Have you ever played around with Google Maps for sightseeing - or for anything else?
It's not difficult - in fact it's easier than a lot of things you do on the web, like uploading your photos or video.
Many of us are familiar with Google maps and directions - how to get around the city or the country.
There are many other ways to use Google world maps - some you may know - and others you may not have even thought of.
To start using maps by Google, you'll first have to sign in into your Google account (or create one if you don't have one). Once you're signed in, the fun begins!
Here are just a few of the things you can do with Google travel maps - and I'm certain there are many more.
1. Discover plenty of things about your destination.
A great way to use Google maps for sightseeing or travel is to explore your destination before you go. Just click the link called Search Maps inside Google maps and start exploring. They make it easy for you - just enter your destination and look around. Once you've chosen a destination, try the 'Explore this area' link on the left for great photos and videos and links about where you're going.
2. Google maps for sightseeing: map where you're going.
Once inside Google maps, click on My Maps and then on Create New Map. You can create a map that shows all your friends where you'll be going. This one is easy: you can either make your map public and share it with everyone or just give the URL to a select few (you'll see a little envelope icon at the top - it means you can email your map). Once you've designed your map, you can add a placemark to each place you plan to visit, or even add a short description of where you're going. This is an easy and fun way of letting your family and friends know where you're headed.
3. Add some pictures.
If you've ever uploaded photographs to Facebook or other social networking sites, this is no harder. Under My Maps you'll find an 'Edit' button. Click it, then click on the placemark you want to edit. Click on Rich Text mode, and just upload your pictures. It's hard to describe in writing and I'm making it seem harder than it is. Just to go to My Maps and you'll see what I mean.
4. Add your videos too.
You can view or add videos of where you're going - it's no harder than adding photos but you may wish to hold off on this one until you get used to uploading pictures. If you want to give it a try, just embed (copy and paste) the URL in your placemark. It's the same as for photos, except you click on Edit HTML rather than on Rich Text. How's that for sharing your journey instantaneously with people?
5. Map where you've been.
This is just the opposite of mapping your itinerary. Once you've been somewhere, you can rewrite the description with your own observations and impressions. If you don't want to blog - I certainly don't like spending all my time in Internet cafes writing - this is a great alternative. Everyone back home will be able to follow your travels, both in words and pictures. And so few words!
6. Check the weather.
Can't choose between Fiji or Maui? Cape Town or Copenhagen? A quick check of the weather could help prevent you from heading off into a tropical storm or sub-zero temperatures. Just look at the left-hand pane and click on the Weather Channel.
7. Lose (weight) while you walk.
Google maps for sightseeing - but not only! There are plenty of add-ons and a fun one is a pedometer and calorie counter. This isn't necessarily information we all want to know but for those who do...
8. Game time!
If you carry a GPS and you're hooked on games (I have to admit I am) this is the ultimate fun! It's called Geocaching and it's a treasure hunt - 'cacher' means to hide in French. People hide things or markers and post the GPS coordinates on the Geocaching website. You can search for a destination near you on Google Maps, and go hunt for the marker (you can even share your experiences in their online log). Not for the beginner!
Still too complicated? Google Maps: sightseeing via virtual tour! If you'd rather read than watch your instructions, have a look at the Google Maps introductory video below:
If nothing here tempts you, try the additional content Google Maps provides. You're bound to find something that enhances your trip!
And I know some of these ideas might be a bit technical - they were for me too. I've tried using the Google Maps Help Center, blogs about Google Maps, or the Google Maps section of the Google Community Forum. All of these helped!