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Using Google Maps to plan days out

Before I took full advantage of Google Maps, I would try and remember places that I was interested in visiting which ended in me forgetting or I would quickly jot them down on a note app on my phone and then forget to look at the app again.

It’s not until recently that I’ve actually used Google Maps to its full potential. When we couldn’t travel in lockdown, going on Google Maps and researching places took my mind off the restrictions and helped me feel a little less stuck inside.

Google Maps is great for a number of reasons:

  1. You can research places by reading user reviews and seeing photos from people who’ve been
  2. Using streetview, you can familiarise yourself with the place and route
  3. You can create lots of lists and save places to go – and you don’t need to jot the address down separately
  4. You can create different maps. Going on holiday? You could create a map for the trip where you only see the things you would like to visit on the holiday and it won’t be cluttered with locations for other trips.

How to find places to visit on Google Maps

Using the search on Google Maps, you can put in terms like “park”, “nature reserve”, “cafe” which is great for when you’re wanting to find ideas.

Google Maps screenshot of areas marked as a nature reserve in and around Glasgow

Underneath the search, there’s a ‘search this area’ box. Clicking on the icons will show you restaurants, hotels, shops and more that are in the area you’re currently looking at. By moving the map, a ‘search this area’ button will appear on the map which will allow you to find more places.

When you click on a place you’re interested in, scroll down and you will see similar places nearby – I use this quite a lot to find places I don’t know about.

Another way I’ve found places (especially if it’s outdoor places), is by zooming into dark green patches on the map and seeing what is around. Not the most quickest of ways but I did find some great woodland walks with car parking by doing it this way! If you know where you want to go but don’t know what’s around then is a great way of seeing what’s listed on Google Maps.

I’ve found a place, now what?

On the listing, next to the directions icon, you should see a save icon that looks like a bookmark. Click on this and you can add it to a new list or a list you have already created.

You can find your lists by clicking on the menu, then ‘your places’. Then click ‘saved’ and you will see all the lists you’ve created. From here you can edit a list and add a description to it. You can also write notes about the places you’ve added to the list and add more places to it.

Most of my lists are private but if you wanted to share a list with someone else, you can make the list ‘shared’ – anyone with the link can see the list. You can also make the list public but this means it will appear in Google with your name and photo.

Give me some list examples!

You might already have a dozen list ideas but if you’d like some list inspiration, here’s what I have:

  • Hillwalking – a selection of Munros and small hills I would like to complete
  • Hills I’ve walked – so I can see at a glance how many I’ve walked
  • Go a walk – this is places local to me where I can go a walk when I want to get out of the house
  • Food places to try
  • Travels – anywhere that I would like to visit that doesn’t fit my other lists
  • Great Canadian Visit – ideas for a future trip to Canada
  • Christmas – places that look festive at Christmas or put on festive events

Google Maps Timeline

Another feature of Google Maps which might be like marmite to some people is the timeline feature. I personally love it as it shows you (and only you!) the trips you’ve made and all the places you visit. You can see your most visited places, I didn’t realise how often I visit my local supermarket!

You can turn this on and off as you please if you don’t like the idea of your location being tracked (at least if you have it on you always have a solid alibi, I watch too much true crime…)

I treat Google Maps as an online diary, it helps me remember places I want to visit but also at a glance I can see places I’ve been. It’s been super helpful in reminding me of the places I can blog about and if someone asks me for recommendations, I know the name, website etc of the place and I’m not left going “eh it started with an S I think, near that area….”.

I hope you find Google Maps as useful as I do and have a great time exploring new places!

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