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Travel Tuesday Tip: Use this Google Maps trick to save money on international trips

June 30, 2020
6 min read
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When traveling abroad, your smartphone is sometimes your most dependable guide. Google Maps on the iPhone 11 Pro is my go-to tool to navigate anywhere I need to go. From the picturesque plazas of Madrid to the sprawling temple corridors of Angkor Wat and everywhere in between, my trips wouldn't quite look the same without Google Maps in hand.

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Did you know that you can save your maps offline and thereby conserve the data that you'd otherwise be using? I often employ this trick on my travels, and like me, you can save a pretty penny — and savor some memories — while out exploring the world. Here's how to do it.

My international data habits

You have an array of options when it comes to data abroad. From a local SIM card to a US carrier's pay-per-day plan to Google Fi, there's no shortage of options.

Personally, I either go one of two routes. On longer trips, I'll buy an affordable local SIM card with a gigabyte or two of data. When my international travels are relatively short in duration, I'll go with Verizon’s TravelPass which allows you to take your domestic talk, text and data allowances with you. You’re only charged on the days you use your device abroad, usually $10 per day.

Related reading: Why I swear by T-Mobile for my international phone and data plan

However, I still like to conserve data whenever I possibly can, especially on days when I don't need to be working. Instead of purchasing a local SIM with a huge amount of data or pay for Verizon TravelPass every single day, I'll employ tactics to use my phone in offline mode. That not only saves me money, but it also forces me to stay present wherever I am. One thing that I love about travel is the ability to disconnect and a phone that functions purely as a map forces you to do just that.

When you encounter an area without any cell service, this makes offline maps even more useful. My travels sometimes take me to far-flung locales with impressive mapping capabilities but less-than-stellar phone reception.

Related reading: Best travel apps

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How to save Google Maps offline

Saving Google Maps offline is a very intuitive process. First, from the "Explore" tab, type in a location that you want to save offline. In this case, I typed in Siem Reap in Cambodia. Here you'll find many Google Maps features including the ability to save the attraction, label it, share it, and yes, download it.

Photo courtesy of Google
Screen cap from Google

Once you click on download, a box will appear that allows you to customize the exact geographic area to save offline. Once you hit download, Google will work its magic, and you'll soon have a map to use — sans data or WiFi.

Photo courtesy of Google

After its downloaded, use the Google Maps app just like you normally would. If your internet connection is slow or absent, Google Maps will simply use your offline maps to help direct you.

Related reading: It’s now easier than ever to order takeout and delivery with Google Maps shortcuts

Bottom line

I thought back on my past travels where data served me no purpose. For instance, on a day spent hiking through a Sri Lankan village, I didn't need to use my phone — but it was reassuring to know that I had a map on hand in case I needed it.

I saved a few bucks by avoiding all data services, but beyond that, I also stayed fully present to the people and environment around me. By saving Google Maps offline, you too can avoid unnecessary data expenses and savor your trip just a little bit more.

Featured image by meiwphotographer / Shutterstock

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