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How to use Google Maps when traveling this summer

Planning a summer vacation? Knowing the ins and outs of Google Maps can make the difference between getting to your hotel on time and wasting valuable hours because you took the wrong exit somewhere.

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While Google Maps can’t prevent traffic jams, there are a number of ways it can make your trip easier, from getting around the airport quickly to using the Maps app offline. Check out some of the app’s best features for travelers below.

More travel tipshere is the best time to buy airline ticketsYou can also find the best travel credit cards and the best airline credit cards here.

This story is part of 12 days full of tipsand helps you make the most of your technology, your home and your health during the holiday season.

1. Easily navigate through airports and train stations

Google Maps app on the phone Google Maps app on the phone

Navigate airports with Maps.

Clfford Colby/CNET

If you need to quickly find a store in a large shopping center or transit center, Google Maps offers a directory Tab for all airports, malls and transit stations. This can be helpful if you are wandering around the airport trying to find a place to eat or grab a last minute souvenir before catching your flight.

The tab shows a destination’s opening hours and floor. You can browse restaurants, shops, lounges and parking lots.

Look at that: First look at TSA’s self-screening technology (in VR!)

2. Find out about the crowds of an attraction before visiting

To see how busy a place is, visit The business tool from Google Maps. You can already search for a location, such as a business, to see a graph showing how busy it is in real time, but a feature called Area Busyness lets you see when entire areas of the map are clogged with people.

To use the feature, open the Google Maps app on your Android or iPhone (or your computer’s browser) and move around the map to find a general area, such as downtown, a waterfront, or a nearby quaint town. The occupancy information now appears automatically on the map, so you don’t have to specifically search for a place to see how busy it is. Google Maps might say something like “Busy area,” and when you click for more details, it might say something like “As busy as possible” or “Not too busy.”

However, you can also search for the location you want and scroll down to see peak and quiet times.

3. View all your reservations in Google Maps

Google Maps lets you track your travels, but also quickly view your flight, hotel, car rental and restaurant reservations, saving you the hassle of searching for check-in times and confirmation numbers in your emails.

To see your upcoming reservations, all you need to do is search for “My Reservations” in the Google Maps search box to see a list of your bookings. Maps pulls this information from your emails in Gmail. You can also select an item to see more information about the reservation, including the date and location.

4. Reserve a table at the restaurant without calling

Planning a night out with a large group can be a hassle, especially if the evening falls at a busy time. You can use Google Maps to reserve a table for lunch or dinner. Here’s how.

1In Maps, tap the Restaurants Click the button at the top of the map to see a list of restaurants.

2. Choose a restaurant you like and use the window that appears to reserve a table or join a waiting list if this option is offered to you (not all of them).

Remember, you can use the occupancy feature mentioned above to choose the least crowded spot. Also, note that some restaurants that are closed for in-person dining may still offer delivery, curbside pickup, or outdoor seating.

Google Maps GPS app Google Maps GPS app

Sarah Tew/CNET

5. Use Google Maps if you don’t have a cellular signal

Heading to a remote location where you may not have cellular service? Google Maps can give you directions even when you’re offline.

1. Before you set off, look in cards for the location you want directions to.

2. In the location window open the menu at the bottom.

3Scroll to the right through the tabs and tap Download offline mapand then in the next window, tap Download again. Maps downloads a map of the selected area to your phone.

Now, when you use Google Maps for directions in the area you’ve downloaded a map for, if your cellular connection is interrupted, Maps will switch to the offline map to navigate you. Note that because you’re offline, Maps won’t be able to provide you with real-time traffic information.

6. Find electric vehicle charging stations near you

When you drive your electric vehicle to the shops, dinner or on vacation, Google Maps can help you Charging stations for electric vehicles on your route, along with estimated wait times for a charging port. You can also filter your search by port type – for example, J1772, CCS (Combo 1 or 2), and Tesla – to show only the stations that are compatible with your electric vehicle. Note that you can also search for gas stations by following these instructions. (How to save money at the gas pump.)

1In Maps, scroll through the tabs at the top of the screen and tap More.

2. Scroll down to the Services section and select Charging electric vehicles.

3. Maps show nearby charging stations and their number.

4Tap a Charging station on the map so that Maps adds it as a stop on your trip.

You can also use this trick to search for other places along your route, such as a cafe.

7. Share your location with friends and family

Is there anything more frustrating during a group activity than when the group falls apart and no one can find each other? Google Maps can help you get everyone back together.

1In Google Maps, tap your profile icon in the top right corner, then tap Share location.

2. Beat Share location, and choose who you want to share your location with and for how long.

3. Beat shareand Google Maps will send your location to everyone you select.

4To see another person’s location, tap that person’s icon at the top of the screen, then tap Inquiry.

8. Create, share and view curated lists

How can you make sure you see all the sights while on vacation? Creating a list in Google Maps lets you save future destinations and have them all available at a glance.

Just go to the Rescued and tap the + New list button. You can give the list a name and description. Then, when you see a place on the map that you want to see later, you can add it to your new list by scrolling through the tabs and clicking the Save button. You can share this list with your travel companions and even invite them to collaborate.

For more information, see the airports that will no longer require passengers to show identification at TSA PreCheck and the new self-service screening booths that will soon be introduced at some airports.

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