurants, and stores on the map.

How to use google maps to plan a trip adding custom markers
Adding a custom marker/point of interest to the map. Simply click save and the point will get added to your map.

To delete a marker, simply click on the marker from the layers panel or from the map and click the delete (key for you MAC users) or escape key (for those on Windows).

4. Add Directions Between Points of Interests

Once you marked down your points of interest, you can visually display the directions between two points. You can leverage the google maps app for this when you’re ready to visit the point of interest, which is what we prefer, but jotting down the directions on the map can come in handy to give you a general idea of where to go and how to get somewhere.

To add directions between two markers or from any location to a marker, simply click on the marker and from the popup select the direction icon that looks like an arrow.

How to use google my maps to plan a trip - adding directions
How to use google my maps to plan a trip - adding directions for display
How to use google my maps to plan a trip - adding directions for visual

You can also change the transportation mode by clicking the driving icon on the layer on the left side of the map. It can be changed from driving to walking or biking.

How to use google my maps to plan a trip - adding directions changing transportation mode
Simply change the transportation mode by clicking the car icon

5. Modify Your Point Of Interest Markers

Once you’ve added some point of interest markers to your map, it’s time to customize the markers to make it more user-friendly.

When you click on a marker and the popup is displayed, click on the paint bucket icon. This gives you two options to customize the marker, the ability to change the color and the ability to change the icon of the marker.

To change the color or the icon of the marker, click on the paint bucket. Here you chose a color from the color options displayed. If you don’t see one relevant on the shortlist, simply select “More icons” to view more.

the best vacation planning tool google maps
Click on the paint bucket icon to change the color of a marker
Change icon on google my maps how to plan a trip using google maps
Select “More Icons” to pick additional icons

In the screenshot below, I changed the color of the marker from blue to green and changed the icon of the marker to a surfing icon.

How to use google my maps to plan a trip

If you recall, Taylor and I use Google Maps for managing our bucket list and for planning trips.

For our bucket list, we mark everything we want to do in blue and then when we visit a point of interest, we change the color to green. This helps us visualize everywhere we’ve been since we’ve been together, it’s pretty neat!

For our regular trip planning maps, we use different colors and icons to help us plan and see different points of interests.

Below is an example of the map we are using to plan our trip to Europe. This only shows our points of interests for Amsterdam, but you can see here that we color-coordinated the markers. The markers are color coordinated by the following key:

  • Blue = things to do
  • Orange = where to eat
  • Purple = where we are staying.

Modify Name & Description of Marker

Now that you know how to change a marker’s icon and color, you can further modify the marker by changing its name and description. To do this, simply click on the desired marker so the popup displays. Next, select the pencil icon to modify the name and description. You can add any text you want, even URLs to your favorite blog post for more information!

How to use google my maps to plan a vacation or trip - changing description on a marker
Click on a marker to display its popup.
How to use google my maps to plan a vacation or trip - changing description on a marker popup
Click on the pencil to modify the description and name.
How to use google my maps to plan a vacation or trip - changing description on a marker clicking save adds url
We added notes to the marker and our blog post of the Big Island of Hawaii to the marker!

6. Share Your Google Maps With Others

One of my favorite features of Google My Maps is sharing the maps with others. You can share your maps with friends and family very easily and collaborate on a map with whoever you want. Taylor and I share all of our maps so we can plan our trip together at our own convenience.

To add others to a map, simply click the “Share” button under the name of the map on the left panel. From there you can define access, meaning decide if you want to make the map publicly available or keep it private.

There are three different options:

  • Public on the web
  • Anyone with the link
  • Only specific people
Share Google My Maps to help plan a trip or vacation using google maps
Select the Share button to share your maps with others.
Click the share button to share your my maps - how to use google maps to help plan a trip
Click the share button to give access to others.
define access to your google maps - how to plan a trip using google maps

If you choose to add specific people to your map and keep it private then simply select “Off – Specific people” and click “Save”, then invite others by entering their email.

Invite others to google maps - how to use google maps to plan a trip
Click the pencil next to the “Enter names or email addresses”, here you can choose to allow others to edit the map or simply just view it.

Once you share your maps with other people, especially those going on a vacation or adventure with you it’s time to load the map onto your phone! To do this you will need the Google Maps mobile app.

7. Use Your Google My Maps on Google Maps Mobile App

The power of Google My Maps resides in the Google Maps mobile app. It is great to plan a trip or vacation from your computer but it’s even better to utilize it in real-time while you’re on the go. Below are ten steps to use your google my maps on your Google Maps Mobile App.

  1. Download Google Maps from your app store
  2. Log in with the same account you used to create your maps
  3. Select the three horizontal lines in the top left
  4. Select “Your Places”
  5. Scroll the tabs to the right until you see “Maps”, select “Maps”
  6. Here you should see your created maps visible in a list. Select the map you want to use
  7. All of your markers from the created map will display
  8. Select view legend to filter your map on specific categories, like “Where to eat”.
  9. Select a marker to get directions to its location view more information about the marker and more.
  10. Scroll up on a selected marker to view more information.
Search For Google Maps in your app store - how to use google maps to plan a vacation
Step 1. Search for Google Maps in App Store and download it to your phone
load google maps on your phone - how to use google my maps to plan a trip
Step 2. Open the app and log in to Google Maps with the same account you created your map with.
Step 3. Select the three horizontal bars on the top left.
Select your places from the 3 horizontal lines drop down selection - how to use google my maps to plan a vacation
Step 4. Select “Your Places” to view your maps.
Scroll to right to open maps - how to use google my maps to plan a trip
Step 5. Scroll to the right and select “Maps”
Select Your map from the list available - how to use google my maps to plan a vacation
Step 6. Select your map from the list available
Your Google My Maps is loaded and useable on your mobile device - how to use google maps to plan a vacation
Step 7. Your Google My Maps is loaded with all of its markers and useable on your mobile device
Click view legend to see the legend of your map - how to use google my maps to plan a vacation
Step 8. Click view legend to see the legend of your map where you can filter layers or easily find a marker
select to on a marker to get directions - how to use google my maps to plan a trip
Step 9. Select a marker to get directions or view information.
View notes of marker from previously modified - how to use google my maps to plan a trip
Step 10. Scroll up on the selected marker to view notes and more information.

Notice in step 8, you can share your map with others through the app in addition to the desktop, this makes life more convenient when you’re on the move.

8. Save A Publicly Available Map

If you come across a blog that has a map embedded on a blog post, you can make a copy of it to save as your own. To do so, simply follow these steps:

  1. Find a map you want to save as your own.
    • Sometimes you can find maps embedded on a blog that you can make a copy of. For example, we have an extensive post on The Ultimate Guide of Oahu Hawaii with a map of every spot we visited while we lived there for 5 months.
  2. Click the “View Larger Map” icon in the top right corner of the embedded map. This will bring you to Google My Maps
    • click view larger map to make a copy of your own - how to plan a vacation using google my maps
  3. Click the three vertical dots in the left tool panel from the My Maps page.
    • Click the 3 vertical dots on the top left tool panel - how to plan a trip using google my maps
  4. Click “Copy Map” and save it as your own!
    • Click copy map to save the map as your own - how to plan a vacation using google my maps.
  5. Change the name and then click ok! It’s now saved as your own for you to further build out the map with your own notes, and markers, and it will reside under your saved maps on your account!
    • change the name of the copied map to a name you will recognize - how to plan a trip using google my maps

Popular Questions Related to Google Maps and My Maps

Can you plan a route in Google Maps? Can Google Maps Plan a route with multiple stops?

Yes, you can plan a route in Google Maps, however, it’s not as intuitive as other map applications and websites. To do so, simply load the app, set directions to your first location, then select the three dots in the top right-hand corner to add an additional stop. We cover how to do this in Google My Maps above, in step 4, “Add directions to your map”.


How do you plot multiple locations on Google Maps?

To plot multiple locations on Google Maps, I advise using Google My Maps and following the steps indicated above, plotting your markers on a custom My Maps in Google, on a desktop/laptop device first. Once you plot your markers on your custom map, you can load your custom map on a mobile device.

Does Google Maps have a trip planner?

Google used to have Google Trips but discontinued the service in August of 2019. However, you can use Google My Maps to plan your trip and this post provides a step by step guide on how to do that! Scroll back up to see how to use Google My Maps to plan your trip.

How to plan a trip using Google Maps or Google My Maps
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Plan a Trip Using Google My Maps – Summary

Overall, Taylor and I use Google My Maps for every trip we go on, no matter how big or small. We also use Google My Maps to keep track of our bucket list, which helps us share stories with others, keep memories, and helps us write blog posts when we visit a location and write about specific places.

Also, we love the ability to share the maps with friends and families as well as our readers! We offer our readers a copy of the Our Bucket List map which contains points of interests all over the world, it’s a great opportunity to see where we’ve been and where we’re planning on going. If you want access to the Our Bucket List map, click here!

If you have any questions about Google My Maps, please drop a comment below and I hope this step by step guide inspires you to plan your next trip!

About The Author

Kevin Mathers

A washed-up hockey player, surfer, and husband currently working towards financial freedom and showing you how we do it as a couple. I started this blog initially as a personal finance blog but after getting married, Taylor (my wife and best friend) and I decided to switch gears into the travel world sharing our experiences with you along the way.

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