9 Google Maps tips that will make your life way easier

Google Maps is constantly getting better with updates. Get to know the hidden tools you may have missed.

Sarah Mitroff
1 of 9 Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Predictive directions

You don't need directions to get home from the office every day, but it's still nice to know how long the journey will take you. With the latest Google Maps for Android update, the app predicts where you're headed, based on the time of day, and shows travel times and traffic conditions for your frequent routes.

How it works: Make sure you've set your home and work addresses in Google Maps. From left-side menu, select "Start driving" before you leave the office to see if there is more congestion than usual. You can also add a shortcut for this new Driving mode to your phone's home screen. Available for Android only.

2 of 9 Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

See where you've gone

Can't remember that killer burger place from last summer's road trip? Turn to Maps, which can show you everywhere you've traveled, so long as Google Maps is installed on your phone.

How it works: This helpful tool is called Your Timeline and it's perfect for remembering the restaurants, shops and points of interest you visited on your trips. Read CNET's guide to Your Timeline here, and if you want to stop Google from tracking you, we can help with that, too.

3 of 9 Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Offline maps

Before you head into the wilderness or off to a foreign country, download the maps you'll need so you can use them without a connection. In just a few steps, you have full-fledged maps that you can search and use for turn-by-turn directions.

How it works: Open the Maps app and search for a city, county or country; tap the menu at the bottom and select download. This is available for iOS and Android only.

4 of 9 Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Search on your route

When you're navigating somewhere, Google Maps for Android helps you find gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants and more while you're on the road. You can even see gas prices for different stations on your current route, so you can pick the best option.

How it works: Just tap the search button on the navigation screen and pick an option from the drop-down menu or use voice search to find something else. Available in for Android only.

5 of 9 Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Beat the crowds

It's taken a few years, but Google's become a replacement for Yelp, offering similar reviews and help business info for nearly any business you find in Google Maps. That includes phone numbers, addresses, websites, hours of operation and photos.

In the last year, Google has also added a graph for the busiest times for popular shops and restaurants so you'll know when to go to avoid the crowds.

How it works: Search for a business and tap the name to see an entire page of helpful for information. Available on the desktop, Android and iOS.

6 of 9 Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Traffic patterns

You may already know that you can see live traffic conditions on Google Maps, but did you know you can also see typical traffic patterns, too? This is great to plan the right time to head to the beach or when to avoid congested areas.

How it works: On the desktop, click on the three lines in the search bar and select traffic, then at the bottom click Live traffic and select Typical traffic. You can pick a day of the week and time to see usual traffic patterns. This does not work on the mobile apps.

7 of 9 Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Where's the restroom?

Don't get lost in the mall ever again. Google Maps has spent the last several years working hard on indoor mapping to help you find your way wherever you are. This includes shopping malls, particularly large department stores, convention centers, airports and even sports arenas.

How it works: In Google Maps on mobile or the desktop, just zoom in tight on any large indoor place to see if there are maps available. On your phone, you can switch between floors. You'll (hopefully) never hunt for a bathroom again.

8 of 9 Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Send directions

Google Maps helps you send directions from your computer to your phone, so you can hit the road faster.

How it works: Find a place on Google Map's desktop site and select the Send to Phone option. Pick from one of the available devices in the list and you'll get a link to the place for the Google Map's mobile app.

For this to work, you just need to sign into the same Google account on your computer and phone or tablet.

9 of 9 Google

Become a Local Guide

In order to keep Google Maps helpful and accurate, the company relies on everyday people to add their knowledge. You can help by signing up for the Local Guide program, where you share your favorite places, add ratings and reviews for businesses on the map and make edits to business information so it stays current and correct.

Local Guides are rewarded for their contributions with special perks, which range from entries in contests to win Google gear (like phones and tablets), extra storage in Google Drive and early access to new products and features.

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