Google Maps has got to be my favorite useful app while traveling. I’m generally too cheap to take my phone out of “airplane/wifi” mode when we are abroad as it costs a fortune, so I discovered these tricks on our first trip to Paris when we were totally lost and on a whim I opened the Google Maps app. Turns out – the “little blue dot” that follows you will even work when you’re in airplane mode!

This is SO useful if you’re not planning on using your phone without wifi. It can help increase your awareness when traveling, reduce your odds of getting lost, help you to locate specific restaurants, museums, or hotels, save you money, AND increase your safety. This is also extremely useful when you’re driving around a city. You can save multiple offline areas for places you will be driving, and you’ll be able to use navigation WITHOUT data!

Here’s how to make the most of Google Maps and NOT get lost while you’re exploring.

First Suggestion – Offline Areas

Step 1: You’ll need to sign up for Google Maps using gmail or whatever e-mail you feel like AND download the Google Maps app.

Step 2: Search for your destination city (in our sample case, Paris) ON YOUR APP.

Google Maps Offline Areas
Click the white area at the bottom. Do not click “route”.

Step 3: Click the white bar along the bottom that has your destination name on it. Information will pop up, including the option to “save” and “download”. Click “DOWNLOAD” and name the area (I just keep it as the city name to avoid confusing after a wine or two in the future). Your download will be saved in your phone for 1 month.

Google Maps Offline Areas
Click “Download”

Step 4: Your downloaded map will be saved to “OFFLINE AREAS”. To get to it, you’ll click the top left button where there are the three horizontal bars. Your area is now available to search directions even when you are offline! The exception: walking directions don’t always work. BUT you will be able to see the entire map to make your way to your chosen destination.

Google Maps
Clicking the three bars in the top left corner will give you this drop down menu. You’ll be able to see your offline areas.

Second Suggestion – Save Places

I think this is even better. You can save places to your map, and it will put a pretty little gold star on it. You even have the option to add a label, which can be extremely useful when you need a reminder for why you wanted to visit that spot in the first place. I HIGHLY recommend starring your hotel, important transit stops, and any tour meeting spots before you leave on your trip. This way you have them saved and in there in case of emergency.

Step 1: Search for the place you want to save. Example – Hotel Bastille Speria in Paris (where we stayed in July, 2016). As with the city name above, click the destination name on the white bar at the bottom. When the information pops up, click the star with “SAVE”.

Google Maps Saving Places

Step 2: In the top right corner, beside the search magnifying glass, click the 3 little dots. Click “Add label”. This is where you can type important information, like “Our Hotel” or “Happy hour from 3-6PM” or “Wall Walk – Go Before 8AM”. This might sound silly, but often when you’re traveling you can forget important information, like when/where cheap drinks can be found or the times you wanted to visit a spot in order to avoid crazy line ups. This trick has saved us money AND time on multiple occasions!


Step 3: Save as many pins as you’d like! I often look up restaurants beforehand (or, like in Paris, where the best croissants and baguettes and views can be found) and star them with a note to myself so we have a few spots we can make it to if we go to that area. You can star museums, parks, and great photo spots.

Google Maps Saving Places
You’ll see your star/saved place and your label both online and offline.

These are both amazing tools for you to use when traveling. Simply set your phone to “airplane mode” and turn on wifi. You can download offline areas at your hotel or before you leave for your trip, and save all of these places. When you are out and about, simply open the Google Maps app and the little blue dot will follow you wherever you are, and you’ll be able to navigate your way to your destination.

Do you have any other map or app tips you use when traveling?