How to Plan an Alternate Route With Google Maps

Change the blue path and make the route your own

What to Know

  • Your own route: After you get a route, click along the blue line and drag that point anywhere. Keep doing this to plan a new route.
  • An alternate from Google: Select an alternate gray route line. It will turn blue, indicating it's the new preferred route.
  • Multiple destinations: Add a destination. Press the + below it to add another. Repeat for as many as you want.

This article explains how to use Google Maps to plan an alternate route instead of the default one Google Maps gives you automatically. These instructions apply to both the desktop and mobile versions of Google Maps.

How to Make an Alternate Route in Google Maps

The first method involves making your own route:

  1. After you enter a location and Google provides a route for you, click anywhere on the blue path to set a point.

  2. Drag that point to a new location to change the route. When you do this, other suggested alternate routes disappear from the map, and the driving directions change.

    Drag to change route popup note in Google Maps on macOS Chrome browser

    The estimated drive time and distance change as you adjust the route, which is helpful if you're trying to stay within a certain time frame. Monitor these changes as you make an alternative route and adjust your plan accordingly.

    Google Maps automatically "sticks" the new path on the road for you, so you don't need to worry that it's sending you through forests or neighborhoods that you can't drive in. The path it gives is a legitimate way to get to the destination.

  3. After you complete your alternate route, it locks in.

How to Choose One of Google Maps' Suggested Routes

If you'd rather use one of the routes suggested by Google, follow these steps:

  1. To choose one of the gray-colored alternate routes, select it.

    Alternate route interface in Google Maps in Chrome for macOS.

    Google Maps changes the highlight color to blue to show that it's now the new preferred route, without removing the other possible routes.

  2. Edit the newly highlighted route by dragging the path to a new location. When you make a change, the other routes disappear, and your driving directions change to reflect the new route.

This is a powerful tool for adjusting a Google Maps route, but it's easy to overdo it. If you find that you've changed your route too much or have paths going ways you didn't intend, use the back arrow in the browser to undo the damage or restart with a new Google Maps page.

When Google gathers suggested routes, it determines the fastest time to your destination, then uses machine learning to calculate which route you're least likely to experience a "hard-braking" moment, which is a leading indicator of a crash. Google automatically recommends routes with fewer hard-braking moments if the ETA is the same or minimally different from other routes.

How to Add Multiple Destinations to a Route

Another way to plan an alternate route on Google Maps is to add multiple destinations to a suggested route.

  1. Enter a destination and starting point.

  2. Click or tap the + button underneath the destination you entered to open a third field where you can input an additional destination or click on the map to enter the new destination.

    Add destination in Google Maps via Chrome on macOS.
  3. Repeat the process to add additional destinations.

To change the order of the stops, click and hold the menu to the left of one of the destinations and then drag it up or down the list.

Fine-tuning the routes that Google Maps offers is possible through the Options button in the route panel. Use it to avoid highways, tolls, and ferries.

Depending on the route you choose, it may experience heavy traffic or delays, in which case you can select an alternate route to reach your destination faster. Turn on live traffic indicators in Google Maps with the three-lined stacked menu at the upper-left corner of the page.

If you're using the mobile app, change the route options using the menu in the upper-right corner of the app. Toggling live traffic on and off is available through the layers button hovering over the map.

Google Maps on Mobile Devices

Selecting an alternate route on mobile devices works the same way as it does on a computer, only instead of clicking the alternate route, you tap it to highlight it.

However, you can't click and drag on a route to edit it on a mobile device. If you need to add a destination, tap the menu button at the top of the screen and choose Add stop. Arranging the route order works by dragging stops up and down on the list.

Another minor difference between the mobile app and web version is that alternate routes only show the time to get there should you accept that route. You can't see the distance until you tap the route.

You can send a customized Google Maps route to your smartphone. This makes it easier to plan a trip because you can build it with the full tools available on your computer and then send it to your device when it's time to put it to use.

  • How do I download directions from Google Maps for offline use?

    On mobile, find and choose the destination you want, then scroll to the bottom of the screen and select the three dots icon > Download offline map > Download. Downloaded maps will be saved in the app's Offline Maps section.

  • How can I print out my Google Maps directions?

    On your computer, once you've picked your route select Details > Print, then choose either Print including maps or Print text only, and select Print to start printing. You can also print directions from your iPhone using AirPrint,

  • Can I use voice directions with Google Maps?

    You can have Google Maps dictate directions to you, but you have to turn on voice guidance first. Unlike voice navigation, which dictates directions, voice guidance will also provide you with distance estimates and can adjust your route if you make a wrong turn.

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