To compile all of the good suggestions I was finding and share with our travel group, I created acustom Google Map for Amsterdam. Many people use Google Maps to get driving, walking, biking, or public transit directions. But creating custom maps is one of my favorite Google Maps features and it’s incredibly easy!
In the past I’d start a spreadsheet or a list of all of the suggestions I was gathering. But I’ve found that even when you narrow down your list, you still have a big task coordinating how to get from place to place, estimating how long it will take, and piecing together a rough itinerary that doesn’t have you unnecessarily criss-crossing an unfamiliar city. Creating a custom Google map helps you organize your trip visually by neighborhood and ultimately saves you time and allows you to be more spontaneous (ex: you know dinner is close by so you can take an extra hour to browse a cool store you walked by).
Here’s whatmy custom Google map of Amsterdam looked like:
With custom Google Maps you can:
- add places (so you can remember where that classic Dutch pancake place was that someone recommended)
- block off neighborhoods that you want to explore or that you want to stay in
- color code and add icons to your heart’s content!
- visually group things together. Can we walk back to our hotel from this bar? Is that amazing bakery on the way to the museum?
- share the map with your fellow travelers and collaborate together. Everyone can add recommendations they get and then reference the map later. You can also share the map afterwards to track your favorite places and then send the link to other friends who will be visiting that city.
While custom Google Maps aren’t the perfect interface yet*, it’s been an easy and useful trip organizing tool!
Want to learn more about creating a customized Google Map?
- read more about Custom Maps in theGoogle Help Center
- watch Google’sstep-by-step video for creating a custom map
And in case you’re planning a trip to Amsterdam in the future,here’s my Amsterdam map and here are our highlights!
- Dinner atHotel de Goudfazant– modern Dutch food in a converted garage right on the water – loved it.
- Sitting outside atCafé Thijssen drinkingBrouwerij ’t IJ Zatte beer (recommendation from our waitress at Hotel de Goudfazant – thanks, Martha!).
- Touring theAnne Frank House – nicely done. There was a line to get in but it went quickly in the morning.
- Eating Dutch pancakes atThe Pancake Bakery – banana and nutella was a winner.
- Exploring theJordaan neighborhood – large open market, beautiful streets, and a nice way to enjoy the summer weather.
- Dinner at Samo Sebo for Indonesian food
And some lagniappe…
To start gathering ideas, I’ll usually check:
- The New York Time’s “36 Hours” articles – gives a good impression of particular neighborhoods
- Yelp! – when traveling in the US, not as much European info
- for Europe, my trustyMTV Guide to Europe that I’ve had since backpacking after college. Don’t judge, it has never led me astray! It’s actually published by Frommer’s but targeted to a 20s / 30s crowd. It still has nice restaurants and hotels but will also point you to the cleanest hostel and the cheapest beer.
*There are some limitations. You have to be in “Edit” to change the icons, you can’t immediately play with this when you add a location (not intuitive). And you can’t access your map from within the Google Maps app on your phone (seems crazy! I hope this feature is coming soon). If you want to access it on your phone, you can go through the browser. But in real life, I mainly use this to roughly plan our itinerary and then see where the day takes us.
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