You'll Never Get Lost With These Google Maps Hacks

Most of us probably use Google Maps or its app equivalent fairly regularly in order to figure out where the heck we are or where the heck we’re going. But hey, guess what? As these Google Maps app hacks demonstrate, it turns out that this miracle of handheld GPS technology is capable of doing far more than we ever thought it could. Honestly, if you’re anything like me, you’re metaphorically kicking yourself for not having realized how many useful little features the app version of Google Maps has until now. I could have saved myself so much grief.

Although I’ve used Google Maps on my trusty old laptop for years, it’s actually only fairly recently that I started using the app version of the service. I’m not often in the car these days, but when I am, Google Maps has the added advantage of taking into account things like traffic, enabling it to give you up-to-the-minute estimations on how long it’ll actually take you to arrive at your destination. (Take that, inferior, built-into-my-car GPS.) But after having gone right to the source to get some tips on how best to utilize the app, you’d better believe that I’m using it for far more than just giving me simple sets of directions. These five hacks (by which I mean, as always, tricks and tips — but the Internet loves the word “hacks” right now, so that’s what I’m calling them) will make sure you never get lost again — and then some.

1. Take Your Maps Offline

A lot of us like to say that, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we’ll never truly be lost; we can always just whip out our phones and boot up our favorite map program, and voila — GPS technology will identify exactly where we are and tell us how to get exactly to where we want to be.

This mindset, however, fails to take into account the fact that WiFI and 4G are not infallible. If your bars disappear and you have no idea where you are… cue the panic.

This is why it pays to be prepared — and thanks to Google Maps' offline maps feature, that preparation is easy. Once you’ve loaded the area of the map you want to carry around with you, open the menu (it’s the icon on the left that looks like three lines stacked on top of each other) and select “Offline areas.” Tap the plus sign in the lower right corner and center the map over the area you’d like to download; then hit “Download” (duh). You can then search and navigate yourself around the map area you downloaded in the same way you would be able to if you were online. Neat, right? Fair warning, though: The offline maps have expiration dates of about a month after you first download them, so you’ll eventually have to load ‘em up again if you want access to them after that.

2. Never Miss The Last Train Again

Ever since the closure of HopStop (which I am still mourning, by the way), I’ve been relying on Google Maps to help me get around the DC Metro. (I mean, hey, I only moved here a few months ago — it’s going to take some time for me to learn a whole new subway system). I don’t do a ton of late night partying anymore, because I am an old fogey, but if I did, you’d better believe I’d be making good use of the “Last” option. The DC Metro, you see, doesn’t run 24 hours a day, so if you miss the last train, your sunk. (Or you call an Uber. Whatever floats your proverbial boat.) But happily, the Google Maps app can tell you exactly what time the last train is scheduled to depart, ensuring that you’ll never miss it again. As long as you get yourself to the station in time, at least.

To use it, look up your final destination on the map; then hit the icon in the lower right hand corner that lets you map out directions to that destination. Once you’re looking at the list of possible directions options, tap the train icon to bring up the directions for public transit; then tap the little clock icon. Tap the “Last” tab, input the correct date, and hit “Done.” Each set of directions that are presented as options will run according to the last trains available.

3. Always Know Where The Nearest ATMs And Gas Stations Are

Admittedly I’m not usually on the lookout for gas stations, since, as I remarked earlier, I am very infrequently in cars on long journeys. (This is what happens when you live most of your adult life in a city where owning a car is impractical.) I do, however, often find myself needing an ATM. And hey, guess what? Google Maps will do that for you. With the map centered wherever you happen to be, tap the search bar — but don’t actually type anything into it. Instead, take a look at the options listed below. If you need an ATM, tap “ATMs,” and the map will pull up every ATM nearby. Fun fact: This also works for a ton of other services; just tap “More” and you can find everything from post offices to florists.

4. See Inside Places Without Having To Actually, You Know, Be Inside Them

This trick won’t work for every location; the selection can be a little slim, depending on where you are. But for the places that have it, it’s awesome — it lets you take a little virtual tour around the inside of a location, not just limiting you to a walk around the exterior Street View. (I imagine it would be quite useful for this cat here.) To see this feature, map a location as usual; then tap on the title card at the bottom of the screen. Scroll down — if you see a panoramic photo with a little symbol that looks like arrows drawn in a circle, that means you can take a look inside. Tap it, and it’ll show you the interior of the building. This is a very fancy hotel in DC I will never stay in:

You might also notice a smaller picture with the same arrow symbol on it; that’ll bring you to Street View, so you can see what the outside of the building looks like.

This trick works in a regular browser-based Google Map, too, by the way — my partner and I discovered it when we were researching wedding venues. We’re planning the whole thing from a distance (the big to-do will be in California, where our families live; we, however, live on the other side of the country), so the fact that we were able to “walk around” inside the place we eventually decided upon as the venue was pretty cool. Consider that a bonus.

5. Check Out Ski And Hiking Trails — In Detail

Again, this feature isn’t available for every location on the planet; as such, your mileage may vary. But for the places it is operational for? It’s pretty cool: If you look up a major ski resort or hiking destination, zoom in on the map the same way you always do. When you get close enough, you’ll see individual trails marked out — that's Snowbird ski resort in Utah on the left here and Kalalau in Hawaii on the right. Cool, right? I mean, I don’t even ski and I think it’s cool.

Images: Lucia Peters/Bustle (5); Giphy (3)