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How to Use Google's My Maps

In this day and age if we need directions somewhere we can simply use the turn by turn navigation system from Google or Waze. However, when we travel abroad we don’t always have service when roaming foreign streets. My Maps is a combination of Google Drive and Google Maps that makes it possible for us to access directions without WiFi or cell phone service. With My Maps we are able to create custom maps, mark (pin) places of interest like parks, museums, restaurants or the hotel, invite friends to view or contribute to the map, view different routes to and from different destinations, and more. Here’s how we use My Maps to plan an itinerary for our next trip!

How to create a new map:

  1. Open browser and go to

  2. Enter your email or login to your Google account.

  3. It will prompt you to either create a new map or open an existing one.

  4. Title the new map and press ‘Ok.’

  5. To select a location of the map, type the address in the search field at the top of the screen.

Layers. Using layers is an easy way to help us stay organized. Creating separate layers for different information and color-coding each layer makes it easier to view the map. My Maps automatically creates the first layer when a new map is created.

  1. Click the menu icon then select the three, stacked dots to rename the layer.

  2. The best way to add a location to your map is to search for it, when it’s menu bubble appears with the address and contact information it will also have the option “+ add to map” at the bottom of the bubble. When you click this the generic teardrop marker is the default pin but you can change things up by hovering over the pin in the left-hand menu and clicking on the pain can to its right. Change the color, change the shape, or pick a different icon altogether. This is our preferred way to save destinations because it saves their address and contact information too. If you use the drag and drop method listed in #3 below it won’t have any of the extra info.

  3. If you prefer to drag and drop pins onto your map you can add a new location to the layer by selecting the ‘Add Marker Icon’ (the inverted teardrop, under the search bar) then clicking on the map where you want your pin to be placed. The default red pin will appear, appropriately rename the pin in the box that appears and change its shape and color if you wish.

Once we add all the pins we want for a specific layer, repeat the above steps to create a new layer with a different category of pins. In order to keep the layers separate, we suggest using one color per layer (use the directions above to make your adjustments). Right now, each pin in each layer needs to be individually updated, there is no batch editing for an entire layer.

Share and invite friends. When we’re heading on vacation or even a business trip we always use My Maps to help us save places people have recommended to us. We like to collaborate with other people that are traveling with us because they often have good recommendations too. We love the sharing feature because it makes it easy to compare notes, so to speak, and map out the optimal itinerary for each day.

  1. Open the map that you want to share.

  2. On the left hand menu click the ‘Share’ button, it has an icon with the silhouette of a person and the addition symbol.

  3. Type the email address of the person who you would like to share the map with then select ‘Add.’

  4. Select the access level on the drop down menu next to each collaborator. Choose ‘Can View’ or ‘Can Edit.’

Saving a My Map. This require a workaround because Google has not yet created a feature that allows us to access our My Maps offline.

  1. After all the layers and pins have been added click on the three, stacked dots at the top of the left hand menu. Export the map as a KML file.

  2. Put the file in your Dropbox or email it to yourself so you can open it on your phone.

  3. Download Map Plus to your phone.

  4. Open the KML file with the Map Plus app.

We like how straight forward and simple it is to create and edit a map. There are many other features on My Maps and by simply hovering the cursor over an icon on the menu bar the name of that tool will appear. It’s a fun and easy program to use even if you don’t consider yourself a tech genius.


**If you only need to save a city map, not a My Map, to your phone for offline use it is really simple. Use these three steps:

  1. Open Google Maps on your phone and zoom in on the area you want to access offline

  2. At the top the menu select ‘Offline Areas.’

  3. Click the ‘+’ button and the map will be downloaded to the drive, it will expire one month after you download it.

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