I m excellent at planning vacations steal my tips with Google Maps

I m excellent at planning vacations steal my tips path Google Maps

I m excellent at planning vacations steal my tips path with Google Maps

I m excellent at

Ionce read that the happiest part of traveling is the planning, and I couldn’t agree more. Before I board a plane. I spend hours researching and documenting the what, where and how of my vacation. Over the past two years I’ve traveled far less than usual, but this year my husband and I decided to go to Italy. It was our first time there, and one of our biggest trips since COVID hit, so I took prepping to a new level. Here’s how I. A self-proclaimed travel nerd, used Google tools to get ready for my getaway.

I m excellent at planning vacations steal my tips

  1. Get everyone on board with Google Slides.

About a month before our trip, I realized we’d done it all wrong. We weren’t going to have enough time to go hiking. And we were adding unnecessary hours of driving. And with increasing gas prices. That would end up costing way too much. Telling your travel partner you want to start over mere weeks before your trip is tough. And I knew I needed to really sell it…so I made a Google Slides presentation.

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One of the many slides I used to convince my husband we needed to replan our trip.

I’ve used Slides for vacation planning in the past. Too — and not just to blow everything up and start over. I’ve also presented what I’ve learned about various travel destinations we’re considering to make a decision. This helps me think clearly about what I want out of a vacation;. It feels a bit like I’m vision-boarding the potential trip. And apparently it’s a great selling point, because my husband was completely on board by the end of the presentation.

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2. Go off the beaten path with Google Maps.

I often find myself aimlessly “wandering” around Google Maps. And Street View. Looking for unusually shaped peninsulas or clicking into 360-degree photos that seem impossible to have captured. It’s a great way to cure wanderlust from home. But it’s also an effective way to plan travel. This was how I found a few of our stops in Italy.

A little Google Maps “wandering” led me to the town of Sirmione. It caught my eye because it’s basically an island in Italy’s Lake Garda: A narrow road connects Sirmione to the mainland;. It’s so tiny that most people park on one side and walk over to the rest of the city. Going by foot or golf cart.

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An aerial shot of Sirmione taken by my husband.

I m excellent at planning vacations steal my tips

It’s a place I’ve never heard of. And likely never would have gone.

This is also how we found one of our favorites hikes. The Dolomites are massive — choosing where to visit was overwhelming. But my husband noticed an interesting looking area on Google Earth called Seceda (the fact that it was labeled “Seceda famous view” on Google Maps didn’t hurt our interest either). That was enough for us to add it to our itinerary. And I couldn’t be happier that we did — see for yourself.

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3. Take organization to another level with Google Sheets.

Using Google Sheets to organize various parts of a trip is admittedly very obvious compared to my first two tips. But here’s how I like to set things up: I have three pages in a Sheet file — one that functions as a list of things to do in each location. One that lists all of our reservation information and a last tab to collect expenses as we accumulate them while planning and during the course of the trip.

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I like to think of everything listed on this first tab as something potentially worth checking out versus something that’s set in stone. This way, we don’t have to waste time while there looking things up — now if we’re ever wondering “what should we do here?” we can turn to the list for quick, easy access to already researched options.

4. Hit the Search bar…and then the Save button.

I’ve always found it easy to find amazing restaurants and shops when I want to travel, but not quite as simple to grasp what the best outdoor areas are — I want to find the best spot for a sunset, or a viewpoint for an afternoon walk. I’ve found more than a few breathtaking sights by heading to Search and simply entering the name of the city I’m visiting. On the right-hand side, there’s a Knowledge Panel about the location with information like the weather, elevation and local time. Below this is a section that says “Plan a trip,” and underneath that a camera icon next to the words “Things to do.”

And that is how I found arguably the cutest landmark in existence, this “Kiss…Please” sign in Sirmione.

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I saved the location straight from this panel so it automatically saved to google.com/travel, and we easily found it when we stopped in the city.

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We had to!

5. Stay on budget with a bunch of Google tools.

Traveling is expensive, and while this was definitely a trip we planned and saved for, we were very conscious of not exceeding our budget. I used three Google tools to help us do that. First up, Google Flights. Ahead of buying our flights, I created various alerts to airports in Italy to find the best price and timing. (I also used this feature to price hotels.) Then, while we were there, we used Google Maps’ toll feature, so we could avoid more expensive routes. And of course, there’s the aforementioned Google Sheets tab to collect expenses.

All of these things helped me plan (and thoroughly enjoy planning) my trip — and obviously enjoy the trip itself. Whenever you take your next vacation, hopefully these tips are just as useful for you.


I m excellent at planning vacations steal my tips

Make your own turkey trot with Google Maps

Make your own turkey trot with Google Maps

Make your own turkey

Every Thanksgiving. Before I settle into the couch to watch football. Or load my plate with multiple servings of stuffing. There’s another tradition I have to accomplish first: a turkey trot. 

If you don’t already know. A turkey trot is a Thanksgiving Day run. It’s usually a casual way to log a few miles before sitting down for the big meal. There are lots of community-led. Organized Turkey Trots. But plenty of people do them casually as well. I’ve done them with running clubs, alongside family and friends and even participated in an official race or two.

b)Make your own turkey trot with Google Maps

Even though I’m practicing social distancing this year. The turkey trot isn’t canceled. Instead. Thanks to some help from Google Maps. It will be a semi-solo operation, with the option for friends and family—or really. Anyone in the area—to virtually run “along” the route with me. Below, you can follow a few easy steps to create your own turkey trot as well. (These directions are for using Google Maps on desktop.) 

Step 1. First. Open Google Maps and select the hamburger menu at left (the three lines in a row). When that opens. Choose “Terrain.” Then. The map at right will show you the topography of your location. Which is helpful if you want to avoid (or add) some hills to your run. 

I also found it helpful to select the “Bicycling” option in this panel.

This highlights the bike lanes and trails in your area. And I’ve found it particularly useful to find paths that cut through parks that are great for cyclists and pedestrians. Another great way to get an idea of what your run will look like is to jump into Street View so you can get a more accurate idea of what you’ll be running through.

Step 2. I’m going to start and end my race at a park. But you can start from wherever you want. I decided an eight-mile run sounds right. So I chose a half point of four miles on the map. This is a bit of trial and error (“Oops, that was only three miles away. And this point is about five”) until you find the best spot. And of course. This doesn’t have to be exact if you’re not trying to be too official. 

c)Make your own turkey trot with Google Maps

When you’re doing this. Make sure you choose the “walking” icon, and also know that you can select the direction line on Google Maps to make the path a little longer or shorter. For example. I saw a bike trail that went through a park and dragged the dotted line through it. Just play around with this until you find the halfway mark that works for you.

Step 3. On the left-hand side, choose “add destination,”. And re-enter your original starting point. Follow the instructions from step three again to drag and adjust your path as desired to get to the mileage you want. You can also take advantage of some of Maps’ new features if you want to make sure you get your fill of fall foliage. Or if you want to run by the homes of friends and family for a quick hello as you go. Use Maps’ list feature to mark them. Or any other landmarks that you want to include in the route. 

d)Make your own turkey trot with Google Maps

Step 4. After you’ve completed creating your route. You can choose “Send directions to your phone”. So you’ll have the map while you’re running. And if you select “Details,”. You’ll see a share icon in the upper right-hand corner of this panel. There, you’ll get a link that you can share with family and friends. This way, they can try. And recreate a similar path in their own neighborhood. 

Step 5. When I’m running a specific path like this. I like to turn on the detailed voice guide feature. Which gives you more frequent alerts for navigation. It was built to help people who are visually impaired. But it’s also great for runners who don’t want to constantly glance at their phone for directions. In your Google Maps settings, select “Navigation,” and you’ll see an option at the bottom of the list under “Walking options” for “Detailed voice guidance.” 

Step 6. Now this is optional, but if you really want the full turkey trot experience. You can all choose a time to start your race and “run” together. There are a handful of apps that let you track and time your run. You can be as competitive (or non-competitive) as you want. With prizes for winners, or most-spirited. Get creative and add a scavenger hunt element to it: Runners get points for photos of Thanksgiving decorations. Or local landmarks. Make it yours. And more importantly. Make it fun.


Before I settle into the couch to watch football.

There’s another tradition I have to accomplish first: a turkey trot. 

It’s usually a casual way to log a few miles before sitting down for the big meal.

But plenty of people do them casually as well.

Even though I’m practicing social distancing this year.

I also found it helpful to select the “Bicycling” option in this panel.

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