If you live in the U.S. and Canada, Google Maps’ new updates just offered to make road trips considerably more exciting for you. Introducing the latest features on Google Maps, the company said that the update would “make it easier to find inspiration, share travel recommendations, and really get a feel for a place before you visit.” This promise has largely taken the shape of improved recommendations for travel pit stops with a Google Maps itinerary feature where you can plan and save your schedule more easily now. 

There are a few improvements to the Google Maps navigation UI as well, but those minor upgrades mainly include more rounded edges visible throughout the interface and a reduction in the size of the chunky white banners that appear everywhere.

Latest features on Google Maps

Image: Google Maps logo

What’s new in Google Maps? Exploring Google Maps’ New Updates

Despite having lived through it, we can’t remember a time before Google Maps, when you’d have had to navigate with a paper map and a prayer wherever you wanted to go. Now, despite how unreliable it can be, we’re all instinctively wired to pull out the maps app to get where we need to go, even if it’s just a few blocks away. With little competition on the market, the app has held a prime spot as a navigation tool and Google Maps’ new updates suggest that the company wants to further integrate itself into your travel plans and keep you company every step of the way.

If you’re excited to know what’s new on Google Maps, you should first know that the initial update will be limited to the U.S. and Canada where the company can take its time to test out the tool once it goes live. Even within the region, there might be some time before every city uniformly sees the update, so that’s a good reminder to keep in mind before you get planning. 

In terms of the latest features on Google Maps, three categories of updates have been announced: new lists, customization tools, and AI assistance. All the features center around making vacation planning a tad bit easier by allowing you to access information in one place.

Who Doesn’t Love Lists: Google Maps Itinerary Feature

Google Maps already makes it quite convenient to open up your route to your destination and look for the nearest gas station or the next restaurant you can stop at for a quick coffee on your drive. That said, it takes a little more work to plan what you can do once you reach your destination. A quick Google search will give you a gazillion articles on “Top 10 things to do in New York City” but opening up multiple tabs to check its distance from your hotel, the kind of food you can expect there, etc. can get a little cumbersome. 

Google Maps’ new updates include recommendation lists for a variety of cities, where you can scroll through all the recommendations in one place. The lists include:

  • A trending list: A weekly updated collection of places that are currently popular 
  • A top list: The highly rated areas that have consistently been featured on the top
  • A gems list: For discovering less-known local hubs that may not have been added to the hype train yet

In addition to viewing lists others have created, the latest features on Google Maps will allow you to create your own lists and share them with others much more easily. If you’re planning a trip that includes other people, you should find it easier to get their input on the plan and move items around to reorganize them in a way that best suits your travel plans. It sounds like a small detail but if you’ve ever had to organize a trip with friends who have a distinctly different idea of what a “vacation” is, then you know that getting the plan right takes some consideration.

What's new in Google Maps

Image: Google

Shoutout to AI

Another one of the new Google Maps updates is the ability to get some quick insights into a restaurant or tourist destination you’ve seen on your map or arrived at unplanned. You should soon be able to look up a place and have the cards give you a quick summary of the area’s main attractions or what dish you could order when you arrive. Google Maps provides this information already to a degree—you can look at the menu or read reviews when you look up a destination—but the AI feature should be able to do this more quickly for you.

If you keep up with the latest Google Lab experimentations and have already signed up to their program to test out their latest Google Chrome features, then you should benefit from the generative AI search feature as well. You can open up your browser and ask Google to plan an itinerary for your upcoming vacation and, based on your destination and timeline, Google will be able to cook up a plan for you. Not only can it recommend restaurants, but it should also be able to help you book hotels, plan your flights, and break up your day into manageable activities instead of trying to do it all at once. Even if you want to plan out your trip yourself, this feature is a great starting point to get scheduling more easily.

The Verge reported that other than Google Maps’ new updates, the company’s Circle to Search feature could also simplify your travel experience in new lands. This will allow you to open up an image and circle sections you want to translate to make it easier for you to commute or pick an item off a food menu. Samsung Galaxy S24 and Pixel 7 Plus users already have this feature but other Android devices could see the feature on their devices.

Improvements to Google Maps Navigation Interface

According to Google, “You’ll start seeing new design updates that give Maps a fresh new look—including a cleaner home screen with fewer tabs, and new pin colors that make it easier to find places.” This means that the basic design palette and overall style for the Map interface will remain unchanged, but you could see a few stylized tweaks appear over the next couple of months, to make the app a little easier to use. 

Instead of blocking out the map screen with every tab or button you interact with, Android Police highlights how the company is opting to make the interface cards more concise and easy to dismiss when you want to return to your route. With rounded corners, floating information boxes, and an overall interface that gives you more information at a glance—especially about your options for modes of travel—the improvements to the Google Maps navigation experience are worth a round of applause at least.

So far, the latest features on Google Maps appear to be aimed towards making travel easy but the quality of the lists and recommendations will be the defining factor on just how helpful this really is. If the lists end up chock full of users just repeating information or promoting the same three restaurants again and again, it won’t be of much use to travelers who want an authentic experience. It could become counterproductive to businesses that get buried in the process compared to their better-marketed competitors as well. The test of time and a more global release will be the actual indicators of the value of Google Maps’ new updates.