Where would we be without Google Maps? Probably lost!
The web mapping service boasts satellite imagery and aerial photography, 360° interactive panoramic views of roads and streets, real-time traffic reports and a handy route planner whether you’re on foot, in a car, on a bike or taking public transport. It’s proved to be a game-changer in getting from A to B.
Gone are the days where you’d need to pull your campervan off to the side of the road, unsure of exactly where you are, and grab a road atlas to get yourself back on the right path.
With Google Maps steering you, there’s no reason you should find yourself off the beaten track. But are you using the tool to its full capacity?
Probably not. There are so many little tips and tricks for Google Maps, we even surprised ourselves when putting together this article.
There are plenty of reasons to use Google Maps. Perhaps the best one being that it could help you traverse a safer route and minimise the chance of you having to make a claim on your campervan insurance.
Or you might just love that it can help you avoid congestion on the road, and make it to your destination in the quickest time possible (keeping within the Highway Code, of course…).
So, let’s look at some of the best tips and tricks for Google Maps. Let us know if we’ve missed any out!
Plot some stop-offs
When you’re in a campervan, rarely do you just want to go from A to B – that would mean just going from campsite to campsite, which doesn’t sound like as much fun as it could be.
Instead, you’ll probably want to make some stop-offs along the way, be it at a historic site or a soft play centre if you’re travelling with little ones.
Once you’ve decided where you want to stop-off en route to your chosen campsite, Google Maps lets you plot these so that you’re completing one smooth journey.
To add multiple destinations in the mobile app, just input your starting point and your end destination and then click the three dots in the top-right corner.
This will bring up a pop-up menu with the option to add a stop. Click that and you can start putting together your route with multiple stops.
If you’ve always been put off using Google Maps because you’re concerned about how much of your monthly data it will use up or how you’d cope if you lost your mobile internet connection, you really needn’t have worried.
Google Maps supports offline access. You just need to ensure that you’ve downloaded the appropriate maps before you set off.
To do this, navigate to the location you'd like to access while you’re offline and tap the bottom of the screen.
In the pop-up, hit Download to download that map (if you have any problems with this, you might need to free up some storage space).
Once the map has been downloaded, you’ll be able to access turn-by-turn directions offline, as well as any details about businesses in the region.
One reason that you might have been put off using Google Maps is privacy – or lack of it, as it were.
You’re right to be mindful of your privacy – especially in this day and age when all companies want some of your data in return for a better service offering.
By using Google Maps, you’re alerting Google to your activity – and your internet provider for that matter.
People have expressed concerns about this byproduct of using the app, which is part of the reason Google launched Incognito mode for Google Maps last year.
The feature that makes it possible to browse locations in the app without Google saving that activity to your account.
Perhaps you’ve used Incognito Mode on Google’s Chrome browser before? The app works in the same way.
To turn on Incognito mode, open the app, tap your profile picture, and press Turn on Incognito Mode. It’s as easy as that.
However, it’s important to note that you won’t be completely incognito.
As Google states in its description of Incognito mode in Maps: "Incognito mode in Maps does not affect how your activity is used or saved by internet providers, other apps, voice search, and other Google services.”
Set your departure time
It pays to be prepared for the trip ahead. But if you’re going to look up directions ahead of time, make sure you change the time window to match when you plan to travel.
For instance, if you’re planning to set off at 6am in the morning, the road conditions are likely to be quite a bit different than if you get going during rush hour.
By adjusting the departure time, Google can then serve up the most accurate results based on traffic patterns and other variables.
To set your departure time, tap the Depart At button near the top of the screen, just below where Google lists the available modes of transportation.
Save your favourite places
If you end up stopping somewhere that you really enjoy – and you think you’d like to revisit later down the line – instead of trying to recall the name of it a couple of years later, simply bookmark it in the Google Maps app.
We’ve all done it: stayed at a campsite that was fantastically accommodating, only to completely forget the name of it over time.
If you often have a hard time keeping track of your favourite spots, just tap the Saved tab near the bottom of the screen in the Google Maps app, choose Favourite Places, and press the Add button to save your favourite campsite or restaurant.
When you return home, all the favourite places from your trip will be neatly stored ready for you to use again next time.
And if you don’t make it back to any of your favourite haunts, you’ll always have the memories.
Explore what’s on
If you’re at a bit of a loose end one day (or evening), you don’t have to just sit in your campervan and play cards if you don’t want to (there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, of course!).
Instead, check out the Explore section in Google Maps, which is located near the bottom of the screen.
This section will serve up recommendations based on your location and any other data the app has collected on you.
Here, you'll find a round-up of the restaurants and bars located within proximity, local events, and more.
Why not take a punt on one of the local events? Even if it doesn’t turn out to be your thing, it’ll still prove to be an experience, if nothing else.
Remember where you parked
It might sound like the kind of mistake you’d never make, but if you’ve been out exploring all day, you could lose track of where you parked your camper.
With Google Maps, you’ll never have that realisation that you can’t remember where you parked, relative to where you are now.
Once you’ve parked, just open the app and tap the little blue dot used to mark your location.
A menu should appear near the bottom of the screen with an option to set that area as a parking location.
Job done! Then, should you end up miles away from your camper having had a day of walking, just load up the app and you’ll be guided back to your vehicle.
Let’s just hope that, if you’ve got weary legs, you’re not too far away from your camper’s location…
Share your location
If you’ve gone on holiday with other campervan enthusiasts, it can be helpful to have the ability to share your location with each other so that you can meet up – without having to resort to giving verbal directions in a place you don’t know too well.
To share your location with somebody else, tap the section near the bottom of the screen where the app shows how long it will take to reach your destination.
Then select Share Trip Progress. From there, you'll be able to choose a contact to share your location with until you arrive at your destination (or beyond, if you’d like).
Google will give you a list of suggested contacts, based on who you contact regularly, but you can also choose to share your location through a text message or email, among other options, to anyone you want.
It’s a great little feature which will help make your trip much more entertaining. After all, everything is better done together.
However, just remember to unshare your location when you need a bit of space.
Other apps you should download
Google Maps is not the only must-download app for campervan owners.
Here’s a selection of some of our favourites from navigational aids to fitness apps that track your activity levels while you’re out and about in your campervan:
CoPilot – One drawback of Google Maps (we can’t think of many) is that it doesn’t factor in the size of your vehicle. That’s where the CoPilot app brings extra value, allowing you to map your journey based on what you’re driving. Narrow lanes or low bridges won’t be a problem from now on. Teamed with a campervan or motorhome specific sat nav, these are all the route planning tools you’ll need.
AllTrails – If you’re planning a trip with plenty of exercise, the AllTrails app is simply a must-have. There are 100,000+ hand-curated trails, complete with user reviews and photos so you know if you’re in the right place. Pick by difficulty rating, length, reviewer rating and more.
SiteSeeker - An app developed The Camping and Caravanning Club, it shows you nearby campsites based on your GPS location – or you can search for campsites based on your needs. You’ll never be scrambling around for somewhere to stay, late in the day, ever again!
Park4Night - Similar to The Camping and Caravanning Club’s app above, Park4Night gives you a long list of campsites where you can stop and get some shut eye. You can also search by user rating to make sure you’re picking the nicest spots.
Link’s ATM Finder – If you’re strapped for cash but don’t want to get charged for withdrawing money, download Link’s ATM Finder app. This will direct you to the nearest free ATM and you can also search by operator or if the ATM also allows things like mobile top-up.
Strava – As you keep fit, Strava will track any exercise you undertake while you’re out and about in your campervan. So if you’re a keen runner or a seasoned walking enthusiast, this is the app for you. It’s also compatible with most wearable fitness trackers and smartphones!
iBBQ – One of the great pleasures of touring around in your camper is stopping for the night and setting up a delicious barbecue. iBBQ app not only gives you directions to the nearest butchers, it will also help you with recipes and tell you if it’s about to rain!
Protect yourself with campervan insurance
Before you head out on your voyage, don’t forget to arrange that all-important piece of the puzzle: campervan insurance.
Getting the right kind of coverage means you can get on with all your travel adventures knowing you're protected.
We can provide a range of quotes on specialist campervan insurance that could provide the following possible benefits:
- Cover for up to 365 days a year which can include foreign use
- Cover for your camper while you are converting it
- Enhanced cover for personal effects
- Panel of leading campervan insurers
- Unlimited EU cover
- Up to £3,500 of cover for your camping personal effects
- Up to six months cover to complete a self-build conversion
We can cover campervans and motorhomes up to a value of £150,000.
Get a quote from Motorhome Protect today and see how much you can save.