Use Google My Maps to Send a Custom Route to Your Phone

Build your route and get started on your travels

You don't need a separate GPS for your car when installing the Google Maps app on your iPhone or Android phone. When you take a little extra time to plan your trip, you can build a custom route in Google Maps using the Google My Maps tool, then follow along on your phone or tablet while you're on the road.

Person using a custom route on Google maps
Lifewire / Julie Bang

Why Google Maps Alone Isn't Enough

Sounds good, right? Still, things get tricky when you have a long and detailed route you want to follow that stops at specific locations and takes you down certain roads.

Why not Google Maps? If you tried to make this work in the Google Maps app, you might have come across one or both problems:

  • You can't build an intricate custom route in the Google Maps app: You can drag the route to an alternative route (highlighted in gray) that the app suggests after entering a destination. However, you can't drag it around to include or exclude any road you want.
  • If you customized your route in a way that lengthens your travel time and sent it to your device, you probably saw it reroute so that you arrive faster: Google Maps gets you where you want to go in as little time as possible. When you use the desktop version to drag your route around different areas so that you can visit stops that are out of the way or take another route because it's more familiar to you, the Google Maps app doesn't consider these scenarios. It chooses routes that get you from one point to the next as efficiently as possible.

To solve these two problems, you can use another Google product: Google My Maps. My Maps is a mapping tool that allows you to create and share custom maps.

How to Access Google My Maps

My Maps is useful for building detailed custom maps. The best part is that you can use it in Google Maps when you're on the road. Access My Maps on the web at google.com/mymaps. (You may have to sign in to your Google account.)

Google My Maps showing custom maps

If you have an Android device, check out the Google My Maps app for Android. My Maps also looks and works great in mobile web browsers. If you have an iOS device and don't have access to the desktop web, visit google.com/mymaps from a mobile web browser.

Create a New Custom Map With Google My Maps

Suppose you've planned a trip with a fair amount of driving and four stops you want to make along the way. Your destinations are:

Creating a map in Google My Maps

You could enter each destination separately as you arrive at each one. That takes time, and it doesn't allow you to customize your route the way you want. To create a new map, follow these steps:

  1. Open My Maps and select the Create a New Map buttonA version of Google Maps opens with several features on it, including a map builder and a search field with map tools beneath it.

    Google My Maps create new map
  2. Name your map and include an optional description and select Save. This information helps when you want to create additional maps or share a map with someone who's joining you on the trip.

    Naming your map in Google My Maps
  3. Add your start location and all destinations. Enter the start location in the search field and press the Enter key. In the pop-up box that appears over the location on the map, select Add to map.

    Repeat this for all your destinations. Pins are added to the map as you add more destinations.

    Adding locations in Google My Maps

Get Directions to Your Second Destination

Now that your destinations are mapped out, plan your route by getting directions from point A to point B (and eventually points B to C, and C to D).

  1. Select the pin for the first destination on your custom map. In this example, it's the Rideau Canal Skateway.

  2. In the pop-up box that appears over the location, choose the arrow button to get directions to this location.

    Google My Maps arrow
  3. A new layer is added to your map builder with points A and B. A is a blank field, and B is your first destination.

    Google My Maps a to b
  4. Type your starting location into field A. For this example, the starting location is the CN Tower. My Maps generates a route from your starting location to your first destination.

  5. Drag the route to customize it. My Maps gives you the fastest route from one point to another. However, like in Google Maps, you can use the mouse to drag the route to other roadways to customize it.

    In this example, My Maps gave a route that takes you on a major highway, but you can drag it north to take you down a smaller, less busy highway. You can zoom in and out (using the plus and minus buttons in the lower-right corner of the screen) to see all the roads and their names to customize your route more accurately.

    If you plan to take a specific route, add more destination points to take you on the route you want. You'll avoid being rerouted by Google Maps when you access the map on your phone.

    The full map in Google My Maps

Map Your Remaining Destinations

Add destinations by entering addresses or locations and then dragging them into place. For example, suppose that as you drive from the CN Tower to the Rideau Canal Skateway, you want to take Highway 15 instead of continuing on Highway 7.

You can look at the map and add Smiths Falls as a destination by selecting Add Destination in the Directions Layer you created. Type Smiths Falls in field C to add it. Then drag it to fix the order so that it falls between the starting point and your second destination.

Adding more destination points in Google My Maps.

Smiths Falls is added and takes the place of the second destination on the route, moving the second one (Rideau Canal Skateway) down the list. This way, you won't go through the random destination you didn't want to stop at, but you added to keep you on the route you specifically wanted.

The downside to this method is that you may need a passenger to navigate the map.

Map Additional Destinations

To expand your route to include the other destinations you want to visit, repeat the steps above in the order of the destinations you want to visit. When you click to get directions, you must enter your previous destination in the empty field.

So, for the next destination in this example, do the following:

  1. Select the destination (for example, the Montreal Museum of Archeology and History) in the map builder.

    Mapping remaining destinations in Google My Maps
  2. Select the arrow icon (Directions to here).

    Selecting the Directions here button on a destination in My Maps.
  3. Enter the current destination (for example, Rideau Canal Skateway) in field A.

    Entering in a new destination in My Maps.

When you enter the entire destination name, there are suggested options to choose from in the drop-down menu. Each option has a different icon.

  • The first one has a green pin in front of it, representing the first untitled layer created when the destinations were entered into the map.
  • The second represents destination C in the second untitled layer, created when you built the first part of your route.

The one you choose depends on how you want to build your map and how you want to take advantage of the layers feature in My Maps. For this example, it's not relevant, so you can choose any option. After that, repeat the above steps for the last destination (for example, La Citadelle de Québec).

About Google My Maps Layers

As you follow these steps to create your custom map, layers are added underneath the map builder. Layers allow you to keep parts of your map separate from others for better organization.

Every time you add new directions, a new layer is created. You can create up to 10 layers, so keep this in mind if you're building a custom route with over 10 destinations.

To deal with the layer limit, select Add Destination in any existing layer to add a destination to an existing route. If you know the order of the destinations you want to visit, go through the above steps for the first destination, then repeat the last step for all subsequent destinations to keep it in one layer.

It's up to you, and it depends on how you want to use layers. Google provides information about what you can do with layers if you're interested in creating more advanced maps.

Access Your New Custom Map from the Google Maps App

Now that your destinations are plotted on your map in the correct order with directions for their routes, access the map in the Google Maps app on your mobile device. When you're signed in to the same Google account you used to create your custom map, you're good to go.

  1. Open the Google Maps app and select Saved from the menu on the bottom.

  2. Select Maps.

  3. Scroll past your labeled places and saved places to your maps. You'll see the name of your map here.

    Google My Maps app.

Google Maps Navigation and My Maps aren't the most integrated features, so you may need to edit your map. It depends on how intricate your map is and how you want to tailor the directions to your liking compared to where Google wants to take you.

Use Google Maps Navigation With Your Custom Map

When you open the map in the app, your route appears the way it looked when you built it on a computer, complete with your destination points. To use Google Maps' turn-by-turn navigation, tap the second destination point (skipping the first one assuming that you're starting there) and then select Directions to start your route.

My Maps directions on Android phone.

Here's where you might notice Google Maps navigation takes you off your route, and therefore you should add additional destination points where there are no planned stops.

If Google Maps navigation plots a slightly different route than the one you built on your custom app, edit the map by adding more destination points (even though you don't want to visit those places). This way, your route takes you exactly where you want it to take you.

Once you arrive at your first destination and are ready to leave after visiting, access your custom map, then tap the next destination to start turn-by-turn navigation. Do this for all subsequent destinations as you arrive at each one.

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