Exit45 Travels-How to Plan a Trip on Google Maps-athens 1 day

How to Plan a Trip on Google Maps

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Have you ever wondered how to plan a trip on Google Maps? This is the step-by-step process we use for our travel itineraries and trip planning using Google Maps and why we think you should try it out for your next trip!

A question we have been asked often during our nomadic full-time travels is how we plan our trips and itineraries. Sadly, there is no one magic solution for this as it takes lots of time and research, especially when you are travelling on a budget like we do.

The one thing I love about travel is planning! I love reading and researching about others adventures and watching travel vlogs by some our favourites. I keep lots of notes and top-tips on accommodation, locations to stay, recommended restaurants and meals, regional foods to try, and of course, must-see locations and top tips on how to visit these sights.

We have been travelling now for 5 years so I have worked out a few short-cuts along the way to make this easier and less time-consuming, and to plan a trip with Google Maps is one of our favourite and most recommended tools!

Are you currently planning your next holiday? Read on for our step-by-step guide on how to plan a trip using Google Maps trip planner. We will show you just how easy it is to map out an itinerary for your next travel adventure!

Planning Your Trip? Use Our Favourite Resources Below!

AccommodationWe recommend Booking.com
FlightsWe recommend Skyscanner
Tours / ExperiencesWe recommend Viator
Car RentalWe recommend DiscoverCars
Travel InsuranceWe recommend SafetyWing

Did You Know?

  • Google Maps is free to use
  • Google Maps is really easy to use
  • The pins of all of your must-see places can easily be seen on the map
  • You can categorise and personalise your map to help visually
  • You can map your own self-guided walking routes and plan a road trip with Google Maps

“Boy: is your name Google?, Girl: No!!… Why? Boy: Because you got everything I am searching for.”

– Unknown –

Why Do We Use Google Maps For Our Travel Itinerary Planning?

We have tried and tested a number of websites, tools and apps for planning our trips, but we have found Google Maps to be the best tool for us. We love it and recommend you try it because:

  • Google Maps is free to use
  • It is really easy to use
  • The pins of all of your must-see places can easily be seen on the map
  • Notes on individual pins can be added i.e. cost of entrance, opening times etc.
  • You can categorise and personalise your map to help visually i.e. pin colours and icons
  • Using layers allows you to further organise your trip – this is especially useful when you break your trip down day by day
  • Google Maps trip planning helps you plan and map out your own self-guided walking / cycling routes and road trip itineraries by adding directions between your pinned locations
  • Your map can be added to and edited at any time
  • Share your map with family and friends

How to Plan a Trip on Google Maps

Most people are familiar with Google Maps and have used it at some time or another to find a location and navigate to it. However, most people do not know that you can actually plan itinerary on Google Maps!

So, this is the step-by-step procedure we use to plan our trips along with some additional features you may also find useful for customising your map. Feel free to change around the order and develop a method that works best for you!

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Our Athens 1 Day Itinerary Using Google Maps

Step 1: Sign-In to Google Maps

Go to the main Google Maps page and sign-in with your Google username.

Step 2: Create A Travel Map

To create your map:

  • Click on ‘Menu’ on the top left (3 horizontal lines)
  • Click on ‘Your places’
  • Click on ‘Maps’ (4th tab across the top)
  • Click on ‘Create Map’.

Step 3: Add a Title and Description to Your Map

Name your map and add a description by clicking on ‘Untitled map’ in the top left corner.

Step 4: Add a Title to Your Layer

Name your map / layer i.e. name of country or city, City-Day 1 etc. by clicking on ‘Untitled layer’ half way down in this box.

N.B. This step can also be done after you have added all your pins to develop layers and help categorise your trip further.

Step 5: Add Your Must-See Locations

This is the part we most enjoy as we can start adding all the must-visit locations, restaurants, hotel recommendations etc. we have found through our research on travel blogs and vlogs, YouTube, Lonely Planet, Google and friends recommendations.

Search your destination / individual must-see locations, restaurants, bus / train stations etc. in the search bar and click on ‘Add to map’ on the bottom left of the pop-up screen. It will now appear under the city / layer description on the left side of the screen and as a pin on the map.

And as a bonus, you now have the address, phone number and website links for all your pins in case you need it.

N.B. If you can’t find the name of a place (i.e. hotel, monument, restaurant) when searching on Google Maps, use the ‘Add marker’ feature and drop a labelled pin icon in the location.

Step 6: Organise Your Pins Into Order

Once you have added all your pins, you can reorganise these into a logical order on the left had side screen by simple dragging and dropping.

Step 7: Save

Now, click on the ‘Save’ button and you have created your first map on Google.

It really is as simple as that!

Top Tip: The key to using this tool effectively is to choose a system that works for you and helps you stay organized. Once you have decided on your system, use it consistently for every additional map you create!

Additional Features on Google Maps to Make Your Map More Informative

However, if you want to make your map even more informative and functional, here are some additional steps that we take using the additional features on Google Maps.

Feature 1: Colour Code Your Pins According to Different Categories

We colour code and categorize our pins by colour so we can easily identify each and this also helps us with planning our day i.e. where to stop for food. For example, this is how we colour code our categories:

  • Must-See Locations / Sights – Red
  • Areas / Neighbourhoods – Purple
  • Transportation Stops i.e. Ferry / Cruise Ports, Train Stations, Bus Stations – Yellow
  • Beaches – Teal
  • Restaurants, Coffee Shops and Bars – Green
  • Accommodation – Orange
  • Shopping Areas – Pink

How To Do:

  • Click on the pin that you have added to the map
  • Click on ‘Style’ (first icon) at the bottom of the pop-up (looks like a paint can)
  • Choose your colour

N.B. This is how we colour code our map, however, create a colour coding system that works for you. We have also seen it done as a priority system where green is ‘must see’, orange is ‘like to see’ and yellow ‘if have time’. We have also seen maps colour coded according to the daily schedule i.e. Day 1 – Red pins, Day 2 – Green pins etc.

Top Tip: Blue is hard to see on Google Maps due to the background, so try and pick another brighter colour.

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Colour Code Your Pins on Google Maps

Feature 2: Add Icons to Your Pins According to Different Categories

In addition to colour coding our pins by colour, we also add an icon to further categorise them to enhance identification at a glance. For example:

  • Must-See Locations / Sights – Star
  • Areas / Neighbourhoods – General Pin
  • Transportation Stations / Stops – Ferry, Train, Metro, Bus
  • Beaches – Beach Umbrella
  • Restaurants, Coffee Shops and Bars – Crossed Knife and Fork
  • Accommodation – House
  • Shopping Areas – Shopping Bag

How To Do:

  • Click on the pin that you have added to the map
  • Click on ‘Style’ (first icon) at the bottom of the pop-up (looks like a paint can)
  • Choose your icon from ‘Popular Icons’ or ‘More Icons’

N.B. If you make a choice from the ‘More Icons’ section, your personal choices will start to appear under ‘Other Icons’ so you do not need to keep going back in and finding the ones you use often.

Feature 3: Add Descriptions / Extra Information to Each Pin You Add

We like to add additional information under each pin such as the entrance cost of an attraction, opening times, how long to visit, top tips, meal recommendation at a restaurant etc. These appear under the title of your pin when you click on it.

How To Do:

  • Click on the pin that you have added to the map
  • Click on ‘Edit’ (second icon) at the bottom of the pop-up (looks like a pen)
  • Add extra information to text box

Top Tip: To start a new line of text, click on ‘Ctrl’ + ‘Enter’, and the cursor will move down a line.

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Add Additional Information for Each Pin You Add

Feature 4: Add Images / Videos to Each Pin You Add

On occasion, we add photos to our map to help us identify a specific point of interest or something special that shouldn’t be missed. This can be useful for recognising the fronts of restaurants.

How To Do:

  • Click on the pin that you have added to the map
  • Click on ‘Add image or video’ (third icon) at the bottom of the pop-up (looks like a camera)
  • Upload, drag and drop images, or insert URL

Feature 5: Find Directions from Point A to Point B

This is a great feature and one we use extensively to help us see which attractions are within easy walking distance of each other to help us plan our route.

How To Do:

  • Click on the pin that you have added to the map
  • Click on ‘Directions to here’ (fourth icon) at the bottom of the pop-up (looks like an arrow)
  • Input your Point A and Point B
  • Click on ‘Driving’ and change for walking or cycling
  • Click on ‘Layer options’ (three vertical dots)
  • Click on ‘Step-by-step directions’ to see the exact distance in metres, the approximate time it will take to walk, the exact directions
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Find Directions on Google Maps

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Work Out Distances and Time Between Different Point of Interest

Feature 6: Create Walking / Cycling Routes and Road Trips

Once we have added our pins and checked distances between them, we then add our own route.

How To Do:

  • Click on ‘Draw line’ (fifth icon) at the top of the page under the search bar (looks 3 dots with lines between)
  • Click on the option that applies:
  • Add line or shape
  • Add driving route
  • Add biking route
  • Add walking route

Once you’ve made your selection, click ‘Add direction’.

This will automatically add a new layer to your map that you can easily access later. After that, all you have to do is type in your Point A and Point B destinations.

You can add up to 10 stops along the way, which you can always update, rearrange, or change later. If you want to alter the route, just drag the little white circle to the road or route you prefer.

You’re probably already used to calculating drive times with Google Maps, but did you know you can do the same with walking and cycling routes?

Just click the three little dots beside the direction name and select ‘Step-by-step directions’.  This will provide you with a complete breakdown of travel time in minutes between each stop and the distance.

Feature 7: Delete a Pin

How To Do:

  • Click on the pin that you have added to the map
  • Click on ‘Delete Place’ (fifth icon) at the bottom of the pop-up (looks like a trash can)

Feature 8: Create Different Layers in Your Map

This is a useful feature if you want to have a separate daily itinerary or individual city / region planner in a country, and have your map looking more organized. Also, layers can be turned on and off at anytime so only the relevant pins can be seen on your map.

How To Do:

  • Click on ‘Add layer’ (first icon) on the grey tool bar under the title of the map (looks like a diamond with a shadow)
  • Pins will be added to the selected layer on the screen on the left, and you can drag these to any layer at any time

N.B. Only 10 layers can be created so at times you will need to be clever with how you use your colour and icon categorisation system.

Feature 9: Share Your Map / Itinerary With Your Family or Friends

How To Do:

  • Click on the pin that you have added to the map
  • Click on ‘Share’ (second icon) on the grey tool bar under the title of the map (looks like  person with a + sign beside)
  • Copy the link and email to your friends and family

Feature 10: List Pins and Descriptions Into a Spreadsheet

This is another feature of Google Maps for those that prefer the visual ease of spreadsheets. Here you can add descriptions / extra information under the ‘Description’ column to be saved on your pin. This is an alternate way of adding additional information as described in Feature 3 above.

How To Do:

At the top of your layer on the left pop-up screen:

  • Click on the three vertical dots on the right side
  • Click on ‘Open data table’ (fourth icon) at the bottom of the pop-up (looks like an arrow)
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View Points of Interest and Descriptions in a Table on Google Maps

Feature 11: Import Locations from a Spreadsheet

You can also import locations and information from a spreadsheet, CVS or KML/KMZ files directly into Google Maps / your itinerary. This is not a function we have used, however, here is a link on how to import map data.

Feature 12: Print Your Map

How To Do:

  • Click on the three vertical dots on the right side beside your map title
  • Click on ‘Print map’ and select paper size, orientation and output type.

Using Google Maps to Plan a Trip / Travel Itinerary

So, as we have mentioned above, everyone plans their travels a little differently.  Your travel plan can also be affected by a number of things such as:

  • Which city or country?
  • How much time do you have? Days, weeks or months?
  • What is your budget?
  • How will you travel around i.e. walking, car, metro, bus, airplane?
  • What are your must-see locations / sights and things to do?

However, no matter how you plan your travels, you will find Google Maps trip planning is super easy! And…. Your can access your Google Maps itinerary anywhere at any time while out and about.

Now it is your turn…. Just remember it gets easier the more you use it and once you have created your own personal customisation scheme with colour coding pins and adding icons, it becomes even more informative.

Enjoy your travel planning with Google Maps! 

How To Export Your Google Maps Route to Your Phone to Use Offline

Once you have your trip planned for your destination, the next step is to export Google Maps data to use on your phone offline while you are out and about exploring. Read our next blog post for step by step guidance on how to do this…

In Summary – How to Plan a Trip In Google Maps

We have found Google Maps travel planner to be an amazing tool! Not only will it help you to plan where you want to go, but it assists you to create a map of your travels for your itinerary. From there you can visually see your itinerary map to further assist with your day-to-day travel plan.  

The other feature we really love about Google Maps travel planning is adding useful information to each pin so we know how much we should be paying to enter, opening and closing hours, which meal is highly recommended to order etc.  Having this information readily available further improves our whole travel experience.

Are you planning a trip in the near future? Have you used Google Maps for travel planning before, or have we missed any Google Maps itinerary planning features we should add to this post? Post your tips and questions below.

Want more travel tips related to tech to help you plan, organise and assist you when travelling? Check out all the articles we’ve written on tech related travel tips below and continue planning for your next trip.

Essential Travel Planning Resources

Below are our favourite companies to use for planning our travels. They consistently turn up the best deals, offer great customer service and amazing value, and overall, are better than their competitors. These are always our starting point when we need to book a flight, hotel, tour, car rental etc.

Book a Tour:
We mostly travel independently, however, some places are better to visit with a guided tour. We prefer GetYourGuide for its easy-to-use interface and solid reputation, but we also use Viator.

Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out our Travel Resources page for the companies we use and recommend to plan and book our travels. Through lots of trial and error over the years, these are the best!

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