It’s Saturday night, you’re in an unfamiliar city and you want to hit the bars. But you want to be frugal about it — you’re trying to avoid cabbing from one place to the next, and instead want do a bar crawl. Or you’re planning your best friend’s bachelorette party from afar and want to create a fun, walkable route that won’t blow your bridal party’s budget. What’s a Penny Hoarder to do?
Tools like Yelp and Google Maps can help you find bars, but, individually, they’re less powerful. Searching for “margaritas” on Yelp will return snippet reviews for each bar, such as “heavy pours” or “tastes like pure margarita mix”, so you can quickly separate the good ones from the bad. What’s harder is finding several good bars for a pub crawl, so you can avoid taking a cab and save money.
Yelp plots bars on a map for you, but it only shows the ones on a given search results page — not all of the bars in a given city that serve margaritas. Meanwhile, Google Maps will plot every search result for “margarita,” but it won’t return a snippet review in the search results; you really have to dig to get the information you want.
Make the Most of Your Party Planning Tools
Combine these tools to maximize their potential. Find the best places with Yelp, cut or add to your list of bars with the Happy Hours app (which shares details on a bar’s happy hour, like that drinks are two for one at the Café until 11 p.m.), and customize a Google Map to figure out what’s walkable — and therefore avoid that cab. (Click to tweet this idea.)
Here’s what you’ll need:
- A browser
- An Excel spreadsheet
- A smartphone (or access to a printer for your pub crawl map)
- The Happy Hours app for iPhone or Android
Planning the Ultimate Pub Crawl
1. Prepare Your Spreadsheet.
Create two columns for the bar names and street addresses. You can make a third column for “Notes” on each bar, if you’d like. When you upload this spreadsheet to Google Maps, it will display your notes on your custom map.
2. Do a Preliminary Search on Yelp
a. If you’re looking to have a margarita night, search for “margarita” in your area. Since we’re trying to make this night out on the town a walkable one, filter for adjacent neighborhoods (in a San Francisco search, for example, I’ll ask Yelp to include bars in the Lower Haight, Castro and Mission). You can also filter for cheap bars, which are marked by a single dollar sign ($).
b. In your Excel spreadsheet, record the bars that sound great – if you’re in San Francisco, for example, you might avoid Las Margaritas Restaurant and Cantina, where one reviewer says the margaritas are a “major disappointment.”
Make sure to remove any hyperlinks from your spreadsheet and include the city and state in the address; otherwise, Google Maps won’t be able to read it.
c. When you’re done, save the Excel file.
3. Check for Drink Specials on the Happy Hours App
a. Open the Happy Hours app and navigate to your city of choice.
b. Click “Filter” in the upper left-hand corner. Choose the day and time you’ll hit the bars, and, just as we did on Yelp, filter for your neighborhoods of choice.
c. Now we can mark up our Excel spreadsheet again. Record any new bars that sound great, and, for the ones already on our list, take note of any great specials.
4. Upload Your Spreadsheet to Google Maps and Create a Custom Map:
a. Navigate to Google Maps and sign in. Click the search bar. Under it will appear “My custom maps.”
b. Click “My custom maps.” Now you’ll see an icon labeled “Create.”
c. Click “Create.”
d. Click “Import” and then upload the spreadsheet you just saved.
e. Google will prompt you to “choose columns to position your placemarks” — Google-ese for “Show me where I can find the address on your spreadsheet.” Google will list the various column headers for your data, so just choose the appropriate one and click “Continue.”
f. Now Google will ask for the names of each location. Select the appropriate column, click “Finish” and then you’ll see your customized map.
g. From here, decide what looks like a walkable pub crawl. In mine, for example, I see that Jay’n Bee Club is a good ten blocks away from any other pub that made the list, so I’ll avoid that one and hit up some of the other bars instead.
5. Use the Map on Your Smartphone During Your Bar Crawl
The Google Maps app for iPhone doesn’t yet support custom maps, so use your mobile browser like Safari:
a. Go to Google Maps on your smartphone’s browser.
b. Sign in.
c. Click the arrow pointing downward. Then you’ll see your recent Google Maps history, including the pub crawl map we’ve just created. Click it and your map will appear.
d. Hit the bars and have fun!
e. If you’d rather print out copies of your map, just adjust the map so you can see the whole thing, then hit CTRL+P or Command + P (on a Mac).
If you’re looking for a night in rather than a night out on the town, we have some pointers on how to get your hands on free beer instead. Cheers!
Mike Anderson is a business and finance writer as well as a music critic. He loves numbers and turning data analysis into actionable recommendations, and he also loves going to shows and telling stories about our favorite musicians.