I have to start this post by admitting, I’m kind of obsessed with travel planning. Before travelling somewhere, I love to read about the city and country, its culture, architecture, history, local dishes and its must-visit spots. If you’re a travel planner type like me, I guess, you know what I’m talking about 😉 One of the best travel planner sites is Google My Maps. So in this post, I’ll show you my step-by-step travel itinerary planning process with Google My Maps including photos and video.
Before planning and booking your trip, make sure to read my post about Things to do before every trip – with travel checklist post and download your how to plan a trip travel checklist.
After you choose your destination, you can start planning. Yeeeeey! This can happen before buying your (flight) ticket, just to calculate how many days or weeks to spend there or after you purchased your ticket and booked your accommodation. It’s up to you!
And nooooow let me show you everything you need to know about Google My Maps to plan your next dream trip.
Here’s your complete guide to travel itinerary planning with Google My Maps
Everyone has a different travel planning routine. Mine might differ from yours. I’d be happy to learn about your habits, please, share them in the comment section at the bottom.
I’ll reveal my exact travel itinerary planning process, and I’ll teach you some interesting and useful tricks about using Google My Maps. Of course, you can change the orders and develop your method.
Why do I use Google My Maps for travel itinerary planning?
Most of the people use only Google Maps while travelling. However, it can be combined easily with Google My Map and used more professionally.
Advantages of Google My Maps for planning your itinerary:
- Google Maps and Google My Maps are free tools
- Easy to use
- All of your “must-visit places” can be visualized on the map
- Your places can be categorized and personalized as you wish
- Perfect for road trip planning and self-guided walking routes
- Easily adjustable, add new points anytime you want
- Share and edit the map with your travel buddies
- No need to carry thick guidebooks, have your plan in your phone
- Access your map via Google Maps
Check out my travel itinerary planning video, where I guide you through how I plan a 3-week trip to Peru!
COVID-19 cancelled our 2020 trip to Peru. Now, I’ll walk you through our future dreamy 3-weeks trip to Peru. Hopefully, one day it can become a reality 😉 At the end of the blog post, you’ll find the Peru itinerary, what I’m creating in the video.
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1. Create your 1st Google My Maps using your Google account
I’m sure you own a Google account. Just visit Google My Maps and sign in with your Google username to make your 1st map (the maps will be saved in your Drive automatically).
Its interface is similar to Google Maps. It also has a search bar, moreover, an organizer on the left side to create your pins and layers.
First, give a title to your map. It’s also possible to include a description.
Then, set the “Base map”. The default version is a basic map format, though you can change this to satellite, terrain and other options. This can be modified anytime you want.
2. Add your must-visit locations to My Map
Now comes the fun part 🙂 Collecting the places you wish to visit.
When you find something, you want to visit…
- Start to type the place’s name into the search bar and press Enter.
- If you’re not sure about its correct location, just click on “View in Google Maps” to double-check.
- By clicking “+ Add to map” you can add it to your layer (Untitled layer).
- Its name will be added automatically, though you can rename at the pencil icon.
- It’s possible to add a description, which can be a must-try food at a restaurant or a particular opening time
- You can also include a photo by uploading one from your computer or adding one with an image URL or making a Google Image search.
- If the map can’t find a site you’re looking for, though you know its exact location, use the “Add marker” pin icon. This is perfect for murals, which aren’t usually signed on Google Maps.
Importing spreadsheet into Google My Maps
If you already have some sights and attractions in a spreadsheet, CVS and KML file, you can easily import those locations into My Maps.
I haven’t needed this option yet. However, if I had all the Budapest museums in an excel sheet with their names, addresses, opening times, ticket prices etc. I could import the spreadsheet and have all of the museums with the relevant information and organize by a selected category. I’ve found a helpful video about importing data on the YouTube channel of TechHut.
Plan transportations and include public places like airports, stations etc.
Depending on the transportation you’ll use, it’s also helpful to add airports, train or bus stations, car rental places and your accommodation. This way, you’ll see the distances between these spots and your pinned locations and think about how to get from one point to the other.
Research and add restaurants, brunch places, coffee shops, bars etc.
For me, trying out restaurants and local dishes are just as important as visiting a tourist attraction. So I always look for restaurants, breakfast & brunch places, specialty coffee shops, bars and insert them into the map.
3. Personalize your places with icons and colours
For more obvious navigation on the map, you can use several symbols and colours to differentiate your places. Though keep it simple. It’s disturbing when the map is full of various signs and hundreds of colours. Don’t make my “beginner” mistake 😉
After creating a few miscellaneous maps, I started to simplify and define my colours and symbols:
- Yellow house as accommodation
- Yellow icons for transportation like the airport, train and bus stations, car rental places
- Tourist attractions with pink pin or icon
- Parks and outdoor sights with green pin
- Blue pin for lakes, beaches and swimming pools
- Restaurants with orange restaurant icon
- Coffee shops with orange coffee icons
Every destination is different and might have certain types of places. For example, on my Lisbon map, I separated the panorama terraces with a unique binocular icon. At summer destinations, I never forget about the ice cream icon.
Just play with the colours and signs and see which individual style works for you.
4. Prepare your layers to separate topics or regions
Creating layers can happen parallel with personalizing and placing new pins.
The newly added locations will be part of the selected layer (blue sign at the left side). The elements can be simply dragged to another layer anytime.
The best part about layers is that you can turn them off and on anytime, so only the relevant pins will be visible on your map. Keep in mind that you can’t create more than 10 layers. Sometimes it’s better to combine similar spots on the same layer and distinguish with icons and/or colours.
If you’re visiting only a city and its surrounding, you can separate according to your interests…
- Things to see / Historical places / Contemporary architecture / Museums
- Natural sights / Beaches
- Restaurants / Bars / Brunch & Coffee places
- Walking route / Road trip
If you plan to visit more parts of a country, you can create the layers for regions and cities as I did in this Peru itinerary.
5. Create walking, cycling routes and roadmaps in Google My Maps
You can create routes by clicking on the “Draw line” and the “Add direction” icons under the search bar.
If you click on the “Draw line” icon, you can choose from the following options:
- Add line or shape
- Add driving route
- Add cycling route
- Add walking route
Make driving, cycling and walking routes
If you click on “Add direction”, you can create driving, cycling and walking tours. This will be automatically a new layer, where you can change between driving, cycling and walking modes. Just type your stops at the A and B points or just select your already added pins. By clicking on “Add destination”, you can plan more points.
All of these routes can have max 10 stops/elements. Its stops can be rearranged, changed and renamed later. You can also alter the route line by dragging the white circle, which will appear if you move your arrow above the path.
Calculate the duration of your road map and self-guided walking tour
To know how much time will be needed for the planned road trip/walking tour, click on the 3 dots next to the direction name and choose “Step-by-step directions”. Google My Maps will tell you the distances and the calculated time between your stops.
Draw a line
Google Maps is our friend, but sometimes it can’t track smaller walking and hiking trails to hidden gems. This function is the best for making less known routes. If you’ve found a way to a hidden gem, you can draw the road with lines.
This tool is also helpful when we don’t want to “waste a layer” for smaller cycling or walking route. In this case, it’s better to draw it from a line. The contour can be modified anytime, just select the line and drag its points as you wish. You can even give name and style to the line and move it to its relevant layer.
6. Travel itinerary planning with Google My Maps
Many things will affect your itinerary:
- How will you approach the city/country?
- How much time do you have? Days or weeks?
- How will you get around? Car, Uber, public transport, day/night bus, train or aeroplane?
- What are your favourite activities? Sightseeing, hiking, surfing, sunbathing, crazy adventures?
- What’s your budget? Can you afford paid attractions and tours?
After clarifying your interests and adding most of your pins to the map, you can start planning your itinerary. Google My Maps helps you visualize your must-see places. You’ll see the distances between them and the nearby restaurants/ coffee shops.
You can calculate how much time you’ll need to reach the spots from your accommodation. Or if you haven’t booked it, you can find an ideal location 😉
The places close to each other can be visited on foot in a few hours or during a day. Using public transportation or Uber will be required to discover sights situated further. And a few can be skipped if their locations are far away from the rest. Usually, I prepare a “Later” or “Maybe” layer for these places and turn off after dragging them on it.
An essential disadvantage of Google My Maps is that you can’t create more than 10 layers. So if you’re planning a more extended trip to a country, it’s better to arrange your places by region. You can create a copy from your original map (see it later at “Other useful functions”) and edit your new map according to your itinerary. This way, all of your previously added places will be safe on the initial map.
On the copied map, just delete or hide places, rearrange and rename layers as I did at this 3-week Peru itinerary planning. You can organize them as you might visit them. To track your days, add the durations to your layer names.
Don’t overplan and don’t have high expectations
Add as many points as you wish, but you don’t have to plan every minute of your itinerary, just know the whereabouts of your must-see places, and sometimes it’s better to go with the flow 😉 Many things will affect your trip… A site is closed or overbooked, or you’re not in the mood to visit it.
It’s unnecessary to “see everything” and “check” every point on your bucket list. Just be present and enjoy your time, you’re on holiday 😉
Other useful functions of Google My Maps
Next to the title, at the 3 dots you have even more options:
- New map – to create a new blank map
- Copy map – to create an independent map copying this one
- Open a map – to select one of your maps (it won’t open in a new tab)
- Move to bin – to delete the map
- Set default view – to choose the shown area (by default it zooms in to the visible layers)
- Embed on my site – to place it on your blog, though first, you have to set it “Public” at the “Share” tab
- Export to KML/KMZ – KML file is readable in Google Earth and Maps, and it could be imported into those
- Print map – to print the map and the full list by selecting the paper size, orientation and format (pdf or image)
7. Share your map with your traveller buddies
If you travel with someone, you can share the map with your traveller friends. Click on “Share” under the map title and “Enable link sharing”. Copy the link and send it to your travel buddies.
If you want to plan the itinerary together, you can also give editing access by clicking on “Drive sharing” button. Then add the name(s) and select “Editor” next to the email address to enable editing permission.
How to make your map public and embed on your site?
In most of my travel itinerary blog posts, you can see my embedded Google My Maps. Those are public maps, which can be found and saved by everyone online. So if you’d like to obtain these Peru maps (or other maps), just click on the star next to the map title and check out your My Maps account.
If you also have a blog and want to embed your map on your site, make it public. Just click on “Share”, then “Enable link sharing” and select “Public”. Then you can get its HTML link by choosing “Embed on my site” (see at the previous point).
8. Access My Map on your phone via Google Maps
You can access your maps on IOS and Android devices on Google Maps app by clicking on “Saved” places, then on “Maps”. Your created and shared map names will be listed, so you just need to select a map to see your pins in Google Maps. At “View map legend”, you can even look at your layers, though you won’t be able to edit them.
Download cities/areas in Google Maps to access them offline
Google Maps makes it possible to download an area and use it offline. Search for a city or region, click on “Download” and select the area you want to download and that’s it!
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to access My Maps places offline with the map.
Download My Maps app
My Maps app is available only on Android devices. If you download it from Google Play, you’ll be able to add new pins to your map during travelling. However, those won’t be editable because the app doesn’t have all of the personalizing functions.
Sooooo… This is how I get ready for every new trip and plan my travel itinerary using Google My Maps. With My Maps, I can collect my specialty coffee shops, tourist attractions, hidden gems, tours and whatever I want at one place. It helps me visualize their locations easily.
Have fun, play with it, discover your favourite features.
Enjoy travel planning with Google My Maps!
More travel planning tips and itineraries:
- Things to do before every trip – with a travel checklist
- Copenhagen 3-day travel itinerary
- Bolivia 2-week itinerary and travel guide
Have you ever used Google My Maps for travel planning? If yes, do you have more tips for me? Please, share them in the comment section with me!
Pin the photos for later to have it on Pinterest. Write a comment also on Pinterest and tell me your opinion.
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