Plus: some brand-new Google Maps features you’re going to love.

By Lauren Phillips
February 07, 2020

Believe it or not, Google Maps—one of the best navigation apps out there, depending on who you ask—turns 15 on February 6. In just a decade and a half, this handy little app has helped transform the way we travel. Whether you access it on your smartphone or desktop, you can check how long it will take to get somewhere; see where you parked; plan trips; explore new places; find restaurants, bars, coffeeshops, gas stations near you; and more. If you already rely on Google Maps to get you around town, read on: These tips will help you get the most out of Google Maps.

1
Check public transportation statuses

You probably knew that you can use Google Maps to navigate a city’s public transportation, and that you can see when the next train or bus will arrive. Now you can also see the temperature inside a public transportation vehicle, check accessibility options, see how crowded the train or bus typically is, and more.

This data is reported by past riders, so it may not always be exact, but it will help you get a sense of what to expect before the bus pulls up or the train arrives at the station. If you have some flexibility, it can even help you avoid overly crowded trains or buses.

2
Navigate bike shares

Whether you’re a regular bike-share user or you’re using one to explore a new city, finding the nearest bike-share dock or knowing where you might be able to dock your bike in a crowded part of town isn’t always as easy as you’d like. (It can be pricey too: not being able to dock your bike on time can lead to extra fees.) Google Maps allows you to search for the closest bike docks and will even tell you how many bikes it has, so you can be sure that there will be a bike waiting for you when you arrive—or that there will be a spot to park the bike you’re riding.

3
Book treatments, appointments, and workout classes

Yes, you’ve been able to make reservations at participating restaurants straight through Google Maps for a while now, but did you know you can book other things too? You can peruse and book haircuts, spa treatments, workout classes, and more at participating salons, spas, gyms, and studios in the app. If you use Google Pay, you don’t even need to pull out a credit card.

4
See what’s in stock

If you’re seeking a particular item or you’re heading to a store and want to make sure they have what you’re looking for in stock, Google Maps can tell you. Use Google Maps to find the store (which you may already be doing for directions); participating stores will display their inventory, so you can search for your item to make sure what you’re looking for will be there before you arrive.

5
Research gas prices

Frequent drivers—especially road-trippers—know the difficulty of finding a gas station, especially in more sparsely populated areas. Google Maps has allowed you to search for gas stations near you for a while, but now you can check gas prices too, to be sure you’re getting the best deal. At the very least, you’ll know what to expect to spend if there’s only one gas station around.

6
Translate directions, street names, and more

If you’re using Google Maps to navigate an unfamiliar country, it has features to make traveling in a place where you don’t speak the language even easier. You can simply tap the speaker icon next to a place name or address and Google will speak the name aloud, so you can ask for directions (or at least pronounce the name better) when you don’t speak the language. This feature is fully rolling out over the next few months, but it’s sure to make traveling to new, unfamiliar places easier.

7
Order food delivery

Yes, you may have your go-to food delivery app, but you can also order food through Google Maps. For participating restaurants, Google Maps will suggest local food delivery services that will bring your food to you (you can even order through the app for delivery or pickup), which is especially helpful when you’re visiting a new city and aren’t familiar with the food delivery services available.

8
Create and share lists

You don’t have to remember every restaurant you’ve been to, or create extensive documents listing your travel suggestions for every place you’ve visited: Google Maps will let you keep track of all of it within the app. Simply press and hold on a location (think restaurants, hotels, and attractions) to add them to a shortlist. You can edit, share, and look through your lists at any time, so all your must-visits (for your home city or otherwise) are easy to find.

9
Download maps

If you’re traveling internationally and don’t have an international data plan, you can still use Google Maps to navigate: There’s an option to download maps for offline use, so you don’t have to wander blind—or scavenge for a paper map—if you don’t have data.

10
Share your ETA

Instead of texting friends as you’re in-transit, you can send them your location directly, so they know exactly where you are every step of the way. (It’s an especially great feature if you’re worried about safety along your route.) Yes, it makes it more difficult to pretend you’re on your way when you’re actually still home, but it also makes sure everyone’s on the same page while hopping around town.

11
Access travel reservations

When you’re planning a big trip, you can keep info on plane reservations, hotel reservations, and more all in one spot in Google Maps, where you’re likely already researching places to eat and directions. Instead of flipping between apps, you can keep everything in one spot for a smoother trip.

Advertisement