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12 ways Apple Maps can help you plan a better summer vacation

Apple Maps will provide turn-by-turn directions and highlight the best hotels, restaurants, and attractions.
Written by Lance Whitney, Contributor
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

My wife and I are planning a trip to the Adirondacks and Canada this summer. We'll stay at a few different spots along the way and look for cool things to do and see. I've turned to my trusty iPhone and the Apple Maps app to help plan the trip.

Also: Apple Maps vs. Google Maps: iPhone users are switching back, but which is better?

You can use the app to check out guides, reviews, and photos of cities and other areas to learn more about them. You can dig up ratings and reviews for hotels and restaurants. To map out your journey, you can view directions from your home to your ultimate destination and all the places you want to stop in between.

Here's how I use Apple Maps to plan a trip.

1. Search for your destination

You may want to start by learning more about your destination. Open Apple Maps on your iPhone or iPad. In the Search Maps field, type the name of the spot you plan to visit. In my case, I started typing Ontario because we want to go to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. From the list of suggestions, I selected Ontario.

Search for your destination
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

2. Research your destination through photos

Swipe down the screen to the About section to see a brief description of the city or place. A link may invite you to learn more through Wikipedia. Tapping any thumbnails at the top will display photos of the area, so you can see how it looks.

Research your destination through photos
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

3. Research your destination through guides

Depending on your destination, the app might also serve up guides with suggestions on things to do and see. Tap each of the guides to see what attractions and activities they recommend. Tap "Explore Guides" to see all the available guides.

Also: How to download maps on your iPhone to use them offline

If a particular guide interests you, tap the Save icon to save it to your My Guides section. To view it in the future, tap your profile icon on the main screen and select Guides. To share a guide with someone else, such as your fellow traveler, tap the Share icon and choose how and with whom you want to share it.

Research your destination through guides
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

4. Create a guide

Each guide typically lists several specific attractions that might interest you. You can store any attraction in your guide for quicker access. To do this, tap the plus icon in the upper-right corner of the attraction and save it to an existing guide or a new one.

If you plan to save several attractions and other sites, your best bet is to create a new guide. After tapping the plus sign for a specific site, select New Guide and give it a name. In my case, I started a new guide called Ontario Sites, to which I saved the attractions I wanted to visit.

Also: The best iPhone models you can buy right now (including the iPhone 15)

To view a specific site you've saved to a guide, tap your profile icon on the main screen, select Guides, and then tap the guide in which you saved it. You can also swipe down from the main screen to view all your guides.

Create a guide
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

5. Add more sites

Next, you can search for additional sites. We plan to visit a few general and specific locations, including Ontario, Niagara Falls, the Adirondacks, Lake George, and Blue Mountain Lake. If you're also planning a multi-stop trip, search for each location one at a time to view its details and guides, and then save the spots you want to visit.

Also: iOS 17: The most impactful new iPhone features are also the ones you'll notice the least

If you don't see any existing guides for a city or other spot, you can still save it to a guide. Tap the More icon at the top of the screen. Select "Add to Guides" to add the location to a new or existing guide. Tap "Add to Favorite" and you can access it by tapping your profile icon on the main screen and choosing Favorites.

Add more sites
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

6. Find other things to do and see

With Apple Maps, you can run specific searches to find things to do and see. For instance, I ran a search with the term "things to do" as in "Niagara Falls things to do." Depending on the location, the app should display local places with basic information, ratings, reviews, and more.

Find other things to do and see
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

7. Find hotels

One of the challenges when traveling is finding the right places to stay. You can use a variety of apps and services to search for hotels, but Apple Maps is handy here as well.

Also: My favorite AI chat apps for the iPhone

To find hotels in a specific area, type the name of the location followed by the word "hotels," as in "Niagara Falls hotels." The app will display a list of hotels with info, ratings, and reviews. From the resulting page, you can call the hotel, visit the website, and even book it through a service like Booking.com or Tripadvisor.

Find hotels
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

8. Find restaurants

You may also want to check out restaurants to discover where to eat. Type the name of your destination followed by the word restaurants as in "Lake George NY restaurants." The page for a specific restaurant will offer basic details, ratings, and reviews. You can also call the restaurant, visit its website, and check the menu.

Find restaurants
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

9. Map out your destination

At some point, you'll need to figure out how long it will take to get from your home to your destination so that you can map out your entire trip. Return to the main screen. In the search field, type the city or place you plan to visit. Tap the Car icon. If multiple suggestions pop up, tap Go for the directions you want to explore. You'll see the route and an estimate of how long it will take you to get there.

Map out your destination
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

10. Map out all your stops

Beyond mapping out your start and end points, you can get directions to different spots you plan to visit. In the Directions screen, tap "Add Stop." Type the name of another area you want to go to. Continue doing this with as many stops as you need. In my case, I added Niagara Falls in Ontario, Blue Mountain Lake, and Lake George.

Map out all your stops
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

11. Reorder your stops

To plan your overall trip, you can move the different stops along the route to vary the order in which you want to visit them. Move a specific stop up or down in the list by dragging and dropping its three-lined hamburger icon.

Also: How to clear the cache on your iPhone (and why you should)

The displayed map is helpful as you can see the routes to and from each spot. For example, my wife and I were unsure whether we wanted to visit the Adirondacks and then Ontario or vice versa. Visualizing the different routes on the map helped us decide. After moving the stops around, tap Go for one of the routes to see the directions and ETA for each location and the overall trip.

Reorder your stops
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

12. Download an area for offline directions

Finally, I always try to download an area where I plan to drive. Apple Maps needs a connection to obtain and display the turn-by-turn directions, but a connection may not be available if you're in a remote area. In that case, downloading an area lets you navigate when you're offline.

Also: Update your iPhone and turn on Stolen Device Protection ASAP

Tap the Download icon for a specific location. Drag or resize the selection window to grab the area you want to capture. When you're ready, tap the Download icon and directions will be available even if you're out and about in the boondocks.

Download an area for offline directions
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET
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