Using Google's My Maps to Plan Your Family Road Trip

Are you loading up the Wagon Queen Family Truckster this summer?

I'm admittedly a Rand McNally Road Atlas sorta guy. But as a data-driven police detective, I'm no stranger to tech & GIS. Here's a solid hack at planning your next road trip:

1. Start in Google's free My Maps -- which is NOT the same as Google Maps! Yes, you'll need a free Google account. You'll likely toggle different "base map" options as you add your data; don't sweat this up front.

2. Think in terms of map "layers." For us, we're using:

          🌲 National Parks (must see)

          🌲 National Parks (would like to see)

           🔵 Lodging/Hotels [options & reservations] 

           💜 Other stops/waypoints/attractions

These layers group up similar types of points on a map & can be selected or de-selected to show on the screen. This helps find you plotted points & streamlines any editing. Consider separating "must see" from "would like to see" attractions by using different layers for these categories. Adding & deleting points within the layers is effortless. 

3. Start plotting those locations under the appropriate layer. Choose icons & colors for each layer that distinguish them. 

4. You can (roughly) connect the points on the map by way of "Add Directions" feature. (I say "roughly" because the above mapped route diverts me around large National Parks, when I'll actually be driving through them! I also had to trick the system to get me on a ferry in Seattle.) 

Do NOT do a single driving layer; try for daily driving layers instead. Of everything here, you'll likely have to experiment with this the most, until you have reasonable daily driving distances.

The driving directions can help you not only connect your lodging, hotels, or campsites... but it can help you figure out where to look for those points along natural driving routes.


This is only a broad overview. The concept is what's important here. Layers! Layers! Layers! 

There are plenty of online resources that you can use to help plan these sorts of road trips. I was first introduced to My Maps to plot crime data, by importing spreadsheets into layers. (It's still something we use for select intelligence projects.)

Lastly, don't forget to seize the opportunity to teach your kids how to read a real road atlas either... we cannot allow our generation to sit back as these critical skills die off... 

What have you found to help you plan these sorts of trips? Please share! 


Lou Hayes, Jr. is a detective supervisor in a suburban Chicago police department. He's focused on multi-jurisdictional crime patterns & intelligence, through organic working groups compromised of investigators & analysts from a variety of agencies. With a passion for training, he studies human performance, decision-making, creativity, emotional intelligence, & adaptability. In 2021, he went back to college (remotely!), in hopes to finally finish his undergrad degree from the University of Illinois - Gies College of Business. Follow Lou on LinkedIn, & also the LinkedIn page for The Illinois Model***


Popular posts from this blog

Presentation Hack: Your Last Slide(s)

Presentation Hack: "For those of you who don't know me..."

The Generalist versus The Specialist