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Maps and lists: two of my favorite things.
I admittedly have a bit of a love affair with paper maps—I’ve been known to get lost in this section of the bookstore here and there—but like most people, I rely heavily on Google Maps while traveling. But it’s not just about navigation—there are two helpful tools built into Google Maps that are absolute gold for travel: Google Maps Lists and Google My Maps.
I’ve been trip planning with custom Google My Maps for years, but in the last year I’ve started to experiment with Google Lists. On an ever-present quest to find the most helpful tools for trip planning, I’ve been comparing Lists vs. My Maps in recent months.
So what are Google Maps Lists?
Google Lists allow you to create lists of saved places in Google Maps. These go far beyond your “labeled places” like Home and Work. Accessible on both desktop and mobile, Lists are a helpful way to save ideas, create itineraries, or remember your favorite locations from a trip.
I’ve recently been deep diving into all things Google Maps Lists—the help forums, how-tos, podcasts, support documents, and testing functionality myself so I could create a helpful guide for getting the most out of these saved places in Google Maps.
To give you an example of what this post will show you how to do, here’s one of the Lists I’ve created. Keep reading for all the Google Lists tips and tricks, including the recent addition of emojis!
Google Maps Lists Top Features
Big picture: Lists in Google Maps are a great way to remember all those places you want to remember in a way you’ll actually use while traveling. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Instagram folder or Pinterest board for preliminary research, but I need to actually remember what the name of that dumpling spot in Chinatown was while we’re strolling around Manhattan.
Lists come in very handy for planning a trip, flagging hometown recommendations from friends, or saving notes about the places you visited throughout your vacation.
Beyond that main benefit, here are a few more key features that Google Maps Lists has going for it.
Download for offline use
If you download a Google Map area for offline use, your Lists will also show up! This is very beneficial for anyone traveling in areas with spotty reception or internationally without data.
Create/Edit in Google Maps mobile app
This is one of the best features, in my opinion. I’d guess that most people are using Lists on mobile 99% of the time, so being able to create and edit the Lists in the Google Maps app is key.
You’d think this feature would be a given in any Google Maps tool, but unfortunately it’s not available in Google My Maps (check out my comparison between Google Lists and My Maps for all the details).
Creating Google Lists for yourself to remember things is one thing, but a lot of us want to share these with friends and family for trip planning. It’s really easy to do this via a sharing link, and you can choose whether to allow them to make edits if you want to collaborate. You can also share your lists publicly on your profile (great for Google Local Guides!).
Use locations for navigation
As you’re out and about exploring, you can pull your List up on Google Maps and click on an item, and jump straight into navigation from your location.
View the Google Listing for each item
As you scroll through your List, you can see reviews, photos, link, phone number, and hours easily for all the locations (unless you added a place based on coordinates and it doesn’t actually have a Google Listing).
Limitations of Google Lists
As awesome as these Lists of saved places are, they have a number of missing features. A few of these are features that are available in My Maps, and others are just problems unique to Lists.
Can’t rename places
If you add a place by coordinates or dropping a pin, the name will show “Dropped Pin” and it cannot be changed. I have found that you can rename it on desktop, but that change doesn’t show up on mobile.
Can’t search your List
If you have a large List of dozens of places, this one is incredibly frustrating, especially considering you also can’t easily sort your list (say, alphabetically). I’ve found somewhat of a workaround, but it’s not a solution. Head to the Tips and Tricks section for details.
Same icons for all places (UPDATE September 2023)
This seems like such a simple thing for Google to add that would save a lot of headache. Having customizable icons and colors in Google My Maps is hugely beneficial and makes maps with a lot of places much more usable.
Google Lists used to offer only one icon with one color for all your maps.
✨Very recently, Google added the ability to change the icon for an entire map to any emoji in their list.
This is a step in the right direction, but in my opinion, it’s not as great as it could be. You can’t change individual icons, so if you have a long Google List, you’re still left scrolling through tons of places or clicking around until you find the right one.
Additionally, you’re limited to emojis as opposed to the array of traditional map icons that are available in Google My Maps.
Another helpful feature found in Google My Maps that Google Lists is missing.
This means if you want the functionality of layers, you’ll need to create individual lists. This can soon get out of hand, even if you have a solid naming convention.
Can’t import a List from a spreadsheet
This is a more advanced feature of Google My Maps, and it may not have a ton of use cases. But if you do happen to have a list of 300 places in a spreadsheet, it’s going to be very painful to create a Google List from this.
Can’t add your own photos to the pin
Maybe you want to add a menu photo from a place you already visited. Or perhaps you have a guidebook entry you want to snap a photo of and save with a pinned location so you can remember a particular detail or tip. You can do this on Google My Maps on desktop, but Lists doesn’t let you add a photo, apart from actually adding a photo for that Google location listing (which will be public).
Users have reported syncing issues between desktop and mobile app, as well as sometimes randomly missing places.
How to Use Google Maps Lists
For all these instructions, first make sure you’re signed into the Google account you want to use, if you have more than one. You can also reference the Google support documentation here.
How to create a new List on mobile
- Open Google Maps and tap “Saved” at the bottom.
- In the section titled “Your Lists,” tap “New List.”
- Give your List a name, and a description if desired.
- Choose whether your list is Private, Shared, or Public.
- If desired, tap the face emoji at the top where it says “Choose Icon” and choose your desired emoji on the next screen.
- Tap “Save.”
Alternatively, you can create a new List directly when you choose to save a location. When you click to save the location to a List, you’ll see all your created Lists as well as an option for “New List” at the top. Tapping this will take you through the same screens mentioned above.
How to create a new List on desktop
- Go to Google Maps and click “Saved” on the left side of the screen.
- In the popup, give your List a name and click “Create.”
- Next you can add a description if desired, and start adding places. Note (at the bottom of the screen) that edits from this screen are autosaved.
Similar to mobile, you can also create a new map by simply searching for a place, clicking “Save,” and choosing “New List” from the dropdown.
➡️ As of now, you cannot change the default icon to an emoji from desktop. However, you can create your List and later edit it on mobile to include an emoji if desired.
How to change a Google List icon to an emoji
✨ For an existing List, you can now change the default teal icon to an emoji of your choosing.
This emoji will apply to the entire Google List, so it’s probably most helpful for Lists of similarly grouped locations like ☕ coffee shops or 🍕 pizza places, as opposed to a single List for an entire city. Also, as far as I can see, you can’t remove the emoji once you add it—you can only change it to a different emoji.
- Open Google Maps and tap “Saved” at the bottom.
- In the section titled “Your Lists,” find the List you want to update. (If you have many of them, you might need to click “More” at the bottom of the Lists.)
- Tap the face emoji to the left of your List.
- Tap the emoji at the top where it says “Choose Icon” and choose your desired emoji on the next screen.
- Tap “Save” on your List edit screen.
➡️ You can also add or edit the emoji when you’re actually viewing or adding places to a List—just look for that default face emoji.
How to add places and notes to a List
The process is pretty similar between the mobile app and desktop, so I’ll just be sharing instructions and screenshots from mobile. Feel free to let me know in the comments if you have any questions!
Search for places to add in one of two ways:
Do a general search, like “Brunch in West Hartford.” Scroll through the results and for any that you want to add, tap the small Save icon towards the right.
Or, search for a specific location name (or click it from the map area). With this listing, the save option is in a different location. Where you see the Directions icon, scroll to the right until you see “Save.”
As you add places to your List, you can also add notes. Of course, you can always go back into your List and add notes to places after they’ve been added.
Planning notes you may want to add:
- Tips from a blog (best time of day to go, best vantage point for sunset, where to park in the downtown area)
- Specific dish recommendations for a restaurant
- Special things going on certain days of the week (Sunday brunch, Friday night live music)
Or, if you have a List for places you actually visited (as a sort of trip log), you may want to add the date and some quick notes about the experience. (Note: if you have Location History turned on, Google will automatically flag the place as visited with the date in your Timeline. But adding notes is still useful if you want to remember any details!)
What if you want to add something that doesn’t have a Google Listing?
You can do this by simply tapping on any spot on a map (or, paste in the latitude and longitude coordinates to the Search field) and tapping Save.
CAVEAT: Unfortunately, this adds the place with the name showing “Dropped Pin” and it can’t be changed. Very, very annoying. I have found that the name can be changed on desktop, however, the updated name does not show in the app, so this is completely useless in my opinion.
If you have a lot of specific pins to add, I recommend checking out Google My Maps as it would be much better for this type of use. You can even do this automatically for places you’ve visited by importing a GPX file if you have any fitness apps tracking your location, or a KML file from Google Maps location history.
How to view a List in the mobile app
To see your List of saved places in Google Maps, tap the Saved icon at the bottom. Scroll down this screen if needed until you see “Your Lists.” Tap the List you want to view. (If you have many of them, you might need to click “More” at the bottom of the Lists.)
You can scroll through your List to see places, or you can tap on the teal pins or emojis in the map to see details.
When you first open a List, it takes up most of the screen, and you will see the map underneath with pins. To see more of the map, either tap “View Map” or drag the gray bar on the top middle down, and the List will then be small boxes at the bottom of your screen that you can scroll through from left to right. You can tap “View List” to see it in large format again.
To navigate to one of your saved places, either select the pin on the map or locate it in the List, and tap Directions.
How to hide a List
Sometimes when you have viewed a List in Google Maps, the pinned locations stay visible on your map even when you don’t have the actual List open.
To hide those icons or emojis, go back into your Saved tab, tap the three dots to the right of the List that’s showing, and choose “Hide on your map.”
How to share a List
There are three ways to share a list:
- View-only link
- Collaborator link that allows others to edit
- Publicly on your Google profile (or Google Local Guides profile, if you are one)*
To share via a link, tap the “Share” icon from within a List. Or, before you open a List, you can tap the three dots next to any List and choose “Share List.” Here you can choose who to share it with and the method (email, text, Facebook message, or just copy the link). You can also toggle on “Let others edit this list” if you want to collaborate.
To share a List publicly, choose “Publish” from an open List. Or, before you open a List, you can tap the three dots next to any List and choose “Sharing Options.” Next, choose “Public.”
*Note: In August, Google announced on Local Guides Connect (the forum for Local Guides) that in November 2023, all public lists will be converted to shared lists. They’ll no longer show up on your profile and won’t be discoverable, but they can be shared with any audience via a link. This probably only matters to you if you’re a Local Guide sharing public Lists, or if you follow Local Guides for their helpful Lists. If you’re just sharing Lists as a way to collaborate with family and friends, you won’t be impacted.
It’s easy to make changes if you decide you want to change the privacy of your List from the “Sharing Options.”
Google Maps List Examples
Here are a couple of examples of public maps I’ve created. Click on either to be taken to the List in Google Maps.
Google Lists FAQs, Tips, and Tricks
How to reorder your list (Android)
Unfortunately, you can’t simply sort your entire list alphabetically with one click. However, you can manually reorder the locations on Android devices by clicking “Edit” in your list, then toggle on “Customize list order.” Each item will then have two lines to the left of the place name that you can use to drag it elsewhere on the list. Make sure you hit “Save” at the top right when you’re done (for good measure, I always like to save as I go along so I don’t lose a lot of manual work).
Google’s support documentation doesn’t give directions for this feature on iPhones, so I don’t believe it’s available (working to confirm this so please give a shout in the comments if you have details).
How to plan a route based on saved places
Unfortunately, just like with Google My Maps, you can’t exactly plan a route of multiple stops easily from your List. However, I think the easiest workaround is just to use Google Maps as you normally would to get directions, choosing your starting point and adding up to 10 stops. You can do this on the Maps app or on desktop, and then send the directions to yourself.
Can you copy someone else’s list?
No, you can’t duplicate someone else’s List to create your own editable version. This differs from My Maps, where you can share the My Map as read only, and other users can make a copy to edit as they wish (similar to how Google Docs and Sheets work).
Shared Lists can’t be copied. They can only be followed/saved (where other users will see updates that the owner makes) or jointly edited (generally this would be with friends or family).
Can you search within a saved list?
In short, no.
One of the biggest complaints I’ve seen floating around is that you can’t search within a List of saved places. And the format of the List includes large photos and information from the Google Listing, so if you’re trying to scroll through 50 locations to find a specific one, it’s a pain. And as mentioned, you can’t sort these in alphabetical order, so that just adds to the mayhem.
As a (sort of) workaround, you can do a normal Google Maps search and you’ll see the Save icon highlighted for any places that are on your Lists (and which List it appears on). Not perfect, and there’s still scrolling involved.
Do you have any tips for Google Maps Lists to add? Feel free to drop questions, suggestions, workarounds, or anything else in the comments!