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Friday, June 9, 2023

Google Maps: Navigational Travel Companion And Trip Planner

Not Sponsored: Google Maps was launched over 18 years ago (February 8, 2005). When it comes to navigation, it is a genius of a tool to use, know and understand. Whether you want to navigate a city, state or even another country, Google Maps will get you there. You can access Google Maps online and/or download the app onto your cell phone.

I didn't start using Google Maps extensively, until I began traveling more. There are so many benefits to using this medium. So I thought I would share some of them with you.

Photo by Brett Jordan from Pexels

Use Google Maps BEFORE Your Trip

1. Use Google Maps To Explore An Area

You want to take a trip. You have an idea, where you would like to go. But you don't know much about the area. With Google Maps, it doesn't matter where you want to go. It will help you EXPLORE the area. Open Google Maps on your laptop or desktop. In the search bar, do a search by city, state, or country. A beautiful and glorious map will appear before your eyes. Whether you type in a city, state or country, Google Maps will give you a written synopsis of the area (think Wikipedia), the temperature and other highlights. 

Let's say, you want to go to Dallas, Texas, but you're unfamiliar with the sections of Dallas. With your mouse, zoom in/out of the map of Dallas. You'll notice the map will become detailed. From doing this, you will see Dallas is split into Uptown Dallas, The Design District, City Center District, Deep Ellum and many more sections. Decide on an area (depending on what you would like to see/do in the area) and then explore some more. I used Dallas, Texas as an example because that is where I went a couple of years ago for vacation. That year, I exclaimed ... I want to go to Dallas! But I was unaware, that Dallas had so many sections. For what I wanted to do, I decided to stay in Uptown Dallas. Google Maps really helped me explore the area.

2. Use Google Maps To Pick Your Hotel

Google Maps has a truly awesome feature, that will show you the various hotels located in the area.  You'll notice some tabs at the top of the map. Click on "Hotels". Once you do, Google Maps pins the nearby hotels, along with their prices and a synopsis of each hotel.

When I decided to stay in the uptown section of Dallas, Google Maps gave me several choices of hotels at which I could stay. I decided to stay in a boutique hotel that offered both rooms, suites and bungalows. I said, WOW! I've never stayed in a bungalow. I thought it would be a nice experience and different. So I decided to stay there. The place was called Hotel ZaZa Dallas. I had a wonderful time and it was a glorious experience. 

So Google Maps, shows you the hotel options that are in the area and they're proximity to some of the other things you will be doing, while staying there. You can screen by price. You can make reservations through their website. There are many useful features (vacation rentals, guest ratings, brand hotels, neighborhoods, hotel class). You can save all of this information, through their website as you research.

3. Use Google Maps To Pick Restaurants

One of the reasons, I stayed at Hotel ZaZa Dallas, was that there were so many dining options nearby. The hotel had its own restaurant. and I dined at a number of establishments in the area (Meso Maya Comida Y Copas, Si Tapas Spanish Cuisine Restaurant, Bread Winners Cafe And Bakery, Fogo De Chao Brazilian Steakhouse, Pecan Lodge, San Martin Bakery and Restaurant and Yardbird Southern Table & Bar).

When you click on the "Restaurants" tab at the top of the map, it will list all of the restaurants in that area and give you a synopsis of each. You can filter restaurants by how pricey they are, their star rating, the type of cuisine, and even hours that they are open. You can check wait times, make reservations, and even order food online. When I had to evacuate for Hurricane Ida, I sometimes ordered food online and had it delivered to the hotel. It proved to be very helpful.

While we're talking about food, Google Maps is also helpful in showing you the local grocery stores, food markets and wholesale food clubs in the area. 

4. Use Google Maps To Find Things To Do

When you click on the "Things To Do" tab on the map, it will give you a really good synopsis of what is offered in that area. Usually it will tell you about nearby parks, museums, aquariums, sculpture gardens, zoo, botanical garden, galleries, murals, and so forth. I mainly went to eating establishments during my stay, so I didn't explore a lot of these places. 

5. Street View 

For all that I talk about above, you will love Google Maps Street View. There should be a small box in the left hand corner of the screen that shows you a visual of the place you would like to visit. Clicking on it, will show you a street view of the house, establishment etc. From this, you can EXPLORE everything around it. You can pretty much start at your hotel and go street to street to the restaurant you would like to dine at. It gives you an idea of not only how to get there, but familiarity of what you will see along the way. That way, you're not so "blind" when venturing out. Even if you call an Uber, you will have familiarity of what you should be seeing on your way to your destination. For me, Street View, gives you a peace of mind.

Use Google Maps DURING Your Trip

6. Use Google Maps To Find Pharmacies (Medical)

One thing I didn't expect to use while on my trip, was Google Maps Pharmacies. The person that I was with, had an eye infection. Many of the pharmacies in Dallas provide Urgent Care services. We located, called and drove to one. They told us to come in and took care of the problem. This made me start looking up hospitals, clinics and pharmacies BEFORE any trip. I talk about this briefly in my Make A Travel Wishlist blog post. Find ones that are nearest to where you are staying. Write their address and phone number down. In an emergency, you're already dealing with something unexpected. If you're prepared, that is one less thing to worry about. 

7. Use Google Maps To Find ATM's

Show me the money! Where is the money!?! You definitely don't want to look like a tourist while you're out of town. Asking the wrong person, could be asking for trouble. Clicking on the Google Maps "ATM" tab will show you all the ATMs that are nearby. Safety and having a peace of mind is everything.

8. Use Google Maps To Find Parking, Track Traffic, Buses and Trams

Parking was not an issue in Dallas, Texas. I only had to pay a parking meter one time. All establishments had their own parking areas or valet parking. But as we all know, that is not the case in all cities. Google Maps identifies parking lots. If you need to park somewhere, download the proper parking apps onto your phone, that way there will be less hassle once you arrive. Google Maps is also great identifying when traffic is heavy or not. They will also locate all bus stops and trams (streetcars) for you. Again, there's no more guessing to where these are located. 

9. Use Google Maps While Driving

Most cars have GPS nowadays, but that is changing! It's really nice to have, but you can use Google Maps to guide your way. I know you're saying, Kim I want someone to SPEAK! I don't want to look at my phone. No need to. Type in an address on the Google Maps App. Then click on Start! She'll start guiding your way, while also displaying a map. Google Maps has the most up to date information! Slow traffic. Heavy traffic. Accidents. Delays. It was more current than the GPS in my car! So I use it along with the GPS in my car. LOL It's really good.

10. Use Google Maps To See Pictures Of Everything

A picture is worth a thousand words! It's so true. I've looked at pictures of things and said YES, I'm going there! or NO, I'm not going there! HaHaHa Whether it's hotel surroundings, food at restaurants, a park or what have you not, Google Maps will show you an assortment of pictures for that place. These pictures are usually linked to reviews by people that visited the establishment. They're truly helpful in making a decision. When planning a trip, I always write down more restaurants than I need for the trip. Stuff happens. A restaurant may be closed on a Monday. Or a restaurant could be super busy (call before you go). Well anyway, when I was in Dallas, I had two restaurant options. It came down to pictures. We chose the restaurant that had the better food (from Google Maps - people's reviews) and reviews. So that proved to be very helpful. 

This blog post is not all inclusive to Google Maps. These are just some of the features that helped me. Hopefully, something may strike you. I know I read post after post on topics and there might be one little thing the person wrote that makes me say, I should do that as well. I hope I've given you some inspiration. Happy Traveling!


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