Skip to main content

The 10 best Google Maps features you should start using now

best Google Maps features
(Image credit: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

I don’t know how I got around before Google Maps, nor do I want to remember those dark and disorienting times. Celebrating its 15-year anniversary this week, the one-stop navigational source has made traversing streets and cities as easy as can be. 

Not only does Google Maps put the globe in your palm, it can also show you the best way to commute home, keep track of your favorite spots and guide you through unfamiliar locales. In fact there’s so many things Google Maps can do that you might not be taking advantage of its top tricks.

Along with a refreshed logo and new interface tabs, Maps is rolling out advanced public transportation data next month. Until then, these are the best Google Maps features you should start using now on your iPhone or Android device, from AR walking directions to restaurant reservations.

See AR Live View walking directions

best Google Maps features

(Image credit: Google)

The Google Maps Live View feature overlays real-time augmented reality navigation directions on top of the real world using your camera lens. If you find yourself disoriented, Live View will reveal arrows pointing you towards your destination. The display will guide you to the exact address you searched, so you won’t have to wonder if you’re in the right place. This is one of the best Google Maps features and especially helpful in metropolitan areas where tall buildings can interfere with GPS positioning.

Get real-time transit data

best Google Maps features

(Image credit: Google)

Did you know you can see where subway trains and city busses are on their route in real time? Instead of guessing how long until the next shuttle will be at your stop, Google Maps will show up-to-the-minute tracking for transit lines. In certain municipalities you can also ask your Google Assistant when the next train is so you know whether you’ll be taking a leisurely stroll or light sprint to the station. Coming in March, you’ll also be able to find out if a station is handicap-accessible, the temperature of train cars and whether there’s security present.

Plan your commute ahead

best Google Maps features

(Image credit: Google)

If you try and plan a trip the night before you leave, you won’t get an accurate picture of the traffic conditions along the route. When you search for directions in Google Maps, you can specify your  arrival and departure windows, and Google Maps will estimate the amount of traffic along the route, potentially avoiding traffic jams. You can also set a reminder to let you know when to leave to arrive at an appointment or work on time.

Add stops for gas and food

best Google Maps features

(Image credit: Google)

Want to stop for gas or a quick bite to eat while traveling? You can add a stop on Google Maps if you need to adjust your route before your final destination. You can search for restaurants, gas stations, and more along your path. Even better, gas station results will list the price per gallon, while restaurants will have their ratings shown.  You can also manually add in up to nine stops along your route, meaning you can plan an entire day’s journey at once.  

Share your location and trip progress

best Google Maps features

(Image credit: Google)

Tired of texting your friends that you’re only 10 minutes away? Instead of leaving your friends wondering how far  you are from meeting them, you can share your Google Maps trip progress to let them check in your location. As one of the best Google Maps features, its also an excellent safety tool for letting loved ones know when you’ve made it home. Plus, tracking automatically ends once you’ve reached your destination, so there’s no need for privacy concerns.

Download maps for offline directions

best Google Maps features

(Image credit: Future)

Whether you’re out of the country without a SIM card or have a weak cellular data connection, you might have a hard time getting directions or finding a place you want to go. Luckily you can download complete maps for offline use, like you might Spotify playlists or Netflix episodes. Google Maps supports offline maps for small neighborhoods and entire cities; just make sure you save them ahead of time. 

Make lists of your favorite places

best Google Maps features

(Image credit: Future)

One of the best parts about travel is being able to share suggestions for food, entertainment and lodging with friends afterwards. With the Google Maps lists feature, you can send curated guides of your favorite spots to whomever you’d like. You can build lists as travel or make them ahead of a trip to supplement your itinerary. Lists offer immediate access to addresses, reviews and contact information for each locale, too. You can choose whether you want to keep your lists private, share them with specific contacts or publish it to the Google Maps database for all the app’s users to access. 

See where you’ve been

best Google Maps features

(Image credit: Future)

Google Maps saves your directions history so you can easily revisit or look up places you’ve been. That way you can remember locations you visited if you forgot to write them down or want to view a manifest of your travels. Use the “Your timeline” feature to get a day-by-day rundown of your searches. And if you’d prefer Google not record your directions history, you can disable the feature in Google Maps settings.

Get indoor directions

best Google Maps features

(Image credit: Future)

Google Maps isn’t just for outdoor directions. One of the best Google Maps features lets you use the app in certain indoor locales, too, such as museums and sports arenas. Certain locations even support maps for different floors or levels, meaning you’re less likely get lost when you’re in a massive venue. Points of interest like concessions, restrooms, information desks, and ATM machines are also highlighted for easy identification. 

Book hotels, restaurant reservations, workout classes and more

best Google Maps features

(Image credit: Future)

You can book nearly anything you need directly within Google Maps. Maps partners with third-party services like Expedia, OpenTable and Mindbody to help you make reservations for hotels, restaurants, workout classes and more without exiting the app. You can enable Google Pay on your phone to make the payment process even easier. Maps will add your plans to Google Calendar if you use it, too.