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5 Tips for Mapping Multiple Stops

Stewart Berry Dan Martin

Author: Stewart Berry
Images: Dan Martin

Often you want to be able to map more than one location when planning a route. Maybe you want to schedule a multiple destination road trip, or maybe you just have several stores you want to visit efficiently. There are many online tools that allow you to route between several stops or "waypoints." These tools sometimes allow you to optimize the route between them, so that that you don't waste time and money.

Read on for our 5 tips as we discuss the tools you have available to best get you from A to B!

Free Online Maps

Google Maps is obviously the go-to-choice for those looking to plan a trip, whether it is finding a good local restaurant or travelling out of state. But how easy is it to route to multiple stops and what other options do you have when you do?

When we tested this on a desktop PC Chrome browser, Google Maps multiple stops were limited to 6. Also, Google Maps did not reorder the locations to make the trip as short as possible. This means you would already have to know the best order to visit your destinations, which is not something most humans can easily calculate in their heads.

So, Google may be fine for someone going shopping, commuting, or when planning a well-researched camping vacation but is not so ideal for a delivery business where fuel costs, driver time, and customer expectations dictate being as competitive as possible.

Surprisingly, MapQuest is still one of the most visited websites on the internet and allowed 17 optimized stops. Way-to-go MapQuest! But, wait- you must manually type out each of those 17 addresses by copying from your spreadsheet. This is not convenient if you are planning for multiple vehicles and multiple trips, especially if each of those stops is impacted by other factors such as scheduled delivery time.

Bing Maps and HERE WeGo had similar limitations to these 2 services.

Trip Planning: What App Do I Need?

Our five tips are:

  1. Free online directions tools are generally not well suited for business and delivery company routing problems.
  2. You may be able to use free tools to optimize a single list of addresses, but you will likely have to manually type the locations into the tool.
  3. A mapping software or geographic information system (GIS) such as Maptitude can perform the same tasks as the free tools but can also automatically map lists of locations from a spreadsheet and handle multiple routes.
  4. Multiple vehicle, multiple stop, optimization requires a sophisticated logistics solution such as Maptitude. Maptitude can model trips either singly or optimize across a vehicle fleet to ensure the most efficient allocation of resources.
  5. You will need an operations and logistics application, not a simple "directions" application, when you require more sophisticated options such as:
  • Multiple vehicle fleets
  • Varying start and end times for different drivers
  • Scheduled delivery times by customer
  • Varying demand in terms of product volume to be delivered to each customer
  • Multiple start and end locations for each driver
  • Drop-offs as well as pickups
  • Long haul routes that can extend over night
  • Requirements for driver rest periods
  • Variable speeds that different vehicles can travel and over different types of roads
  • Varying times spent at each stop
  • Whether you need to track toll and fuel costs
  • Specifying the flexibility you have in meeting scheduled arrival and departure times

Single Vehicle Routing

Even when planning a single route with multiple stops, many factors can come into play.

A standard requirement is when you already have your locations in an Excel spreadsheet, and you want to use them directly. Being able to keep your information in your preferred file format is often critical so that errors aren’t made as you import and export your data. Plus, when you make updates, you only want to make them once, with your routing tool automatically refreshing and recalculating with the new information.

Maptitude is one of the few applications that can meet these requirements, and all the variations that we have discussed so far.

Single-vehicle delivery routes on a Maptitude map

Multiple Vehicle Routing

Maybe you just want to optimize individual routes, but you want to see them all on the same map, for example when allocating territories to sales representatives. Or maybe you have a multiple vehicle fleet and you want to balance the workload between the drivers. These are both examples of multiple vehicle routing, and require a whole host of services, from geocoding (placing pins on a map) the depots and stops, to calculating the routes, to specifying the vehicle characteristics, and synching results with your back-end databases.

Another common requirement is splitting up your customers into groups that can be easily visited by sales reps or technicians, either over the course of a day or week. Clustering based on drive-time is a great way to solve this problem, allowing you to then assign a driver to each grouping.

Multi-vehicle delivery routes on a Maptitude map


As you run different scenarios and plans, and explore different markets, many routing solutions charge for each action, from placing locations on a map, to calculating the routes, to producing a final report. These credits can add up, and if you want to avoid them, you would need to choose an application such as Maptitude that supports unlimited routing actions for only US$695 per year.

Street Data quality

While often invisible to most people considering best routes, data quality is of upmost importance when determining who should be driving where. This is especially true given that widely used open-source street data (e.g., OpenStreetMap) may look pretty, but almost certainly does not live up to the demands placed on it when determining accurate directions. When choosing a tool to plan for your businesses’ transportation needs there are a handful of commercial data providers that you should consider. These are Google Maps, HERE Technologies, and TomTom. These data providers are used by almost every trip calculator worth their salt and are trusted across the industry for accuracy and quality.

How We Can Help

If you have single vehicle trips you may be able to get away with using a glorified trip planner, but still for a fee if you need to do anything more than the basics. You will need an alternative to online apps like Google Maps that restrict the number of multiple stops if you are doing anything other than a simple one vehicle plan. If you have multiple vehicles you almost certainly need an application that is capable of handling logistics and operations planning tasks. An application like Maptitude can solve the simplest to the hardest routing problems, and comes integrated with HERE data, ensuring the reliability of the results your business will be depending on to be successful.

Next Steps

Learn more about Maptitude to see how you and your team can map multiple stops and multiple routes!

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