Google Maps Offline: How To
Ok, I love traveling, and learning these tricks was a GAME CHANGER for me! Did you know that you can save google maps offline on your phone - meaning that when you have no data or wifi, like is common when traveling, you can still look at a map and navigate? WHAT! Yes, even with airplane mode turned on. Sure, if I thought about it too hard it was kind of creepy. I mean, that means GPS navigation is ALWAYS following me, even with location turned off. But yet, I got over it because it was so awesome when traveling.
So I will break this down into what I found to be the best way to use this. I have an android, so if you have an iphone, your directions will be slightly different. You can easily google "google maps offline" for your particular phone and find directions. I am not going to explain that part or give you a link, because phones change so frequently, that my directions will quickly be out of date. However, how to make this work FOR you shouldn't change for a while! For other general tips, check out this post on TRAVEL TIPS
Try it at home first. Pick your home city and go through the exercise below, step by step, to understand how this might work for you! It's a lot of steps, but isn't actually that hard to do. It was so helpful both to us, and to the whole group we were with!
1st: Find the city you are traveling to
On your phone:
Not all cities have this available. I think Bangkok did, but pretty much the rest of SE Asia didn't. I expect this to change. But every city in Spain had it available. After looking up directions on how to get an offline map, you will find your city and save it offline. Make sure you do this on wifi, or if you have a large data plan, it can use up some data. For my trip to Spain, I saved each city offline that we were going to be visiting, and so the list on my phone looked like this:
We'll use Seville as an example. I pull up my Seville map on my phone and computer and it looks like what you see below. I'll get back to the stars later.
View on my phone View on computer: All of Spain View on computer: Seville
Because I'm not currently in Seville, I can't show you how the navigation works unfortunately. But, if you open your map when you are in a wifi location, you will see the little blue navigation dot pop up. Then you can turn on airplane mode if you want (leaving it searching for wifi drains your battery). The little blue dot will stay with you. You CAN'T use navigation, as in, you can't pick a museum and have it draw you directions. But, you can use it like a map that tracks your movement (any Harry Potter fans out there? It makes me think of the Marauder's Map...yes...I love the Harry Potter series). I have found city travel maps to be extremely fun to collect, but totally inaccurate. Plus, you can look less like a tourist and more like everyone else staring at their phones - sad, but true. You can use Google Maps just like this, without doing anything I write about after - but the rest of it is the really convenient part!
On your computer:
Everything you do on your computer will automatically update on your phone and vice versa. It's like magic.
2nd: Make a list
On your computer:
I recommend doing this part on your computer. I use Evernote to store all of my travel info - places I want to go, research on restaurants, info on where I'm staying. Then I don't have a piece of paper to lose, and it's on hand all of the time. Once you save your Evernote documents, they are available offline, regardless of whether or not you have internet connection. As with Google Maps, every change you make on your computer and phone are automatically updated. If you are NOT on wifi/data when you update it on your phone, it will update as soon as you are.
I usually make a document with:
Each city broken out and within that...
Where I am staying and all of the contact info
A list of places to eat that I've researched ahead of time. This includes the address, website, and any related comments if I found the info on a blog or review. If you read about how place X was the best food ever, you will forget by the time you are looking at a list of 20 places a month later. Make it easy on yourself!
A list of foods that are potentially safe
A list of words or phrases I want to keep on me
A list of places I want to visit
These lists can be as loose or detailed as you need them. I used to do much less planning prior to celiac, but now I feel like I need to be better prepared because it keeps my stress down. So do what you need to do.
3rd: Add your favorites to Google Maps
On your computer:
I recommend doing this on your computer as well. You can do it all on your phone, I just found it easier to navigate it all on a bigger screen. Here are the directions:
1. Look up your favorites, 1 by 1:
On the left you see all of my favorites for the whole city, on the right is a zoomed in section with two of the restaurants I visited. Read more about them HERE. You can also see the Seville Cathedral. Which means, if you've mapped this out ahead of time, and you are at, for example, the Seville Cathedral, you can see all of the gluten free restaurants and approximately how far they are from you! Then you can look at your little Evernote list and see the comments. So without ever getting on wifi or using data, or printing endless pages of restaurant descriptions and addresses, you can navigate the city easily!
2. Add the little stars:
On google maps, you can type in the what you are looking for - Bar Alfalfa was one of my favorite restaurants.
See the little "Save" star on the left? Click "Save". And now you see a little star appear at the location of Bar Alfalfa.
2. Add Labels:
I've decided to organize my favorites in different ways. I save my restaurants as "stars". I save things I want to see as "To See: Name of Destination", places I am staying as "To Stay" and so on. Obviously you an do this however you want. There is a method to the madness for me, and it has to do with ways to search later on.
Search for the place you don't want to forget to visit.
Go to the left column, and at the bottom click, "Add a label" - label however you would like.
Now you will see that above the normal "Seville Cathedral" text, it says "To See: Seville Cathedral" and that the icon has changed to a little flag.
Notice that you an now "Edit your label" and change or delete it later.
I go through each place I want to visit (if you've planned this ahead of time), and each place I am staying. If you have a lot of time and plan to just wander, this may be overkill. If you just like to see what happens, this is also overkill. If you're on a really time timeline and want to cram as much into one or two days, without backtracking, AND finding food on your way, this might be just perfect!
3. Use the favorites and labels to search:
You can see in the above photos three little bars in the upper left-hand corner, click on them.
You will get this drop-down, select "Your Places"
Now, there are options in the top row. First we'll look at "Labeled".
See how things to see or places to stay are organized? This way, if you aren't sure where something is on a map, you can just click here and it will take you to the location on the map.
Notice they list automatically in alphabetical order.
Ideas: If you are visiting many cities or countries, you may want to delete locations after you have visited them. You may also consider labeling by starting each label with the city or country it applies to.
Now we will look at "Saved" (these are the places you've starred).
This are just sort of in here, not in alphabetical order, but I think just in order of when I selected them. It's not as helpful as labels unfortunately.
Now you're read to go!
Let me know how it works for you! This was a HUGE help and I will never travel the same after this!
For more information on Spain:
For more information on what I saw, ate and stayed, plus general tips, check back on the main SPAIN page.