Somewhere in Italy

californians figuring out life in italy one day at a time

how i use google maps when traveling

Aug 16, 2019

Three of my favorite features of Google Maps are the ability to create your own map, the ability to create lists, and the ability to download offline maps.

To create your own map, go to I love that you can create a map and separate locations by category. You can take a look at the map I made for Norcia and Montefalco HERE. After researching our travel destination, I add everything that interests us on the map — restaurants, coffee shops, gelaterias, wineries, sights to see, etc. The maps are truly customizable so you can add any category you’d like. We may not visit every restaurant, coffee shop, gelateria, or winery, but I add enough locations on the map so that no matter where we are in town there’s somewhere to go. This way if we’re in Neighborhood X and the map shows Gelateria Y is around the corner, I know I’ve already looked into the establishment and it meets my criteria (highly rated, uses local and fresh ingredients, etc.). For each category, you can change the location pin and the color. Below I have restaurants marked with a fork and knife crossed icon in red, bars and wineries are marked in green wine icons and attractions in blue location icons.

google my maps

Creating lists is similar to creating a map, but you can do it right from the Google Maps site or from the Google Maps app. I use these lists more when I’m preparing for travel than when I’m actually traveling. With Google lists, you don’t have the ability to change the color or icon of locations and for that reason I prefer using the personal maps mentioned above when actually traveling; visually the different colors and icons are easier to read. Google lists is where I collect information for my trips. If I’m scrolling through Instagram and come across a town someone is visiting that I’d like to visit, my mom sends me an article about things to do in Rome and there are a few places I want to check out, or I see an ad for a restaurant that looks amazing and I’d like to eat there, I add them to my lists. Below are a few of the lists I have:

  • Cities: All the cities in Italy I want to visit
  • Rome – Grocery Store: All the ethnic markets or open markets
  • Rome – Enoteca: because wine
  • Bologna – places to visit in Bologna (I create separate lists for most cities and start adding restaurants, things to do, etc.)
  • Rome – Attractions: things to do and see in Rome

To create and find your lists, open the Google Maps menu, click “Your places” and then “Lists”.  Once you have a list built out, you can click on your list and view the locations on the map. To add something to your list, go to its Google Maps page, click “save”, and add it to your list.

Whether you plan to travel with data or not, make sure to download offline maps. You’ll never have to worry about being lost (unless your phone dies) and can even use GPS if you plan to drive while traveling. To download offline maps, go to the Google Maps menu, click “Offline maps”, click “Custom Map”, adjust the window to the area you want to download, and click “download”. 

We use Google Maps every day, even when we’re not traveling. You can also use Google Maps to figure out public transit, but my favorite way to get around a city on public transit is with the Citymapper app. You can read more about how to use that in my travel essentials post. What are your favorite ways to use Google Maps?


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