Google Maps just got some big travel upgrades – including much-improved lists

Google Maps on a phone being held in someone's hand
Look out for lists of trending places appearing in Google Maps (Image credit: Google)

Google has announced a number of interesting new features for Google Maps and Google Search, all designed to help you on your travels – and the custom lists feature in Google Maps is getting most of the attention in terms of upgrades.

It feels like the lists feature in Google Maps isn't as well known as it should be, so perhaps the new options will help. Google says it's now making it easier to discover lists that users have created in "select cities" in the US and Canada. These lists will appear when you swipe up on the info card for a city (below).

There are three crowdsourced lists, for places that are trending, places that have been given the best reviews, and "gems" that have gone "under the radar" (though they probably won't stay that way for long, if they're featured on Google Maps). Curated lists from sources like Lonely Planet and the New York Times will also be shown.

Meanwhile, more customization options are appearing when you make your own lists in Google Maps on Android and iOS. Places can be reordered in lists for the first time, and links to related posts on your social media channels can be added, too. These shareable lists can be handy for planning trips, logging your favorite spots, and more.

With added AI

Google Search AI showing ideas for a trip

AI will help you plan a trip in Google Search (Image credit: Google)

Also of note, Google Maps on mobile is getting a fresh new look: Google says the home screen will be cleaner and less cluttered in the future, with fewer tabs – the current tabs are Explore, Go, Saved, Contribute, and Updates. New pin colors are also being introduced, though we haven't seen what the new design looks like yet.

A software update wouldn't be a software update in 2024 without some kind of AI, and Google also says it's leveraging artificial intelligence to create smart summaries of places in Google Maps, covering both reviews and photos added by users. AI will also be used to add information about photos of food – such as exactly what the dish is.

In addition, the generative AI options now available in Google Search are becoming more useful for planning trips. If you've opted in to the Search Generative Experience (SGE) on Google, you can plug in your request – "plan me a 3 day trip to Philadelphia that's all about history" is Google's example – and get a wealth of advice back in return.

That advice covers places to go and options for flights and hotels, all picked out from the web by AI. For now it's available in English in the US, and Google has included a reminder that this is still an experimental feature for now.

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David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.