Google Maps can do so much more than show you where you are. It has features that let you see everywhere you've been, lists of live events that are nearby, a way to customize the food recommendations you see, public transit options and so much more.
It's the best map application for your phone, even though Apple Maps has done an admirable job trying to catch up. And, while I still prefer Waze for my daily drive, there's a lot more you can do when you're not in the car with Google Maps. I'll show you some of that in this guide.
Google recently added a new "Commute" tab to the home screen of the Google Maps app. It shows you the fastest route to work or home depending on where you are. It also provides an alternate route in case your main route isn't the best choice.
To use Commute:
Here's the scenario: You land in a new city on a work trip. You're bored and want to find something fun happening around town. Google Maps has a list of events that are happening nearby, such as live sports games, plays or fairs. In New York right now, I see that the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting happens on Wednesday night.
Here's how to find nearby live events:
This is both creepy and useful. Google keeps a history of pretty much everywhere you've been. The feature is called "Timeline" and you can access it right in Google Maps. To do so:
Want to delete your Timeline history?
You can share your location with someone in Google Maps. This is useful if you're heading to meet someone and you want them to know where you are in case you get held up in traffic or by a delayed train. It's even useful if you're walking home at night and want someone to know when you've made it back safe. Here's how to share your location in Google Maps:
You can always see how long it will take you to drive somewhere, but maybe you want to specifically find out how far away one location is from another. You can measure the direct distance between two places by doing this:
Google Maps needs a data connection to provide you with information such as real-time traffic, but you can save a copy of your maps offline so that you still know where you need to go and what's nearby when you don't have Wi-Fi or cellular data available, like when you're in a subway. To do that:
If you're like me, you might often drive to your destination before you think about trying to find nearby parking. This can be really tough in a big city, when you might need to drive around looking for a parking garage. However, there's a way to find parking near your destination before you even leave. Here's how:
If you're driving and forgot to pick up a toll pass or realize you didn't bring any cash along, you can force Google to take you on a route that avoids tolls. Or maybe you want a route that doesn't take you on a highway or require the use of a ferry. You can change your route options by doing this:
Note: If "Remember settings" is on, Google Maps will continue to avoid highways, tolls and/or ferries on future trips. Turn this off if you don't want Google to do it again on your next trip.
If you're going somewhere, sometimes you might want to know how much it will cost you to just take an Uber or Lyft versus driving yourself or relying on public transit. You can find the estimated price of your ride without even opening the Uber or Lyft app. Here's how:
If you're thinking about going to a restaurant that doesn't take reservations, or maybe considering getting a haircut at a barber on a weekend, you can see how busy that place is right in Google Maps. Using location and historical data, Google will show you if a particular spot is busy, and how long you can expect to wait. To find this:
If you like to use Google Maps to find nearby restaurants, you can let Google know what sorts of cuisines you prefer so that it doesn't show you restaurants you might never visit anyway. Then, Google can learn to highlight restaurants in knows you're more likely to try, like barbecue spots over gluten free, for example. Here's how to configure that:
Here's another tip if you're visiting a new city on a business trip: use Google Maps lists. They show you popular places to eat and visit that have been curated by news outlets and other Google Maps users. Here's how to see them:
If you're looking for an ATM to take out cash, there's a better way to find one than simply searching "ATM" in Google Maps. Instead, use a filter that shows known locations of actual ATMs in banks and other places. Here's how to find an ATM:
Google's indoor maps aren't new, but fresh ones are being added all the time and they're super useful, especially if you're in an airport or mall you've never been to. Here's how to see an indoor map:
There's a lot more to find in Google Maps on your phone. I recommend tapping the "Explore" tab at the bottom of the screen to dig deeper into a lot of the specific live events and places that might be around you. I hope you can use these tricks to find something fun the next time you land in a new city, whether for work or play.