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Route Optimization

Route Planning on Google Maps: 5 Reasons to Avoid It [+Use Cases]

See how to plan a route with multiple stops on Google Maps (step by step) and why avoid it when planning delivery routes + Use Cases and more.


This is a guide to route planning on Google Maps.

In this in-depth guide you’ll learn:

  • How to plan routes on Google Maps?
  • How to plan delivery routes with multiple stops?
  • Is it possible to optimize routes using Google’s platform?
  • The benefits and pitfalls of using it to plan delivery routes.
  • What to do when your business outgrows Google Maps?

So if you’re looking to take full advantage of this free route planning tool, this guide is for you.

Let’s get started.

Contents
  1. Using Google Maps to Plan Routes
  2. Can You Optimize a Route on Google Maps?
  3. Planning Routes with Google Maps: 5 Reasons Why It Doesn’t Work
  4. Why Map a Route on Google Maps?
  5. Google Maps Route Planner: Pros and Cons
  6. Route Planning on Google Maps: Does it work?

Using Google Maps to Plan Routes

You may already know what Google Maps is.

But here’s a little refresher:

Google Maps is a free web mapping app by Google. From 2005, it has become the world’s #1 platform for travel that offers satellite imagery, aerial photography, street maps, 360° interactive panoramic street views, real-time traffic conditions, and route planning for traveling by foot, car, bike, air and public transport.

So, Google Maps offers route planning for free.

But does that mean you can use it to plan delivery routes?

Get started with automated route planning

In this part, we explore the answer to this question.

And show you how to do it.

How to Plan a Route on Google Maps?

This is pretty straightforward:

To plan a route on Google Maps, click this link.

Once on Google Maps, you’ll see the map of your current location.

In the top left corner, there is a search box with a Directions icon:

google-maps-route-planning-directions

This opens up a menu where you have to select the starting point and destination of your route and mode of transportation:

google-maps-route-planning-add-start-destination

You can also select your current location as either the start or end point of the route.

Once you’ve entered both locations, Google Maps will display your route on the map:

google-maps-route-planning-routes

The platform also displays:

  • Distance and estimated time of arrival
  • Alternative routes which you can take (gray)
  • Traffic congestion at each route (orange and red)
  • Road junctions on the route (marked as white dots)

When you’ve selected a suitable route, you can adjust it by dragging the part of the route that you want to change:

google-maps-route-planning-adjusting-routes

And a submenu where you can adjust the route automatically based on several parameters:

google-maps-route-planning-route-options

And that’s how you plan a route from point A to point B using Google.

Fairly simple.

But…

How to Plan a Route with Multiple Stops on Google Maps?

You can plan routes with multiple stops on Google Maps.

All you have to do is click Add destination from the menu:

google-maps-route-planning-add-destination

The process is then the same.

You just add a new destination to your route. Up to 9 additional stops:

google-maps-route-planning-multiple-stops

You can also drag-and-drop the stops to reorder them:

google-maps-route-planning-reordering-stops

To create a round trip, all you have to do is add the same stop as the start and end destination.

Once finished planning the route you can send the directions to a phone:

google-maps-route-planning-send-directions-to-phone

Or share an embed link:

google-maps-route-planning-share-route

And that’s it.

NOTE: You can add up to ten stops per each route with Google Maps. And you can’t create multiple routes at the same time.

Can You Optimize a Route on Google Maps?

The answer is yes and no.

You can only optimize routes MANUALLY.

And to a certain extent.

That’s because:

Google Maps isn’t route optimization software.

So if you want to optimize each route, you have to:

  • Know the area of the route
  • Drag and drop stops to reorder them
  • Manually drag and drop the route to adjust it

That means, automatic route planning and optimization with Google Maps is out of the question.

Planning Routes with Google Maps: 5 Reasons Why It Doesn’t Work

Technically, you can plan delivery routes with Google Maps.

But ONLY FOR simple route planning.

Using pre-planned routes for your delivery is better than not planning routes at all.

So if you’re a small business, planning routes for free with Google Maps is great.

Especially if you don’t fulfill large order volumes.

Or if you don’t deliver to customers very often.

But if you have an established delivery service…

Or you handle large order volumes each day…

Then you shouldn’t use Google Maps to plan delivery routes.

Here are five reasons why:

#1 No more than 9 stops

google-maps-route-planning-just-10-stops

While Google Maps is a great tool for casual drivers to add up to nine stops from start to finish…

Reorder those stops…

Navigate along the route…

With a clean and easy-to-use interface…

That works just as well on mobile and desktop…

Google Maps isn’t a great route planning tool for professional drivers.

Adding nine stops just isn’t enough for courier and delivery services.

There is a workaround: Drivers can delete completed stops.

But that’s a HUGE waste of time.

Not to mention that it requires additional effort on the driver’s part.

(While he’s already started his route.)

But if you have to deliver 100 or 10,000 orders each day

Then that 9-stop limit on Google Maps will seriously undermine your route planning activities.

And your delivery operations.

#2 You don’t know if it’s the shortest route

google-maps-route-planning-unreliable-routes

Google Maps uses a basic algorithm to create routes.

If you want to go from point A to point B, it will typically generate the shortest route.

Especially, when you consider that it generates several routes for you to choose from…

Based on both distance and time of arrival.

But:

Google Maps isn’t designed for delivery drivers.

In fact, Google Maps changed its routing settings in 2022 to prioritize the most fuel efficient routes.

(Which could translate into the slowest route.)

Plus, it’s still unclear how this feature will work with multi-stop routes.

So planning the shortest route can be a hit or miss with Google Maps.

#3 You have to know the delivery area

google-maps-route-planning-know-delivery-area

You can get around the problem above if you’re familiar with the delivery area.

Specifically, you can recognize whether Google Maps is generating the shortest route.

Before drivers head out, you can check each driving route and compare it to alternatives.

And if necessary make manual adjustments based on ETAs or traffic conditions.

This does take up your valuable time.

Plus, it defeats the purpose of using a route planning app in the first place.

Worse still:

What happens when you or your planners don’t know the area you’re delivering to?

You can end up increasing the distance for each route. And extending drive time.

Which can lead to missed deadlines. Or even failed delivery attempts.

#4 You can’t set priority deliveries or add notes

google-maps-route-planning-no-pod-no-notes

Google Maps’ algorithm is fairly rigid.

While it’s a great tool for planning routes based on distance.

It’s awful when it comes to planning deliveries based on their priority.

Yes, you can manually arrange the stop order to match it with the priority.

But the software will typically generate inefficient routes to get past this issue.

Basically, it’s either/or when it comes to route planning with Google Maps.

So you’ll have to manually group orders based on their location and priority to get the best results.

And there’s no dynamic route adjustment.

So, for example, if a driver takes an unplanned turn to avoid traffic…

Google Maps will adjust the route based on your stop order.

(Which may cause the driver to pass a stop along the way, increasing the distance and drive time.)

Or, it will automatically reroute the driver to the stop closest to his location.

(Which may cause him to miss the drop-off time of a time-sensitive order.)

In both cases, it’s an inefficient way to plan routes for your deliveries.

You could easily solve this problem by adding notes to each stop.

This would help drivers identify high-priority stops.

While also providing them with information about the customer and each order.

But unfortunately, this is something Google Maps can’t help you with.

#5 It’s complicated to manage deliveries

google-maps-route-planning-not-easy-to-use

Most casual users love the simplicity of Google Maps.

It’s a great tool to plan road trips or navigate in an unfamiliar place.

But the app lacks the necessary features to manage deliveries.

Which can be confusing and frustrating for professionals.

For example, Google Maps is a good tool for tracking live traffic.

Or, for finding the access point to a drop-off via satellite imagery.

But you can’t view the delivery order when using turn-by-turn directions.

It’s also very difficult to document stops and record route history.

There’s also no in-app solution for collecting proof of delivery.

Which means you’ll have to switch between apps.

That’s frustrating for both you and the customer.

And while route planners can track drivers’ location via Location Sharing

You can only use this way of driver tracking one user at a time.

Great for manually sharing the location to customers.

But not so great when you have to monitor an entire fleet of delivery vehicles.

So you’ll have a limited visibility of the last mile.

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Why Map a Route on Google Maps?

why-plan-route-on-google-maps

At this point, you know the limits of using Google Maps.

But you can still use it to plan simple routes for deliveries.

Particularly in these use cases:

Use Case #1: Simple route A to B

Google Maps is a simple solution when you have to plan a route from point A to point B. It’s free, so it’s ideal for small companies where delivery isn’t the primary business model. Like brick-and-mortar stores and mom-and-pop shops that deliver goods to customers only on occasion.

Apart from directions and navigation, it provides you with traffic information, alternate routes, and ETAs. Which cuts the time it takes to reach customers and share a more precise time of your arrival.

Use Case #2: Planning fixed routes

Fixed routes typically have a dozen or so stops. Deliveries use them to drop-off orders in specific locations. For example, delivering goods to a specific town outside of your usual delivery area. To complete a round of returns. Or for recurrent stops to suppliers.

In all of these cases, you can use Google Maps to plan a fixed route because the stops aren’t time sensitive. And the activities don’t require advanced delivery management.

Use Case #3: Integrating with route optimization software

There’s a lot of route planning software out there. While you won’t use Google Maps to plan routes, integrating it with a dedicated app lets you take advantage of its better features, like navigation and satellite imagery.

Using Google Maps with software like eLogii, lowers the learning curve for a new routing system. And cuts the time of adoption for drivers. While the typical limitations of Google Maps. You get familiar navigation, while getting access to more advanced features, like adding delivery notes, collecting proof of delivery, and more.

Google Maps Route Planner: Pros and Cons

google-maps-route-planner-pros-cons

Google Maps route planner is free. So there has to be a catch, right?

Not exactly. While it is free, you’ll have to weigh up the pros and cons.

(Especially, if you’re considering using it to plan your delivery routes.)

Here’s a quick overview:

PROS:

  • Free to use
  • Various options for transit mode
  • Voice assistant
  • Real-time traffic information
  • Street view
  • Downloadable maps

CONS:

  • No more than 9 stops per route
  • Routes aren’t always reliable
  • No route optimization
  • Limited to one driver
  • Unreliable historical data
  • No notes or proof of delivery

So, the advantages of using Google Maps are:

  • Completely free to use: Google generates income via ads. So the Google Maps app is completely free. Meaning: You won’t spend a cent using it to plan your delivery routes.
  • Various options for transit mode: Google Maps enables you to plan routes based on mode of transportation. This is useful if your delivery runs on both cars/vans and bikes.
  • Voice assistant: Like Waze, Google’s app has an integrated voice guide to navigate you to your destination. And helps drivers stay focused on the road while driving.
  • Real-time traffic information: Google Maps has access to most traffic data on the Internet. This helps you to avoid traffic congestion when planning a route.
  • Street view: This is by far the most useful feature on Google Maps. When planning a route, you can familiarize yourself with the street and plan your access to the drop off.
  • Downloadable maps: You can download routes and maps on Google Maps to use them offline. That’s especially useful when delivering in areas with no access to mobile data.

While the pros are good, are they enough for you to overlook the cons if you’re using it for your delivery operations? Let’s see:

  • No more than 9 stops per route: Not counting the starting point, you can ONLY plan 9 stops with Google Maps. Great for a casual trip. Not great for planning deliveries.
  • Routes aren’t always reliable: A lot of the times users report that Google Maps gives you inaccurate directions, especially when planning routes with multiple stops.
  • No route optimization: Google Maps algorithm is great at finding the shortest route between two stops. But it can’t optimize it based on key delivery parameters, such as delivery time and order priority. Especially when you’re using it to plan multiple stops.
  • Limited to one driver: Even if you’re using Google Maps for deliveries, you can only use it to plan a route one driver at a time. This extends to driver tracking, as well.
  • Unreliable historical data: While Google Maps’ location sharing and tracking are fairly solid, users do report inaccuracies. And it’s difficult to collect, store, and access routing data over time.
  • No notes or proof of delivery: With Google Maps, drivers only have access to the route, the stops, and their location. You can’t add information about the order or its recipient. And you can’t collect additional data, like PODs at the destination.

Route Planning on Google Maps: Does it work?

Here’s the bottom line:

Google Maps is an excellent mapping app with great features like Street View.

Plus it’s free! (A good deal in anyone’s book.)

That makes it a winner for getting directions.

Planning casual travel trips.

Exploring new places.

But is it good for delivery route planning?

We would argue no.

Can it optimize routes the same way as a dedicated app?

No.

It simply can’t meet the demands required for route planning for a delivery:

  • Limited number of stops (up to nine)
  • No certainty that a route is fast or efficient
  • Not useful in unfamiliar delivery areas
  • No ability to add notes or set order priority
  • UI not adapted for multi-stop route planning

But Google Maps is still a superb navigation system.

How best to take advantage of it for your delivery?

Choose the perfect route optimization software to use it with.

Use eLogii and integrate our route planning solution with Google Maps.

Or better yet…

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