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Travel

8 Google Maps tips to ease your holiday travels

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December is flying by, and you’re probably making holiday travel plans. Whether you’re flying or driving, it always helps to be prepared.

Did you know that Google Maps does more than simple navigation? It can help plan your itinerary, track reservations, check how crowded an attraction is and more. Here’s how the app can make your holiday travels easier.

1. Find that store you’re looking for

Before you even board that plane or train, you’ll want a quick bite to eat or a magazine to take along. Navigating train stations and airports are not always easy. This is where Google Maps takes things from the streets to the walkways.

Google Maps is expanding its Directory tab for all airports, malls and transit stations worldwide. When the data is available for a location, you can quickly see what stores are in a building and find airport lounges, ATMs, bathrooms, car rentals, parking lots and more. You’ll get information about whether it’s open, its rating and what floor it’s on.

To see this information, open a location in Google Maps and tap the Directory tab.

2. Avoid the mob

Whether you’re sightseeing or stopping for gas, wouldn’t it be nice to know how crowded an area is before going? You can check it out with Google Maps.

Just open the app and navigate to the location on the map until you find where you want to go. Zoom in or out until you see highlighted patches with a “busyness” indicator. It’ll say something like Not busy, Busier than usual or As busy as it gets.

Tapping on the Busy area label will bring up a chart that shows how busy the area is at different times of day, along with a directory of restaurants, shops and recreational places within it.

RELATED: Traveling this year? Don’t get fooled by these cancellation scams

3. Keep track of your itinerary

You can check Google Maps for details about upcoming events like flights, restaurant and hotel reservations or car rentals. It pulls this information from messages you received in Gmail. You must be signed into Google with Web & App Activity turned on. Here’s how it works:

  • Open Google maps and tap Saved in the bottom menu row.
  • Tap Reservations and select an item for more information.
  • You can also type the following into the search box: my reservations, my flights or my hotels.

The Web & App Activity setting is just one of many settings you can fiddle with. Tap or click here for more personal details Google knows about you and how to erase them.

4. Reserve your seat for dinner

You can use Google Maps to grab a spot at your favorite restaurant without calling or navigating to its website. Here’s how:

  • Open Google Maps and tap Restaurants at the top of the map to see a list of eateries, or search for the restaurant you want to visit.
  • Select a restaurant and reserve a table or join a waitlist if the option is offered.

5. Use Google Maps offline

You can use Google Maps even if you don’t have a signal, but it takes some preparation. Follow these steps before you know that you’re going to be in an area with poor reception. Here’s how it works:

Using Google Maps offline on iOS

  • Open Google Maps and make sure you’re not in incognito mode and are connected to the internet.
  • Tap the address of the place you want to go and select More. NOTE: Tapping the three dots in the upper right opens the More menu.
  • Tap Download offline map and Download.

Using Google Maps offline on Android

  • Open the Google Maps app and search for the place you’ll explore later.
  • Once you entered the address, tap Download.
  • Drag or zoom to adjust the map and tap Download again.

6. Find a place to charge your electric vehicle

Google Maps can help you find EV charging stations on the way to your destination, along with estimated wait times for a charging port. You can also filter your search by your connector type to find stations compatible with your vehicle. Here’s how to get juiced up:

  • Open Google Maps and scroll through the tabs on the top of the map and tap More.
  • Scroll down to Services section and select Electric vehicle charging.
  • You’ll get a list of nearby charging stations.
  • Tap a charging station to add it as a stop along your trip.

RELATED: 10 hidden Google Maps tips and tricks

7. Share your location with travel companions

Getting separated during a trip can put a crimp in the mood. You can share your location with the people you’re traveling with so everyone stays on the same page. Here’s how:

  • Open Google Maps and tap your profile icon in the top-right corner.
  • Tap Location sharing, then Share location.
  • Select who you want to share your location with and for how long.
  • Tap Share and your location will be shared with the people you selected.
  • To stop sharing your location before the time runs out, go to Location Sharing and tap the name of a person or people on the bottom of the screen, then tap Stop.
  • Tap the three dots to see an option to block or remove a person from the list.

8. Send an alert if you’re running late

When you’re running late, take a moment to let family and friends know when you’ll be with them by sharing your route. Here’s how to share your ETA with Google Maps:

  • Open Google Maps and tap Directions, choose your destination, then Start.
  • Swipe up and select Share trip progress.
  • Choose a contact and tap Share. Your location is shared only until you arrive.

You may also like: 5 smart tech tips for the best road trip this holiday season

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