5 new features of Google Maps that travelers will love

November 10, 2015 |

5 new features of Google Maps that travelers will loveAs an iPhone user and an Apple Watch owner I’ve tried my very best to use Apple Maps. It’s gotten better. In most cases it works great, but when I know that I need to reach an important destination in an accurate and timely matter, I almost always hit the Google Maps icon. Google announced a whole bunch of new features for Maps at their Google I/O conference this year, and we’re starting to see them roll out. Some are great new features that both Android and iOS users will benefit from. Others are updates to iOS that bring Google Maps “up to speed” with the tools that Android users already enjoy. Here are five of the features that I think travelers are going to find the most useful:

Find the fastest mode of transport

You can use Google Maps to find the fastest route to a destination, but if you’re in a city that you’re not overly familiar with, it can be tough to know exactly what the best mode of transportation will be to get you there. In a busy metropolitan area, a 2 mile drive might take three times as long as hopping on the subway and traveling a few stops. Google Maps not only includes traffic data, but it now incorporates live public transit times with delay and cancellation information for most major metropolitan areas. The app compares them side by side and shows you the best options for your trip. Once you have selected the mode of transportation, it then will show you the fastest route as well as alternative routes that you might want to take. While you’re traveling it will also present you with audible traffic alerts and live alternates that you can either accept or decline with just the tap of a button. I had personal experience with this when driving into downtown Kansas City for the Royals’ World Series parade last week that an estimated 800,000 people attended. Maps presented faster alternate routes three times without my prompting, allowing me to navigate to a parking lot with ease.

 

Find places along your route

Google Maps has always been great for getting you from point A to point B. What about those times when you need to find a point F (fuel) or a point R (restaurant) along the way? Now the app will help you do just that without having to leave navigation mode. You can just click the little magnifying glass and get a list of options such as gas stations, supermarkets, restaurants and coffee shops. If you select gas stations, it will even display the prices at each location so you can choose the cheapest option too! If you need something else, you can (pull over first, then) select additional options and Google Maps will display them along your route. This feature will be available soon and only on Android devices. I expect that iOS users will get it soon as well.

Offline navigation and search

Google Maps has allowed you to store map data offline for several years, but until now, that offline mode did not include navigation and search. Starting today, it will. Android users will begin to see this functionality in their app today, with iOS users getting it in the near future. What does this mean? If you are in an area with sporadic data connections, or you’re simply trying to conserve data, you can download the areas that you’ll be traveling in before you head out; then you can navigate and search for locations without being connected. I could see this being useful during international travel, where you might have Wi-Fi in the hotel but have a very limited or costly data plan.

Share what you think

It’s no secret that Google likes to gather data about just about everything. Google Maps incorporates user recommendations about the places they go into the Maps experience, allowing you to see relevant information about places you might be exploring. You can contribute to this by rating and reviewing the places you go directly from the Maps app. Google will also present “cards” with simple yes/no/not sure questions on them to get additional information about a location. Take a few seconds to answer some of these. The more data that gets built about locations, the richer your Maps experience will be!

Google Maps for Apple Watch

This is the feature I’ve been waiting for. I’ve been a frequent user of Apple Maps for the past several months because of the great integration with my Apple Watch. Turn-by-turn directions for both driving and walking that signal left or right with a little vibration on my wrist have been incredibly useful. There’s now a version of Google Maps for Apple Watch. I haven’t had a chance to test it out yet, but early reviews indicate that it’s still lacking a few features, such as the aforementioned left or right turn vibrations. As the version of Google Maps for Android Wear is much more robust, I expect those features will come in time. Still, I’m happy that there is an additional option for my wrist. Along with my Dash app, Apple Pay and navigation tools like Google Maps, my Apple Watch is becoming more and more of a must have when I travel!

What feature(s) of Google Maps do you find most useful when traveling? Is Google Maps your app of choice or do you prefer another alternative? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @TandTNews.