How to Save and Organise Your Favourite Spots All Over the World Using Google Maps
You already use Maps to navigate. Now use them to remind yourself of places you want to visit or places you liked the most.
From the age of 17, I started adding my favourite restaurants to my contacts app. As a food lover who is also pretty terrible at remembering names, I got tired of forgetting the names of great restaurants I had been to.
I even developed a naming convention to make it more easily searchable. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t the most practical, but it worked.
This all changed when I discovered custom lists on Google Maps. Custom lists are a nifty feature to organize information about places in Maps, and to be able to recall them using the lists that you create. I realised I could save and organise restaurants—or any other place I wanted to remember—by adding them to a custom list and then viewing them in Maps any time I was in the area.
Over the last 2 years, this little system has had an oversize positive impact in my life. I’ve been able to save all the great restaurants, awesome bars, parks, hotels, nature trails, and more I’ve been to (pretty much anything with a physical location) and have it organised on my Maps, where I can easily find them again. I can also save new places I want to visit the next time, so I can be reminded of it the next time I’m in the area by simply looking at the map.
It’s a great system if you live in a big-ish city, or if you enjoy travel and want a straightforward, visual way to organise the places you want to visit before and during your trip. It might even be a useful reference if you want to look back to these places months or even years later.
Using Google Maps to organise your favourite places has some distinct benefits:
- Having all your favourite places saved, organised, and synchronized in all your devices — using what is already your main navigation app — is super convenient.
- You get instant access to really useful, up-to-date info like opening times, pictures, reviews, and all the other goodies that Google Maps offers.
- With a few taps, you can find your favourite places nearby or get directions. It even works abroad if you download the offline map!
- Sharing a place, or a whole list with your friends and family is a breeze.
Getting Started with Lists: Saving Locations
Lists are a way to save and organize any location, anywhere in the world, using any criteria you like. This includes identified restaurants, bars, monuments, and museums, but also simple street addresses and even (by long-pressing on the screen) nameless spots by saving the coordinates.
Locations you save on your lists will show up on Maps with a little marker so you can easily find them again. Here’s what they look like:
Notice the three built-in lists with their own icons: Favourites, Starred Places, and Want to go. I’ll say more about how I use those below.
How to save places to a list:
Once you know how, it’s super easy to save any location to your lists. Here’s how to do so on the app and on the desktop:
Organizing Your Lists
When you save a location to a custom list, it will appear on your Maps view with a blue marker.
When you are exploring a place, either in person or virtually on maps, you can load up your list and see any saved locations in that area instantly.
I find this incredibly useful, especially by naming my lists by context.
For example, when I find myself in a cosy cafe, I simply save it on my FAV Coffee & Chill list. A great escape room in Manchester goes into FAV Activities, and a remote mountain viewpoint gets saved into FAV Places to See.
Use a Good Naming Convention
I write FAV (short for Favourites) at the beginning of every list where I save awesome places that I’ve already been and I want to remember.
Pretty much every FAV list has a partner list, WTG (short for ‘want to go’). That’s where I save places that I’ve heard of, have been recommended, or have seen on the internet and might want to go someday.
This separation allows me to easily keep track of both the places I’ve been to and the places I would like to go.
So for my list FAV Bars, there is a list called WTG Bars, where I save bars in my city and all over the world that I’ve heard of and will want to go someday.
I’m currently using about 28 different lists on Maps. This might sound like a lot, but as I explained before, most are set up in pairs — FAV and WTG — so there is actually just 14 different easy-to-remember categories—and only 10 if you don’t count the ones that are just food related.
Although I use a lot of lists, I recommend that you start with as few as possible This makes it easier to save, organise, and later find your places efficiently. And don’t bother separating lists by geography—for example, I don’t make distinctions between home and abroad places. A good museum goes into FAV Museums no matter where it is.
Here is a list of my lists in case you want inspiration:
- Coffee & Chill — FAV & WTG. Places where I can find my favourite coffee shops, usually laptop friendly, all over the world.
- Bars — FAV & WTG. So I always know where to go when I want to get a drink.
- Shops — FAV & WTG. Pretty self-explanatory but here is a little tip — I tend not to save retail chain stores that are easily remembered like Zara, H&M or Apple. I save cool unique shops that I might otherwise forget, like design, stationary or bookstores.
- Museums & Stuff — FAV & WTG. For all those nice museums and cultural activities that I should be going to.
- Activities — FAV & WTG. From visiting the Duomo cathedral in Milan to Ziplining across an abandoned mine in Wales. Here is where I save things that would take a couple of hours, and usually cost money, but are not as “cultural” as museums.
- Music Venues — FAV & WTG. For spots with great music and clubs.
- Places to See — FAV & WTG. For awesome places that are definitely worth going back to — like the Graffiti tunnel in London or the Roman aqueduct in Segovia.
- Places to Chill — FAV & WTG. These are particularly peaceful spots in parks, plazas or forests.
- Places to Stay — FAV. Hotels, Airbnbs, and sofas where I’ve felt at home.
- Nature — FAV. Here I save trails in nature, but also particular spots in cities that allow me to disconnect from the hustle and bustle.
- Someday — WTG. Here I save awesome places around the world: places where I might never go, but I like to keep just in case. These include an abandoned shipwreck in Iceland, red lakes in Tanzania and a temple in Japan where the head monk plays techno.
With food, I go into a deeper organisation
This is totally optional, but as a food lover, I felt the need to further subdivide my favourite spots:
- Sort by price. Price is the main way I organise places to eat. FAV Food € (for cheap eats), FAV Food €€ (reasonably priced), FAV Food €€€ (expensive, but worth it on special occasions) & FAV Food €€€€ (I’ve only been to 1 of this list. Terribly expensive, can’t afford them, but I like to save them just in case).
- Special categories. These are for places that offer something a bit different: Food–Specialty — FAV & WTG (for things like ice cream & churros), FAV Food–Aperitivo (for places serving small portions and tapas), and FAV Food–Lunch Menu (for great lunch deals).
Details on creating custom lists
Whenever you save a location, you’ll see an option to save it to a new list. That’s how you create your lists. Here’s how to do it:
You can also share your list and edit list details. Here’s how to get to those details:
Use Google’s default lists for added functionality
One of the problems with custom lists is that they all get the same blue colour marker.
This is where Google’s default lists come in handy. Here is how I use them to highlight specific places:
- Favourites. I tend to use a heart to highlight the houses or cities of residence of my closest friends and family. This allows me to quickly get an overview of where they are, anywhere in the world. Every time I see the heart over Dhaka, I think of my aunt who lives there and of how cool it would be to visit her there one day.
- Want to go. I use this green marker, as the name suggests, to easily pinpoint places I really want to go as soon as I can.
- Starred places. I use the star to mark temporary places I’ll need to go soon and I want to find quickly. For example, when I’m meeting a friend at a cafe I don’t know, I tend to mark it with a star, this allows me to quickly find it on the map when I need to. Once I’m done with whatever I needed to do at the location, I remove the star and add it to one of my lists if appropriate. My tip: for the star to become a powerful tool in this way, it needs to be used sparingly so that you can easily find it.
Use labels to customize place names
Labels are another neat feature on Google Maps. Labels allow you to easily find a location just by searching for the label name.
On my recent trip to Copenhagen, we rented a houseboat on Airbnb. At the beginning of the trip, I labeled the boat’s location “Airbnb Copenhagen”, so when I wanted to find my way back I could just type “Airbnb Copenhagen” on Maps to get directions. This beats typing the Danish address or finding it on the map every time.
I also use labels on friend’s houses, so I can search for “Marco House London” instead of having to find it on the map.
Although you can add labels to saved places, you can also label places without specifically saving them to any list.
- Use custom lists to save locations all over the world.
- Separate your favourite places from places where you want to go by using the prefixes FAV & WTG.
- Use the colourful default Google Maps markers for added functionality.
- Make use of labels to quickly find important locations.
If you follow these steps, you will end up with an easy and convenient way to save your favourite locations in a way that will make it easy to find exactly what you are looking for—exactly when you need that information the most.
The main takeaway of this article is the power of custom lists. I’ve shown you how I use it but feel free to shape it to your needs. Don’t be afraid to try out new things and iterate. Try out new things and see how they work.
My experience as a Digital Product Designer has helped me make use of the awesome tools that Google has made available to create this system. But I also have a few ideas of how Maps could make this functionality more accessible and powerful. I’ll write about that in the future.
I hope this inspires you to create your own lists and start saving your favourite places all over the world.
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or suggestions.