It seems like it’s impossible to run out of good uses for Google Maps. People use it to plan hiking trips, plot their next vacation, or come up with a strategic route to work that avoids all the traffic.
Those are the most common uses for Google Maps. However, its usefulness extends far beyond that. In fact, there is a good use for Google Maps on just about every major holiday of the year. Let’s see how Google Maps can enhance those holidays for you.
1. New Year Partying
Here’s the thing about New Year’s Eve: almost everyone ends up drinking too much. Far too many people decide to get behind the wheel, and put lives in danger.
There’s a much smarter way to celebrate New Year’s Eve with friends, and Google Maps can help. When you are planning your New Year’s Eve celebrations, plot the celebrations you are interested in going to using My Maps.
If you live near a metro area, then the odds are good that you’ll find clusters of locations where you can party. Now, add a layer to this map so you can view hotels in the same area.
Comparing these two layers, it doesn’t take long to find a party venue that is within walking distance to a hotel.
Now, all that’s left is to make your hotel reservations, accept the party invitation, and that’s your New Year’s plan all sorted. Drink to your heart’s content. All you should is get back to your hotel room to sleep it off!
2. Plan a Perfect Valentine’s Date
Years ago, I wrote an article about using GPS and a cellphone to propose to your future partner. Not a lot has changed since then. Smartphones are still a great tool to create an unforgettable date. And what better time to plan a perfect date than Valentine’s Day?
A great date comes down to perfect logistics. It’s about having perfect timing, without the appearance that everything is planned. Things just happen… perfectly. Here’s how you make that happen.
First, search the area where you hope to spend time with your date for places to eat.
Add the places that look the most promising to the first layer on your map.
Next, search the map for other things to do. Maybe check out a play?
Add the good theaters that are nearest the restaurants already on your map.
Next, what makes a better date than strolling through outdoor shopping centers and buying your date a simple gift? Find those shopping areas on the next layer of your new, growing “date” map. While you’re at it, why not add a bit of color to each layer by changing the color of your selected pins?
Once you’re done, you’ll have a whole map full of options across several layers.
All you need to do is pick the best options that are all in generally the same area. And just like that, you’ve got a date made in heaven for Valentine’s Day.
3. Plan a Mother’s Day Garden
On Mother’s Day, many people will bring their mom to a local garden shop and let her buy flowers or other supplies for her garden. But why stop there? Why not help your mom plan where to place those plants on her property?
You can do this with a satellite view of her home. In Google Maps satellite view, right click on the map and select Measure distance. Now you can click points on the map.
When you draw a rectangle, such as an area where your mom may want to plant a garden, you’ll see measurement results that tell you the entire distance around the perimeter of that shape, as well as the total area inside.
It’s a great way to plot out spots on the property for a garden or flower beds, and determine exactly how much area you need to buy soil and plants for.
Another very cool mapping tool (although it isn’t specifically Google Maps) is the USDA’s soil mapping tool. This tool lets you draw out an “AOI”, or area of interest, to see what the latest soil survey data says about the local land.
When you click the “soil map” tab, the type of soil will be overlaid over the satellite image.
One note — the scale of these surveys is 1:20,000, so for best accuracy (and to avoid seeing an accuracy warning at the bottom of the map), it’s best to zoom far out before clicking on the soil map tab. However, I noticed that once the soil map is created, you can zoom back into your property to see the accurate soil type label.
This information is helpful for something like gardening because while one area of the property may be sandy or otherwise not very good for gardening, another area could be wonderful loam where a garden would flourish. Help your mother get her new flowers to blossom by helping her plot out the best area for her garden!
4. Take Your Dad Fishing
It is customary, at least in the U.S., for Father’s Day to follow Mother’s Day. Dads aren’t typically into planting flowers (although some are, and that’s great!). Most Dads would love the opportunity to go fishing with you. So why not use Google Maps to plot out the perfect fishing trip with your father?
The first step here is to use Satellite view to find the best bodies of water for the fishing trip. A high-level map of a large area is best for this step.
Now zoom in along the main thoroughfare to find the best access road along that body of water. Sometimes these will be labeled on Google Maps, but often if it’s just a small dirt road, there won’t be any label. In my case, Red River Rd along the Red River is well labeled. Of course, having grown up in this area, I know this is the ideal access point for the St. Froid River.
If you’ve never been to an area, you’ll need to explore along the edge of the body of water by scrolling the map and trying to find an access point for a boat. An even easier way to find a landing may just be to Google the name of the body of water followed by “boat landing”. In my case “St. Froid boat landing” turns up a location address on MapMuse for a St. Froid public boat landing. The site offers a map of the location.
This is all we need. Now heading back to Google Maps Satellite view, the overhead view of that location makes it crystal clear that this is an ideal access point to set out the boat for the fishing trip.
Ample parking, a nice, wide ramp into the water, and a dock that appears to be in excellent condition.
One word of caution. If you plan to start heading out on dirt roads to start exploring wide tracts of wilderness, there are a few important things to keep in mind that most people don’t think about until they get many miles out in the middle of nowhere.
- Print out your maps and study them carefully. One wrong turn can become a disaster, because there are no street signs on most logging roads.
- Bring a GPS or make sure you have an easy way to charge your phone, but keep in mind many places out in the forests don’t have cellular signals. GPS devices are best out there.
- Measure the distance you plan to drive and make sure you have enough gas. There are no gas stations out there — so if your drive there and back extends beyond the limits of your gas tank, you’re going to have to bring fuel with you (preferably strapped to the outside of your vehicle to avoid fumes inside the car).
- Don’t try to be brave with long, deep puddles. After rains, logging roads are often a minefield of long puddles that look safe, but have large hidden rocks, or a mushy, mud-lined bottom that’ll suck your tires in and keep you stranded.
Play it safe and plan carefully. And you and your father will have a fishing trip that’ll make it into the memory books.
5. Independence Day Parades
In the U.S., the 4th of July is probably one of the most important and most celebrated holidays of the year. There are parades and fireworks in every city.
Because of this, it’s also one of the most crowded times of the year in downtown areas where parades are taking place. If you want to watch a parade, it can be difficult to figure out the best place to set up your chairs. Thankfully, Google Maps once again comes to the rescue.
Most towns announce the route of the parade leading up to the 4th of July celebration. With this route in hand, all you need to do is use Google Maps satellite view and explore all along the route for idea public areas with an open lawn or parking lot.
Parks and schools usually make ideal areas to set up your lawn chair and enjoy the parade. Keep in mind though, that public areas like this usually fill up fast. So, use the map to seek out nearby parking areas. Arrive early so you can claim your spot and enjoy the show!
6. Halloween Routes
When you have small children, the last thing you want to do on Halloween is send them out to walk along busy roadways to go trick-or-treating. Thankfully, in almost every area of the country there are communities with houses close together, and away from the busiest streets and thoroughfares.
Google Maps satellite view makes it very easy to find these communities around you.
These overhead views also make for perfect maps (complete with street names) to use while you’re walking your little witch or warlock from house to house. Most of these communities also have great sidewalks.
The odds are good that once you’re finished walking through even one of these communities, your little trick-or-treaters will have their candy bags full. If you feel like there will still be time for more trick-or-treating, just locate and map out a few more of these communities using Google Maps. Now, your entire night will be perfectly planned.
7. Black Friday Without the Crazy
Black Friday in the United States is a nightmare. We covered a few ways you can use your mobile phone to plan your Black Friday shopping trip. This makes it a little less painful and saves some money. One topic discussed was using Google Maps to plot your entire day, and that deserves another mention here.
The ideal tool for this is My Maps, where you can create layers. As you find Black Friday deals, add those store locations to your initial map layer.
For now, don’t worry about location. Just research the best deals inside of that vicinity, whether it’s a city, town or shopping area.
Once you have all of the stores with Black Friday specials on your map, zoom out and plan your trip. Add notes to each location with the time you plan to arrive and what deals you’re looking to take advantage of.
Once you’re finished, you can print your map and bring it with you. You can print it to PDF and bring it on your smartphone. Using your well-planned map will let you get the most deals in the least amount of time, rather than running around blind and fighting the crowds.
8. Christmas Fun With Maps
The end of the year brings one of the most popular holidays of all — Christmas. One of the most anticipated moments for many children all around the world is Christmas Eve. Jolly old Saint Nick makes his way around the world, giving gifts to the world’s children.
No article about using Google Maps during the holidays would be complete without a mention of one of the most popular holiday maps of them all — the Santa Tracker. Of course, there isn’t just one Santa Tracker these days, there are many.
- NORAD offers a Santa Tracker where, starting December 1st, you can track the whereabouts of Santa Claus.
- Email Santa lets you snoop on Santa. The tool also tells you when Santa will get to your house, right down to the last second.
- TrackingSanta.net has a cute map with a bouncing Santa showing his current location. Last known location was “Flight tests over Mongolia!”
- Santa Update assures visitors that it’s the authentic Santa Tracker from the North Pole!
Yes, Google offers its own Santa Tracker as well.
As you can see, Google Maps offers something valuable for every one of us, during every time of the year. It would be a mistake not to take advantage of the benefits!
How do you use Google Maps? Have you dreamed up any other creative uses for it during the different holidays? Share your own thoughts in the comments section below!