How to use Google Maps to plan alternative routes

what to know

  • Your own route: Click along the blue line and drag the point anywhere. Keep doing this to chart new routes.
  • Google Alternate Routes: Select Alternate Gray Routes . It will turn blue to indicate it is the new preferred route.
  • Multiple destinations: Add a destination > Press + Add Destination below it to add another > Repeat.

This article explains how to use Google Maps to plan an alternative route to the default route that Google Maps automatically provides. These instructions apply to both desktop and mobile versions of Google Maps.

The first method involves creating your own route:

  1. Once you've entered your location and Google gives you directions, click anywhere on the blue path to set the point.

  2. Drag the point to a new location to change the route. When you do this, other suggested alternative routes disappear from the map and driving directions change.

    As you adjust your route, the estimated travel time and distance will change, which can be helpful if you're trying to stay within a specific time frame. As you develop alternative routes, monitor these changes and adjust your plans accordingly.

    Google Maps automatically "pastes" new routes on the road for you, so you don't have to worry about it taking you through forests or neighborhoods that are inaccessible by car. The path it provides is a legal way to reach your destination.

  3. Once the alternate route is completed, it locks.

If you'd like to use one of Google's suggested routes, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the gray alternate route. Google Maps changes the highlight color to blue to indicate that it is now the new preferred route without removing other possible routes.

    You may also see alternate routes in light blue.

  2. Edit the newly highlighted route by hovering over the path and dragging the path to a new location. When you make changes, the other routes disappear and your driving direction changes to reflect the new route.

    This is a powerful tool for adjusting your Google Maps route, but it's easy to overdo it. If you find that your route has changed too much or the path isn't what you expected, use the back arrow in your browser to undo the damage or restart with a new Google Maps page.

When Google collects suggested routes, it determines the fastest time to reach your destination and then uses machine learning to calculate which route is most likely to experience "hard braking" moments, a leading indicator of a collision. If the estimated arrival time is the same as other routes or differs only slightly, Google will automatically recommend routes with fewer hard braking moments.

Another way to plan alternate routes on Google Maps is to add multiple destinations to a suggested route.

  1. Enter your destination and starting point.

  2. Click or tap the + Add Destination button below the destination you entered to open a third field where you can enter additional destinations or click on the map to enter a new destination.

  3. Repeat this process to add additional destinations.

To change the order of stops, hover over the destination points to the left of the destination name, then click and hold on one of them to drag it up or down in the list.

The routes provided by Google Maps can be fine-tuned using the option buttons in the routes panel. Use it to avoid highways, toll booths and ferries.

Depending on the route you choose, you may experience traffic jams or delays, in which case you may choose an alternative route to reach your destination faster.

If you are using the mobile app, turn on live traffic from Layers > Traffic . You can also change the route options to show transit or cycling options.

Selecting an alternate route on a mobile device works the same way as on a computer, except that instead of clicking on an alternate route, you tap on it to highlight it.

However, you can't click and drag a route to edit it on a mobile device. If you need to add a destination, click the menu button (triple line) in the upper right corner of the screen and select Add Stop . Arrange the route order by dragging stops up or down the list.

You can send customized Google Maps directions to your smartphone. This method makes travel planning easier because you can use the complete tools available on your computer and then send them to your mobile device when you need to use them.

  • On a mobile device, find and select your desired destination > tap on the name > More (three-dot icon) > Download offline map > Download . Downloaded maps will be saved in the offline maps section of the app.

  • On your computer, after selecting a route, select Details > Print , then select Print with map or Print text only , and then select Print to start printing. You can also use AirPrint to print directions from your iPhone.

  • You can ask Google Maps to give you directions, but you must first turn on voice navigation. Unlike voice navigation, which gives you directions, voice navigation can also give you distance estimates and adjust your route if you take a wrong turn.