July 02, 2013, 2:43 PM — Google's recent update to Maps removes much of the mystery when it comes to travel, offering powerful tools to virtually visit a destination before jumping into your car. For some, this takes a bit of the adventure out taking an adventure. But for me it elevates stress and can help keep a vacation from veering off track.
Google has rounded up a great collection of travel tools and how-to information at the site Travel with Google. Here you can virtually explore a new city, explore points of interest, and link to tools for navigating any public transit system like a local.
Google's overview is great, but it misses a few of the most powerful Google Map tools. I've been playing around with Google's newest version Maps ( introduced in May) and love the new interface. Virtual globetrotting has never been more fun. But lost is easy access to extremely useful map utilities such as Google's Custom Maps. Another new map feature recently introduced - and worth stressing - is Google's integration with Google+ user and Zagat reviews.
What follows is a quick overview of three powerful Google Map features that will help you get the most out of your long weekend or overseas adventure.
Take GPS and Maps into Data Dead Zones
If your summer road trip takes you where there is no wireless data coverage Google Maps Navigation app for smartphones will leave you dead in the water. No data connection means your phone can't download and render maps for you to follow. The workaround is to download the map (or maps) of the areas you'll be traveling where there is no wireless data access. That way the Google maps you need will be located on your phone. Downloading maps also allows you to avoid expensive data roaming charges.
To download Google Maps to your phone launch the Google Map on your mobile device and then call up the region you want to download locally. Then select Make Available Offline from one of the menu options. You can do this for more than one region, if you want. To give you an idea of storage space needed for a map the entire 108 square miles of Mount Desert Island in Maine took up 9MB.