Why You Should Download Google Maps Offline Before the Solar Eclipse

Going to see the solar eclipse today? It may get crowded, so it's best you're prepared.

Nelson Aguilar
Nelson Aguilar is an LA-based tech how-to writer and graduate of UCLA. With more than a decade of experience, he covers Apple and Google and writes on iPhone and Android features, privacy and security settings and more.
Nelson Aguilar
3 min read
Google Maps App

Use Google Maps without internet service.

Angela Lang/CNET

Today's total solar eclipse, which will be the last one in the continental US until 2044, is expected to draw millions of visitors to the narrow strip of visibility stretching across the country, from Texas to Maine. As a result, local officials are warning that those in the path of totality, especially in places where there will be large crowds, may expect phone service issues. 

Not because of the eclipse, but simply because of the sheer amount of people in one place.

Watch this: How to Watch the Solar Eclipse Safely From Your Phone

Read moreSolar Eclipse Eye Safety: Tips From an Optometrist and How to Find Eclipse Glasses

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If you'll be viewing the eclipse in a crowded area, like you would be during a music festival or a sporting event, then you know that you might face some network disruptions, making it difficult to place phone calls or use the internet.

And without internet, you might be in a bind, especially if you're visiting somewhere in the path of totality and you know nothing of the area. Getting from one place to another could be impossible without access to online maps.

That's why you should know how to download a map (or several) on Google Maps, so that any disruptions don't affect you getting from points A to B. Here's what you need to know.

Here's how to tell if your solar eclipse glasses are safe to use or fake. Want to check out other Google Maps tips and tricks? Check out how to blur your house on Google Maps and three Google Maps features you'll definitely want to know about.

How to download Google Maps offline

First off, you won't download all of Google Maps in its entirety. Instead, before your trip, you'll want to download a specific area, which could be a city, county or region where you'll be spending time and might not have service on your phone.

To download a map in Google Maps offline, open the Google Maps app on iOS or Android and tap your profile picture on the top right (you must be logged in to your Google account for this to work). In the menu that appears, tap Offline maps > Select Your Own Map.

Offline maps feature in Google Maps

You can download multiple Google Maps areas offline.

Screenshots by Nelson Aguilar/CNET

Use your fingers to place the map you want to download within the confines of the rectangle border. Use one finger to move across the map, and a two-finger pinch to zoom in and out. As you move around the map, you'll see how much storage space the download will take up on your phone. Once you're happy with the area, tap Download

Note: Alternatively, you can type a city or other area into Google Maps and then hit the Download button that appears in the pull-up window to download the map offline, but this only works on the iPhone.

Read moreGoogle Maps Cheat Sheet: Most Useful Tricks

You must be connected to Wi-Fi to download the map. If you want to download over cellular, go to the Offline maps page, tap the gear icon on the top right, tap When to download offline maps and select Over Wi-Fi or mobile network. Once your map is downloaded, you'll be sent back to the Offline maps page, where you can see all your offline maps.

Choosing the map you want to download offline in Google Maps

You can only download a map that's a maximum 250 MB (what will appear in the selected map as roughly the size of Maine). 

Screenshots by Nelson Aguilar/CNET

Now you'll be able to use Google Maps even when you're offline in the area you downloaded -- and in that area only. You won't get extremely accurate travel times or alternate route options because traffic and other road issues are not accounted for, but you will get a general ballpark of how long your trip should take. Transit, bicycling and walking directions are also not available offline -- only driving directions. 

Using Google Maps offline

You'll know you're using your offline map when you see a little cloud icon with a line through it in Google Maps.

Screenshots by Nelson Aguilar/CNET

If you want more tips on Google, make sure to read which Google Home settings you need to change ASAP and our picks for the best Pixel phones.