Plan a Journey with Google Maps

June 10, 2011, By Christian Cawley

Planning a journey to a location at the other side of the state or country, or even to somewhere local but to which you are a stranger can be difficult. The most common way of arriving in a strange town these days is with the help of GPS and sat-nav systems, but what if you don’t have one of these, or the battery goes flat and you don’t have a means of recharging until you reach your destination?

Thanks to Google Maps, you can plan ahead, making sure you know which junctions to use and even plan where to park by printing out a route plan provided by the service.

Meanwhile, if you have concerns about traffic or fuel consumption, the service will also provide alternative routes and display and estimate on how much the journey is likely to cost.

Plan a Journey with Google Maps

Planning Your Journey

You can get started by visiting maps.google.com, which will take you to an overview of North America. You can double-click an area to zoom in, or use a wheel mouse, whichever is easier. In the upper-right corner you can switch between the standard Map and a Satellite view of the territory, while using the Traffic button will display areas that are regularly subject to congestion.

Using the small disc on the left of the display, you can instruct Google Maps to home in on your current location, which it will do after confirmation from you by tracking your position based on a record of IP addresses. This is particularly useful if you are planning the journey from your current location, and right-clicking the blue circle that denotes the location will enable you to select Directions from here, which displays a new sidebar for planning your journey.

The A field should display your start location, while the B field can be populated with a city name, zip or postal code or even the full address. Google will provide options as you enter the destination name, and when you’re happy with what is displayed, click Get Directions.

Choosing and Viewing a Route

With the directions found, in most cases you will see that multiple routes are possible. Each of these can be viewed by selecting the alternatives listed under Suggested routes. With the Traffic overlay activated as described above, you should be able to see which route is least affected by congestion and make you decision based on that.

Changes to the route can be made by dragging the pins around the map or clicking Add Destination.

Each route will list the steps required to reach your intended destination, and these details can be saved to your Google My Maps record or output to paper via the Print button above the map. Beneath the route details you will also see an estimated cost of the journey based on up-to-date fuel prices.

With all of this data to hand, you can then carry out your planned journey – but better still, thanks to Google Street View, you can preview some of the key elements (such as tricky junctions) by dragging the “man” icon onto the map and viewing portions of the route, enabling you to familiarize yourself with this new route.

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