5 Ways to Use Google Maps When RVing

Tennessee sunrise through the windshield of a truck

Google Maps is our go to mapping tool when RVing.

It’s more than just our navigation helper for getting from point A to point B.

Though we definitely use it for that, we also use the tool for much more.

We use Google Maps like a travel concierge.

Beyond navigation, the app can give us insider tips, help us remember things, and act a virtual set of eyes on our routes and destinations.

Some upfront notes on our navigation systems-

While traveling we pair Google Maps along with Waze for a second opinion on traffic and roadway alerts.

We also highly suggest adding an RV GPS to your navigation toolbox if you’re an avid traveler.

Our choice is the Garmin RV 795.

Here are 5 things that we use Google Maps for beyond driving directions.

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1) MeasurE the Size of Your Campsite

Did you know that you can take virtual measurements using Google Maps?

Our RV set-up measures over 75 feet long when hooked up.

We don’t mess around when it comes to campsite sizes.

We know that we need end-to-end clearance, room for slides, and space to unload the motorcycle and golf cart from the toy hauler garage.

Using the ‘Measure Distance’ option

To best use this tip, begin by measuring your RV and tow vehicle (and any rear hitch add-ons).

Have your specs handy, head over to Google Maps and pull up your destination.

Using the satellite view of the campsite, right click and select ‘Measure Distance’ to drop pins at each end of the site.

(If you’re on a mobile device, hold your finger on a spot to drop a pin, then use the ‘Measure Distance’ option to place your second pin.)

The adjustable overlay bar will show you an accurate aerial measurement of the site.

We use the Measure Distance feature each and every time we book a site – it’s a game changer.

(Don’t forget to give this a try at home too, it’s a quick and easy way to measure your own property for parking, etc.)

2) Find Unique Roadside Attractions

No, we’re not talking about the main attractions.

Google Maps can help you find the most random oddities, photo ops, and historical markers that the world has to offer.

When you’re traveling across long stretches of interstate highway (especially in the middle of the US) it can seem like there aren’t many things to look at.

However, if you pull up Google Maps (with or without your route entered), you can easily take a look at local places of interest.

Just search the keywords ‘Attractions’ in the search box.

A few of the unplanned things that we’ve discovered on our routes include:

This little feature is awesome for finding the less known attractions – but don’t take for granted that you may even be passing major points of interest and not be aware of it!

We got to enjoy the site of Custer’s Last Stand in Wyoming as well as the Dignity Statue in South Dakota as nice rest stops along our existing route thanks to searching for attractions on our route on Google Maps.

Whether you’re heading cross country on a multi-day road trip or just taking the kids to a local spot, give this tip a try.

Stay curious, even in your own backyard.

These little landmarks form the fabric of America and can go a long way to break up the monotony of staring at the windshield or playing the license plate game.

3) Prevent Getting Lost in Remote Areas

One great part of RVing is the ability to get off the beaten path.

Interstates and highways help us get from home to our destination efficiently, but backroads usually lead to the best destinations.

Backroads lead to remote areas.

Remote areas can lead to… bad cell service.

If you’re unsure of reception on the way to your destination, make sure you use Google Maps to download an offline map of the area ahead of time.

Offline maps allow you the ability to see your route, without relying on your phone’s signal.

These can save a lot of frustration and time for RVers that need to navigate through unfamiliar territory.

To download an offline map, search for the area you want to download and select the option to Download Offline Map.

To view your previously downloaded maps, click on your profile within Google Maps and find the Offline link.

We use this feature while traveling in the RV, and also when we head out on the motorcycle.

It only took one South Dakota hail storm in the middle of nowhere on our Harley to teach us that being lost without the help of Google Maps isn’t fun.

Don’t forget to ALWAYS carry a physical road atlas when you head out in your RV.

While offline maps are amazing, there is no replacement for a physical map in the event of a dead phone battery or uncertainty about the route your digital tool suggests.

We never leave home without one.

Road Atlas: https://amzn.to/43aqdQ6

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4) Find the Best Food

I’m hoping you already use this tip, but we can’t leave it off of this list.

Google Maps is a great way to find (or avoid!) local restaurants.

When we’re out over the road, we rely heavily on this tool to ensure we’re eating good no matter where we park our rig.

One of our top tips for big rig RVers is to use the RV Parky app to find free overnight parking on long trips.

The first thing we do after nailing down our RV parking spot is to find the best nearby food.

There are some serious gems out there that live off the radar when you do basic searches for restaurants.

To use Google Maps to find the best local spots make sure you search for keywords (Steak, Tacos, Pancakes, Coffee, Stromboli) not just ‘Food’ or ‘Restaurants’ near me.

This will return a list of places with that highlight that menu item or contain reviews for that specific food.

The reviews are your best friend, especially in our post-pandemic world.

When reading the reviews, make sure you search for the ‘Newest’ comments.

Last, but definitely not least, scroll through the ‘food/drink’ section of photos.

Shout out to a few of the amazing spots we’ve found throughout the country using this method and can’t wait to revisit someday:

5) Take a Sneak Peek at your Route

We’ve saved one of the most important tips for last.

Never leave home without knowing your route – especially those last few miles between the interstate and your destination.

Most Google Map routes default to passenger car directions and routes.

You have options to avoid tolls, ferries, and highways – but as RVers we know that weight, height, length, and width are the things we’re concerned about.

Jump over to Google Maps and switch to Satellite view for a general lay of the land.

Then open up Street View and take a virtual drive around any areas in question.

You can put your eyes on street signs, bridges, underpasses, and road conditions in this view.

For extra insurance, pair this tip with your physical road atlas and a YouTube search of the destination.

A picture is worth 1000 words – but an interactive picture is worth the peace of mind that you’ll make it to your destination safely.

Google Maps is a quick and easy tool to help you out when planning RV trips.

It’s one of many tools in the navigation toolbox for new and seasoned RV owners.

If you’ve got any additional tips, we’d love to hear them and learn from you and your experiences!

Safe travels and enjoy the ride!


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