I took a road trip to Wales in a motorhome the other week. It was my first time in a campervan and, as I always do when travelling, I used Google maps as my sat nav. I’ve tried others but Google maps just seems to do the job and, whether it’s a staycation or the daily commute, its real time traffic information can also be a godsend to avoid the queues.
What I hadn’t realised as I started my holiday is that my network provider O2 doesn’t have great coverage in Wales. In fact, if I appeared to be anywhere above sea level – which accounts for most of the country – I had no signal and no internet.
The problem is that Google Maps, by default, simply cannot navigate when you’re offline. If it doesn’t have access, it just can’t help.
So what did you do?
Thankfully, my wife could get a signal with Three on her iPhone, so I used Apple Maps instead. Once I hit sea level and regained the internet however, I downloaded the whole of Wales through the offline map feature within Google maps. I could then navigate without a problem and enjoy the rest of the holiday.
The moral of my story? If you use Google maps and travel to places where you may lose your mobile internet, consider downloading an offline map of the area before you set off.
Okay, so how do I get offline maps in Google maps?
First, open the Google Maps app on your mobile phone, and then tap on your Google account icon to the right of the Search bar.
(If you don’t have a Google account, you can create one here.)
Next, from the menu that appears, select Offline maps.
Now tap on SELECT YOUR OWN MAP.
Using your finger to scroll around the map and two fingers to pinch and zoom, select the region you need to navigate if offline. While choosing your area, the app will continue to update you on how much space you’ll need for the download. While most modern phones have plenty of storage, please be aware of this when selecting your offline map.
Once you’re happy with your selection, tap the Download button.
If you’re using mobile internet rather than Wi-Fi, the app will also warn you that data charges may apply. Most data contracts are generous these days, but still take note, especially if you’re downloading a large map.
Google maps will now download your offline map. Once it completes, tap the back arrow in the top left of your screen and you’re ready to go.
(Please be aware that while offline maps allow you to navigate while you’ve no internet, other useful features such as real-time traffic information may not be available.)
Don’t get caught out like I did. If you’re travelling up hill or down dale using Google maps as your sat nav, consider downloading an offline map of the area first – just in case there’s no internet to navigate with.