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Directions for how to start customizing your own Google Maps

  1. If you don’t already have a google account, you need to create one.
  2. Open Google Maps.
  3. On the far left-hand side, click the “hamburger menu” (that’s the three short horizontal lines).
  4. This will open up the menu. In about the middle of this menu, find and click “Your places”.
  5. Click the word “MAPS”.
  6. Click “CREATE MAP”.
  7. Scroll and zoom to the place in the world that you wish to create a customized map. You can also type the location in the horizontal rectangular search field near the top of the map, then either press “enter” or click the small magnifying glass icon.
  8. Below this search field, you will see several icons. One looks like an upside-down raindrop. Click this to place a pin (like a pushpin for a real map). It’s called a marker in Google Maps.
  9. After you have selected a pin/marker, click on the map where you want it to go.
  10. Another way to place a pin/marker is by zooming in on the map close enough for restaurants and landmarks to appear, and then clicking on one of them. Next, choose “Add to map”, which will appear in light gray text at the bottom of the box.
  11. Instead of leaving the pin called “Point 1”, give the pin a title, such as “Versailles” or “Hotel in Paris”.
  12. In the box below the title field, you can type whatever information you wish, or you can copy and paste information that you find on the internet.
  13. Press Save.
  14. After this, you will see five little gray icons on that pin box. The first one looks like a tipped paint can. Click that to select the color and picture/icon you want.
  15. After this, if you ever need to add more information or edit the pin/marker in any way, select the icon that looks like a pen.
  16. You can even add photos or screen captures saved as jpegs to the pin/marker. Click the camera icon to start this process.
  17. If you choose to delete the pin, you will have a few seconds to undo your action in case you deleted it on accident. You will briefly see a small yellow box near the top of the map which states “Deleted 1 place Undo”. Click “Undo” if you didn’t want to delete it.
  18. To save your map, look at the menu on the left side of the map. Click “Untitled Map”.
  19. A box will open which allows you to name your map. After you do this, press “Save”.
  20. You can share your map with others who have a Google account. To do this, look again at the menu on the left side. In the light gray bar there are three actions you can choose. Click “Share”, which is in the middle.
  21. In the field called “Invite people”, type in the e-mail addresses of those who should have access.
  22. The icon next to that field looks like a pen. Click that to open a drop-down menu which will allow you to choose what level of access that particular person should have. They can either be able to view the map only, or they will be able to edit the map.

After you have created and saved your map, you will want to view it properly. Here is a short list of instructions for that:

  1. Open Google Maps.
  2. On the far left-hand side, click the “hamburger menu”.
  3. Find and click “Your places”.
  4. Click the word “MAPS”.
  5. Click on the map you saved.
  6. Click “Open in my maps”.

I thought I’d share with you the step-by-step directions to creating your very own personalized Google Map. I love that I can customize my own map with different colored icons for different things – an icon of a yellow painter’s palette symbolizes a museum, while an icon of a green cathedral symbolizes… a cathedral. I can also type in notes for every single location, such as the hours and days the facility is open, ticket prices, or if I already have a reservation or a ticket, the confirmation code.

Posted by
92 posts

I'm unsure whether this was implied, but you'll also want to have the Google Maps app installed on your smartphone. We used this arrangement on our trip to Italy and it was a great navigation tool.

Posted by
175 posts

Phrank, thank you for the comment about installing Google Maps on your smart phone. Also, you can download the map as an icon onto your smart phone. Here is how to do that:

  1. Open Google maps using a browser on your smart phone (Safari or Chrome, or whatever you like to use).
  2. Click the hamburger menu.
  3. Click “My maps”.
  4. Select the map you have created.
  5. Here is where I am uncertain to tell you what to click, because I have an iPhone, rather than an Android. On an iPhone, click the icon located at the bottom of the screen that looks like a square with an up arrow.
  6. Scroll across the bottom black and white icon menu to the right-hand side and find the icon that states “Add to Home Screen”.
Posted by
151 posts

Yes, this is a great smartphone feature, I do it throughout my planning, even adding 'extra' pins for things I may want to do just in case a plan for another site falls through.

Also, if Data is an issue, I will screen shot a map and keep it in my gallery; you can also do this on the fly when you plug in directions from one place to the next - screen shot the route, then close out of the app to save battery/data.

Posted by
85 posts

Thanks for the info! I never knew about this. I've just started a map for the Oxford portion of our upcoming trip. Thanks!

Posted by
4686 posts

Yep, I've been doing this for years. I create a Google Map for each city or area ahead of time, using my laptop. The same maps become automatically available on my phone, which is tied to the same Google account. So in each town I'm in, I bring up a map and tap on any place I'd planned to visit, and the phone will give me directions (walking or public transit or driving) to get there from wherever I am now.

Any Android phone will automatically have Google Maps installed. (Android is made by Google.) iPhones probably not.

SIM card with data are pretty cheap in Europe - I see no reason to do without data when traveling anymore.

Posted by
4073 posts

Yup, I create a color coded map for every destination. Restaurants are one color, sights another.... no matter where I am I can pull up my handy dandy map and find a decent bakery nearby. I have shared with friends and they love my maps. Just did my Istria map for my 7th annual Easter trip to that area.

Posted by
1510 posts

Great instructions, if you don’t mind, I’m going to add link to our blog.

One other suggestion, google seems to automatically update maps, which if you are either a US cell plan, or SIM and don’t want to waste data.

Here’s how to set download/updates to Manual and WiFi only.
1. Go to offline maps
2. Click on settings wheel
3. Choose manual
4. Choose WiFi only

Offline maps don’t let you get walking directions. But you can do one of three things
1) set your walking directions before you leave hotel.

2) take screen shot of walking directions. (From train station to hotel)
3) Mid day site seeing. Turn on you data, enter destination for walking directions, turn off data. (Depends on your plan).

Posted by
342 posts

Creating custom maps with Google's My Maps was a game changer for me. I also export a completed custom map's KML file to as an offline backup. All the custom map's icons are preserved in the offline map. With them, it significantly reduces the amount of paper (books, maps, notes) I have to lug around. And I can share them with those traveling to the same destinations, saving them a bundle of time and effort.

These two links were very helpful for me:

Posted by
23 posts

Thank you for this information. This was one of my questions as I am planning my trip.

Posted by
193 posts

I couldn't get this to work on my I-Phone.

When I open the Google Maps app, and after going to Menu (the 3 bars on the left), then Your Places, Then Maps.
When I search for a place, it opens it on the map with the red tear drop, but then what? The menu choices at the bottom of the screen are Directions, Call, Save, Share, Website. If I click "Save" it asks if I want to save to Favorites, Want to Go, Starred Places, or New List.

Posted by
175 posts

Hi Todd - I will try to help you, but I need to first clarify some things.

"When I open the Google Maps app, and after going to Menu (the 3 bars on the left), then Your Places, Then Maps.
When I search for a place, it opens it on the map with the red tear drop, but then what? The menu choices at the bottom of the screen are Directions, Call, Save, Share, Website. If I click "Save" it asks if I want to save to Favorites, Want to Go, Starred Places, or New List."

Have you been able to create a map? It sort of sounds like you haven't been able to get that far yet. I personally have not tried to create a new map from scratch using the Google Maps APP - only using Google Maps (the website). I cannot attest to the ability to create a custom map in the app, because I truly don't know if that would work. Please let me know if you have any more luck using the website for Google Maps. Good luck!!
- Adrienne

Posted by
193 posts

Ah, maybe that is the problem! No it doesn't let me create a map as a choice. Maybe if I start on a computer and then pull it up on my Iphone later?

Posted by
175 posts

Hi there, Todd! Yes, I think you should try creating a map on your desktop, saving it, and then accessing it from your cell phone using either the app or the website for Google Maps. :o)